Experience Radar 31: VR In Cars, Extreme Dining On The Rise, And Charli XCX Takes Roblox By Storm

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each week, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the experiential stories that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to Experience Radar 31, where we’re grooving to Charli XCX at a virtual concert, marvelling at Basel’s latest architectural wonder, and donning our cowboy boots for London’s latest immersive experience.

1. Charli XCX To Perform On Roblox

Headline and above image; Novartis Pavillon. Photography by Laurits Jensen; Samsung’s Superstar Galaxy on Roblox

We’ve had giant VR parrots at at Coachella and Slipknot’s collab with The Sandbox, and now pop sensation Charli XCX has hooked up with Samsung to perform a virtual gig on Roblox. As reported by Branding In Asia, the concert will take place within Samsung’s Superstar Galaxy on Roblox, which drops fans into a futuristic space station equipped with a virtual Galaxy Z Flip3 smartphone. Participants are guided by the device through the game via messages from Charli XCX. From the space station, users can discover nearby asteroids, play mini-games, perform on their own custom-built stage and visit stages created by other users.

To gain access to the virtual concert on 17 June, users need to earn Star Power and climb the in-game leaderboards by completing a series of challenges. New content, including stage props and Charli XCX songs, will drop every Friday leading up to the performance. Users will also be given the chance to create their own pop star avatars. “Roblox and Samsung feel like the perfect duo to extend the interaction I have with my fans. The partnership is one that will give my community the access and ability to experience me in ways they previously have not been able to, which is extremely exciting,” Charli XCX said.

2. VR Is Enhancing The In-Car Experience

Audi VR entertainment system

While drivers’ eyes remain glued to the road, VR is transforming the in-car experience for backseat passengers, making long, dull journeys a hell of a lot more fun. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, among the big-name brands embracing VR tech is Audi, which is introducing a VR entertainment system with its spin-off start-up Holoride in June in select Audi sedans and SUVs. The headset will engage backseat riders in a motion-synchronised journey during their travels, mimicking the movements of the car, allowing users to buy and sell NFTs and play location-based games.

Audi isn’t the only car giant tapping into the tech – Porsche and Holoride announced an in-car VR game at the Porsche Experience Center in Los Angeles earlier this year. The Cosmic Chase game is an original VR experience where backseat passengers can fight off aliens in flight via a virtual spaceship whose movement matches the turns, stops, and accelerations of the car. The adaptation of the game’s sound effects, movements and visual triggers to the movement of the car are supposed to prevent motion sickness in users. Holoride’s first in-car VR experience was a 2019 collaboration with Ford and Universal Pictures.

3. Making The Most Of Transformation

Practice by Daniel Farò

Experience designer Aga Szóstek believes we should be approaching the process of transformation in a deliberate and conscious way in our daily lives. In an article published by UX Design, she says: “Our life is a transformational journey whether we plan for it or not. The people we encounter and the events we live through all impact us in different ways.” The learning, she believes, comes through reflecting on what we’ve experienced. At its core, transformation is about becoming better versions of ourselves.

Szóstek defines a transformational experience as being centred around “reinventing your identity over and over”, with people taking centre stage as the protagonist of their own lives. Such an approach, she believes, means that “every situation we find ourselves in is transformational”. Szóstek feels transformation needs to be guided, not staged, and must be voluntary rather than imposed. Experience designers can’t create transformation in others, but they can engineer it so that all the elements are in place for it to happen. Szóstek speaks of small “t” transformations, which include shifts in attitudes, and capital ‘T’ transformations involving a fundamental shift in who you are and how you see the world. (For more on this topic, make sure you check out Campfire 58: How To Design For Transformation With Joe Pine.)

4. Basel’s Latest Architectural Wonder

Novartis Pavillon. Photography by Laurits Jensen

Basel has a shiny new architectural landmark in the form of the Novartis Pavillon, designed by Milan-based AMDL CIRCLE and Michele De Lucchi. As reported by Archello, the new exhibition, meeting and events space aims to promote a dialogue about life sciences and become a resource that showcases the past, present and future of healthcare. Helping to bring the worlds of science and medicine closer to the local community, the site intends to be a place of learning and knowledge exchange featuring a permanent multimedia exhibition, Wonders of Medicine.

But it’s the building’s diamond-latticed, zero-energy façade that we’re particularly excited about. It uses a new generation of organic photovoltaic and a grid of LED lights to screen the works of three international artists: Daniel Canogar, Esther Hunziker and Semiconductor. Curated by HEK (House of Electronic Arts) in Basel, the artist trio collaborated with scientists to develop light installations inspired by the shapes and colours of cells and molecules, as well as the themes of sustainability and the convergence of art and science.

5. Tourism Just Got Gamified

Ol’au Palau initiative, South Pacific

In a world-first, visitors to Palau in the South Pacific will be offered exclusive experiences based on how they treat the environment, rather than how much they spend. As reported by the BBC, the archipelago, made up of over 300 islands, has launched a new initiative called Ol’au Palau of “gamifying” responsible tourism. The programme, managed via an app, offers points to those who treat the island nation gently and respectfully by making sustainable decisions like using reef-safe sunscreen, visiting culturally important sites, such as the Belau National Museum, and eating sustainably sourced local food.

Guests can redeem their points to unlock cultural and nature-based experiences that are usually reserved for Palauans, such as taking an unmarked hike, swimming in secret caves, eating with locals and elders, or fishing in a secluded spot. It also promises new experiences that may have once been rare for tourists to partake in, such as a first birth ceremony, an important cultural event. Laura Clarke, who co-founded the project, recommends a 10-day stay to make the most of the experience. “You want the first five days to start collecting your points, and you want five or six days to redeem them,” she told the BBC.

6. Extreme Dining On The Rise

Forces of Nature, Bompas & Parr

Extreme sports are nothing new, but now the hospitality industry is in on the act, offering intrepid foodies a tempting array of extreme dining experiences in exotic locations. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, after two years of lockdown restrictions, we’re witnessing a new era of happy hedonism as people seek ever-more intense experiences to make up for lost time. Having saved their pennies during the pandemic, consumers are happy to splash their cash on once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences, giving them bragging rights on social media.

Spearheading the movement are food and drink experience design duo Bompas & Parr, who hosted dinner on a volcano at the UNESCO heritage site of AlUla in Saudi Arabia this spring, serving dishes cooked over molten lava, which charred locally sourced produce to perfection in seconds. Meanwhile, Ocean Sky Cruises is planning expeditions to the North Pole in 2024. The culmination of the 38-hour journey will be a chilly lunch in the snow taking in the scenery of one of the most remote places on the planet.

7. The Wild West Comes To Canada Water

Phantom Peak, Canada Water

If you’ve always harboured fantasies of being a 19th century cowboy (and who hasn’t?) then mosey on down to Canada Water in southeast London, where a new immersive experience promises to transport guests to a fully realised 19th century American frontier town straight from the set of your favourite Western. As reported by the Evening Standard, the 30,000sq Phantom Peak, set to open in August, will feature shops, restaurants and bars inspired by the era, as well as a waterfall, large-scale canal system and a lake. There will also be sunken mines to explore by boat.

Guests will be given four hours to explore the space, which will be populated with a cast of actors keen to divulge their backstories. Attendees will be able to co-create their own experiences. “The vision is to blend the best of theme parks and immersive entertainment together, brought to life in a beautiful environment that lets you escape reality,” co-founder Nick Moran, designer of the Time Run escape room in London Fields, told ES. This time around he’s teamed up with Tandem Set and Scenery on the project. “We want this to be somewhere you want to be for hours, where you follow stories and moments,” he added.