1 December 2016

We Apologise for the Disruption.

technology, augmented reality, cyberspace, people and future concept - man in virtual glasses or headset

We live in interesting times. In New Zealand we’ve experienced lot of disruption as of late. The M7.8 Kaikoura earthquake was yet another reminder that we live at the mercy of mother nature. It’s also the reason our November Newsletter is (ahem) arriving in December.

However, there is a different type of disruption happening and we most certainly have our hands on the tiller.

The week of the earthquake, hundreds of people had gathered in Christchurch to attend the SingularityU Summit, a unique gathering of world experts in exponential technologies from around the globe. Although I was unable to attend, I did see the recent screening of feature documentary The University at The Embassy cinema. The film follows students and faculty members of the Singularity University at a NASA research base in Silicon Valley. I’d highly recommend it.

And last week, the annual Screen Production & Development Association (SPADA) Conference rolled into Wellington. The event, along with the Big Screen Symposium are the regular connection points for the screen industry. Aside from a healthy dose of networking, session topics usually involve inspirational keynotes from leading industry players and state-of-the-nation-type talk about how distribution is changing.

But the SPADA Conference embraced something else this year – digital disruption – and it was a breath of fresh air. We were treated to an engaging (and slightly scary) vision of the future by the founder of Tech Futures Lab and The Mind Lab, Frances Valintine. On Day 2, the talk was all about virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR). The potential impact these technologies will have on our daily lives within the next five years is, literally, mind-boggling.

James Everett, Lead Game Designer from Magic Leap and Chairperson of NZ Game Developers Association was a guest speaker encouraged us to help tell new stories via this exciting new medium.

If you don’t know much about Magic Leap you are not alone. It is one of the most secretive tech developments this century. The company, founded by visionary Rory Abovitz recently completed the largest C-round of financing in history: US$793.5 million and only investors and key advisers have an insight into how the technology works. An excellent article  by Kevin Kelly for WIRED earlier this year provides a few morsels of information and is required reading.

And so the virtual gauntlet was thrown down to attendees. The VR/AR/MR industry is flourishing, but they are short of content, short of good, honest stories. As Kat Lintott from content creation company Wrestler pointed out ‘we don’t want every VR experience to be about shoot-‘em-ups or killing zombies’.

Filmmakers keen to make the jump into VR/AR/MR will need to learn some new tricks, most notably shooting in a true 360° environment. The thing that struck me as I was trying out a demo by Wellington VR giant 8i, was that directing content for this platform is something akin to directing a theatre show. In film or TV, the director (and editor) draw your eye via the 2D frame with camera trickery and clever cuts. In a VR environment, you as the user choose where to direct your attention. This is much like when you witness a theatre production.

November also saw the premiere of a new ground-breaking science-fact series called Mars. The show is screening on Sky TV’s National Geographic channel. The series was assembled using more than 100 hours of documentary footage and, for the scripted drama segment, 40 days of filming. It’s a great approach which combines the peaks and valleys of the modern-day space race while dramatising humanity’s first harrowing attempt to colonise Mars.

So the future coming, and it will be here sooner than you think. As Frances Valintine pointed out, the year 2020 is less than 1,200 days away. What will your input to this disruption be?

Mark Westerby
Chief Executive
The Random Group