Experience Radar: Google Launches Immersive View And Squid Game Comes To Sandbox VR

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, where we’re learning about the latest AI trends at CES in Las Vegas, soaring over Tokyo with Google Immersive View, and making the most of L’Oreal’s concierge service in LA.

1. French XR Projects Go Head To Head At SXSW

Headline and above image: SXSW XR Experience, Austin

This March four French-backed XR projects will go head to head at the SXSW XR Experience, which takes place in Austin from 12-14 March. As reported by Villa Albertine, this year’s show shines a light on storytelling and art in the immersive world and illustrates how the latest developments in XR tech are redefining how we experience the world around us, by showcasing outstanding VR, AR and mixed reality projects by global producers. Among the French quartet is AR experience Spring Odyssey, directed by Elise Morin and produced by Lucid Realities, featuring a tobacco plant blossoming in a digital forest near Chernobyl.

Jailbirds – The Eye of the Artist is directed by Thomas Villepoux and takes place in a modern prison ruled by a vicious chief warden. The project explores how to find contentment in times of strife. Also being showcased is JFK Memento, directed by Chloé Rochereuil, which chronicles the events of 22 November 1963 and the investigation that followed. It features archive photos and films remastered in 3D. Completing the line-up is Behind The Dish, directed by Chloé Rochereuil, which tells the stories of three fearless female chefs revolutionising the food industry in eye-popping 3D.

2. Welcome To The Next Generation Of AI

Smart Eye’s driver monitoring system

The latest developments in AI stole the headlines at tech fest CES in Las Vegas this year. While the tech itself isn’t anything new, the ways it’s being implemented across a wide variety of industries is. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, among the sectors currently benefitting from AI is the auto industry, via the introduction of Smart Eye’s driver monitoring system, which tracks drivers’ movements and can activate an emergency stop function if needed. The implications for this when it comes to road safety and preventing accidents are huge if it becomes widely adopted.

“It’s never been more clear to me that AI has shifted from a parlour trick used only by technologists into a tool used across industries to make us safer, healthier and more productive,” Jason Carmel, Wunderman Thompson’s creative data group global lead, told attendees at the show. And as AI tools improve, developers and consumers are learning how to co-create alongside it in order to leverage the tech to its fullest potential. Medical scientists are also embracing AI tech, and have been busy formulating blueprints for cancer and disease-fighting proteins to duplicate, while AI bots are entering the courtroom to defend clients facing parking fines.

3. Google Launches Immersive View In Six Cities

Google Immersive View

Google Maps has been given the immersive treatment in six key cities around the world. As reported by Tech Crunch, Google Immersive View is part of the tech giant’s plan to make the navigation app more intuitive for users. Designed to help you plan ahead and get a deeper understanding of a city before you visit it, the tech has launched in London, Paris, LA, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, with plans to roll it out to future cities including Amsterdam, Dublin, Florence and Venice in the coming months. The feature fuses billions of Street View and aerial images to create a digital model of the world. The function layers info on top of the digital model, including the weather, traffic and how busy a location is.

The cutting-edge tech allows you to soar through cities like a bird and swoop down on famous landmarks to pinpoint their exact location and check in on queues. It also allows you to venture inside restaurants to scope out the interiors and check out what particular neighbourhoods look like at night. To create true-to-life scenes, Google used neural radiance fields (NeRF) that transform ordinary pictures into 3D representations. The firm has also expanded its Search with Live View feature, which lets you use your camera to find shops and restaurants when you’re on the go in key European cities like Madrid and Dublin.

4. Pull Up A Chair At The Five-Star Office

Heatherwick Google, King’s Cross London

Convincing workers to commute to the office five (or even three) days a week is no easy task any more. Employers are having to up their office game in order to lure people back behind their desks, which is ushering in an exciting new era – that of the five-star office. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, the race is on to make office spaces more exciting, inviting and engaging. Google’s high tech new HQ in London’s King’s Cross, which is due to open next year, will boast a 25-metre swimming pool, 200m rooftop running trail, and a massage room, with some of the luxury hotel-like facilities set to be available for locals to enjoy.

Meanwhile, tech giant Amazon is developing its second headquarters – HQ2 – in Virginia. Called The Helix, the spiral-shaped office will include an outdoor hiking trail winding around the building, which will be festooned with plants from the local Blue Ridge Mountains. The outside will be brought in via a forest plaza and cascading water feature, giving city dwellers the chance to reconnect with nature. Taking things a step further, L’Oréal’s LA HQ includes a concierge service for employees, who can have their clothes dry cleaned and car filled up with petrol for $5 an hour, freeing up valuable time that can be spent on work. For more on Reinventing Employee Experience In The Post-Pandemic Workplace, check out our Campfire with best-selling author Julia Hobsbawm.

5. Squid Game Comes To Sandbox VR

Sandbox VR has hooked up with Netflix to create an immersive Squid Game VR experience. As reported by Venture Beat, the Sandbox VR x Squid Game virtual reality experience is set to launch in late 2023. Featuring game show contestants battling it out to the death, the Korean horror series first aired in 2021 and became Netflix’s most-watched show of all time. “We call ourselves the new movies. With systems becoming more powerful, the narrative of games has really evolved,” Steve Zhao, CEO of Sandbox VR, told GamesBeat. Operating in over 30 locations, Sandbox VR is the world’s fastest-growing location-based VR start-up, with investment from Will Smith, Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake.

In the Sandbox VR experience players are transported to iconic Squid Game locations, where they become contestants in a variety of challenges inspired by the series and compete against each other to be the last one standing. After each game, players will get personalised highlight videos recapping how their Squid Game story unfolded. In beta tests players have been “screaming their lungs out”, Zhao reports, adding, “It’s an amazing opportunity to provide Squid Game fans the chance to transport themselves into the high intensity world of the show.” Sandbox VR’s platform combines advanced tech with highly intuitive functionality, with users’ bodies acting as their in-game controllers.

6. Measuring Immersion In Live Theatre

Embr Wave, US

Key to designing an engaging, enjoyable and memorable experience is the ability to hold your audience’s attention, which is no mean feat in our wired world. Dr Mike Richardson, a research associate in the Psychology Department at the University of Bath, has been studying levels of engagement in live theatre to see how certain techniques can be used to heighten audience engagement during filmed theatre experiences. The project, conducted in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic and Complicité, compares audience immersion levels of in-theatre and live-streamed performances of Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. To measure engagement levels, bio-monitors and motion trackers are used to record audience heart rates, skin temperature and movement during the show.

From the data researches can calculate the level of audience synchrony, and how similar audience members’ internal states are. Previous research suggests that the more similar an audience’s collective heart rate is, the more immersed they are in the content. When an audience collectively experiences total cognitive immersion in the narrative, their minds and bodies end up behaving in a similar way, collectively focusing on the story as distractions fall away. Early findings from the study show that in-theatre audiences are more synchronised at key narrative moments in the play. The goal is to increase theatre accessibility and make live streaming feel more immersive, like actually being in the theatre.

7. Top Visitor Attraction Trends For 2023

The Gunpowder Plot experience, London

2023 is set to be a huge year for the themed attractions industry. BlooLoop has rounded up what it predicts will be the biggest trends hitting the sector this year. Among them is the increasing gamification of theme parks like Super Nintento World, who are adding an extra layer of excitement to their offerings by turning amusement parks into life-sized video games where visitors play a staring role. Spine-tingling horror experiences are also set to be big around the globe this year, from It-themed escape rooms to a Saw immersive experience that aims to make you feel like you’re living inside the terrifying world of the film.

Immersion is another hot trend in the themed attractions arena, as visitors now expect to play an active role in an experience rather than being an observer. Championing the trend is The Gunpowder Plot experience in London, which makes visitors feel like they’ve stepped back in time to 1605 and are following Guy Fawkes’ journey first hand through the clever use of layered reality, which combines digital tech, live theatre and physical sensations to create a visceral experience. Swamp Motel is also in on the act with Saint Jude, where audience members interact with AI-powered characters and live performers to interpret the brainwaves of coma patients.