It’s A Mad, Mad Augmented Virtual World

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VR Showdown in Ghost Town

How artificially intelligent are you? Sorry, let me put that another way: How smart are you about artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), the latest tech trends in entertainment? I recently had my knowledge (not to mention my comfort level) put to the test for a new business pro

posal and quickly realized that I was in a new reality of my own.

As professionals in entertainment marketing, we’d better be as up to speed on VR as we are on PR. So here are a few snapshots from my from my recent journey into this brave new augmented world:

  • AI, VR, and AR are the three big hot buttons in the entertainment world right now.

Artificial Intelligence is defined in a variety of different ways but at its simplest, it is “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior,” according to Merriam-Webster. One type of AI is Machine Learning (ML)—when machines take data and “learn” for themselves. Then there’s Deep Learning (DL), which is a subset of ML and involves tapping into neural networks that simulate human decision-making to analyze big data and provide conclusions as if they were arrived at by humans.

Most of us think we already know about AI from sci-fi movies like Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic “2001: A Space Odyssey” and HBO’s recent hit “Westworld.” In these films and TV shows, AI takes form as either a good or bad robot, sometimes with very human qualities, like Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or Ash from “Alien.” In many scenarios, these robots, which are constantly learning to gain more intelligence, get so smart that they are able to replace and/or eliminate people altogether and take over the world. Certain visionaries, including Elon Musk, actually believe this could happen and are looking for strategic ways to prevent it.

AI has so thoroughly infiltrated our lives that we practically take it for granted now. Ever a

sked Siri or Alexa a question? Ever had Netflix suggest a movie for you based on the last one you watched? AI, at your service—and at the wheel, when you take a spin in one of the new self-driving cars in development by Apple, Google, and Tesla. Deep Learning is hard at work on the marketing front, collecting and analyzing business intelligence about customers to create a more personalized experience (which, as a customer, can sometimes feel Deeply Creepy).

So, how can we get in on the AI game? Well, AI is already being used to write headlines and articles. The Associated Press, for example, uses an AI automated system to produce financial stories. It doesn’t require too much imagination to envision a computer writing your press releases for you before too long.

  • Augmented reality (AR), which superimposes digitally created images on real-world views, is the runner-up in the Miss Digital Universe competition right now.

Perhaps the most well-known example of AR is “Pokemon Go,” the smartphone game in which players look for and grab virtual, collectible characters and other goodies in public places. In other words, you might be looking at the grass in a park and augmented reality will integrate a virtual Pikachu character into the scene.

Along with gaming, AR is also being used more and more in entertainment advertising. The Syfy channel, for example, created a billboard campaign in Germany where special 3D experiences could be seen on a smartphone when the camera is aimed directly at it. In addition, there are other applications that have been around for quite a while, like the 3D map you see when the meteorologist gives the weather report or the graphic overlays you can enjoy when sports broadcasters do play-by-play narratives. Why not AR video press kits for that matter?

  • And finally, there’s virtual reality (VR), which makes your head spin—literally.

While augmented reality populates the user’s real world with virtual objects, virtual reality uses a headset and high-definition video to give the user the sensation of being in an entirely different 360-degree world. No matter where you turn your head, your virtual reality goes with you.

While AR has found great success in gaming and advertising, VR is being explored more for amusement parks and the big screen. For example, Knott’s Berry Farm just unveiled a new VR experience entitled “VR Showdown in Ghost Town,” and IMAX and Warner Bros. recently announced that they’ll be partnering on the creation of VR experiences for Justice League and Aquaman. In addition, Ridley Scott announced the opening of a new VR division for his company, RSA, which is working on a VR experience for his film, Alien: Covenant in cooperation with 20th Century Fox’s new FoxNext Innovation unit and Technicolor.

NBCUniversal, through its Syfy Channel, also has an innovation lab, where technology is put to use in new and unexpected ways to enhance the viewer experience. I predict you’ll start to see more of these labs in the near future as entertainment executives try to stay one step ahead of the competition in the battle for more eyeballs.

So what does all this mean for entertainment marketers? Keep up. (Undoubtedly, many of you are way ahead of me on this front—while others of you/we are still lamenting the loss of typewriters and carbon paper. It’s a big world, I know.) I’d say, continue to read the tech articles that can be found on MediaPost and other entertainment and marketing-related outlets. (I certainly will be.) I also suggest you take some of these new technologies out for a ride—or let them take you, in the case of those self-driving cars. You never know when these technologies will be the subject of your next AI-generated press release.