Experience Radar: Highlights From Venice Immersive, And Retail Shifts Focus To Community

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

Welcome to the latest Experience Radar, where we’re learning the secrets to eternal life, enjoying a bedtime story with Jim Henson at Venice Immersive, and creating melted wax art at Crayola’s latest experiential venue.

1. Longevity Biotech In The Medicine 3.0 Era

Headline and above image; Yinka Ilori popup store, Shoreditch, London. Photography by Ed Reeve; Image courtesy of Bryan Johnson

The quest for eternal life has become the experiential Holy Grail, and medical pioneers are busy seeking ways to extend lifespans for the super rich. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, research in prolonging healthspans is on the rise in a trend longevity specialist Dr. Peter Attia has dubbed ‘Medicine 3.0’, which focuses on proactive prevention and maintenance for late-life quality. Attia asserts that attention to blood tests, nutrition, exercise and sleep can change the trajectory of diseases that affect people later in life. Eric Verdin, CEO of The Buck Institute for Ageing Research, believes lifestyle is responsible for 93% of a person’s longevity, while just 7% is down to genetics.

Keen to be early to the eternal youth party, forward-thinking firms are investing millions in tech to understand and improve biological age. UK-based Altos Labs is studying biological reprogramming as a way to prolong human life, while venture capitalist firm Healthspan Capital has invested and supported a range of companies studying longevity biology since 2021. “Longevity biotech will revolutionise biomedicine by bringing ageing under medical control. Tools like gene and cell therapy will enable more precise reprogramming of biology that will make our history of pills and plant extracts look medieval by comparison,” Sebastian A. Brunemeier, co-founder of Healthspan Capital, told WT. 

2. Highlights From Venice Immersive 2023

The Storyteller: The Seven Ravens augmented reality pop-up book by Jim Henson

It’s September, which means Venice Immersive was upon us once more. Here are some of the highlights from the 43 projects showcased at the Extended Reality section of the this year’s film festival. As reported by Pro Video Coalition, this year’s event shone a light on all XR means of creative expression, including 360° videos, installations and virtual worlds. Stealing the limelight this year was Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: The Seven Ravens, an augmented reality pop-up book that draws from advancements in AR to transport you to the heart of a timeless tale narrated by author Neil Gaiman. Developed by Felix & Paul Studios, the physical book serves as a tactile gateway into a magical world.

We also love the sound of Floating with Spirits, a cinematic VR experience that aims to rewire the ways we connect with nature and the afterlife. While preparing for the Day of the Dead, Mazatec sisters Jocelynne and Jaquelyne share the stories of their ancestors. Over the Rainbow, meanwhile, explores the precarious balance between desire and happiness, fantasy and the familiar. Fully engaged in the experience, the viewer is both seeing and being seen, providing intimate moments of connection between the audience and performer. Finally, Gaudí, l’Atelier du Divin whisks us to 1926, when the ageing Spanish architect invites his assistants to his studio to complete his work. Guided by the voice of Gaudí, users discover his unique artistic universe.

3. Netflix’s Move Into Gaming Makes Sense

The Queen’s Gambit video game, Netflix

Keen to remain relevant to the next generation, Netflix is upping its focus on gaming and fast tracking its plans to offer more gaming experiences to subscribers. As reported by the BBC, the grand plan is to be able to offer subscribers a comprehensive games menu that appeals to users of all ages and interests. “The lines between the different ways we enjoy our entertainment are blurring. When you’re in that moment, looking to sit and watch a movie or be more active and play a game, we want to make sure we have something for you,” Leanne Loombe, vice president of external games at Netflix, told the BBC.

Games have been available to play on the Netflix app since 2021, but have flown under the radar. The current offering includes mobile games tied to famous Netflix franchises like Stranger Things and The Queen’s Gambit, alongside others independent of the service like Reigns: Three Kingdoms. Netflix has chosen to focus on mobile games as they’re low risk, but is testing how they would work on TVs and computers. As part of its strategy, Netflix is seeking to leverage its IP even further. “Connecting shows, movies and games together from our universes is what we’re trying to accomplish,” Loombe said.

4. Burnout Breaks Are The Latest Travel Trend

Cabin by Unplugged. Photography by Pasco

We recently covered the trend for psychedelic retreats, and now burnout breaks have flown onto our radar. As reported by Anita Bhagwandas in Condé Nast Traveller, a growing number of world-weary travellers are booking in burnout breaks to not only recharge their batteries but give their lives an entire reset. Burnout has been at an all-time high since 2021, with 80% of Londoners experiencing it, fuelled by the pandemic and economic uncertainty.

Burnout breaks offer total rest and relaxation and a complete switch off from work via mindful activities to help you relax and recover. According to Bhagwandas, the key difference between a wellness break and a burnout break is that a wellness break has detox elements, while with a burnout break, you’re “looking to replenish your system rather than push yourself to extremes”.

The Glasshouse Retreat offers wellness breaks that include pond swimming and talks, while Unplugged offers digital detoxes in wood cabins across the UK. On arrival you lock your phone in a box and are given an instant camera, compass, printed map and board games to enjoy more retro forms of entertainment. The Sharpham Trust in Devon hosts burnout breaks that target stress through mindfulness, meditation and immersion in nature. Founded by psychologist Rachel Austen, Aura in Alentejo tackles burnout through yoga.

5. Physical Retail Shifts Focus To Community

Yinka Ilori popup store, Shoreditch, London. Photography by Ed Reeve

Bricks-and-mortar retail has had a rough time recently, but the sector is coming back stronger by putting community at the heart of its operations. As reported by Wunderman Thompson, community-centric initiatives are helping to reverse declines in footfall and are revitalising shopping districts across the globe. H&M’s concept store in Williamsburg, NYC, offers bi-weekly themed activations centred on art, fashion and music in collaboration with a host of local partners, while shoe maker Athlete’s Foot launched a neighbourhood concept store in Midtown Atlanta this summer, offering a hyperlocal collection alongside events and live performances for the local community.

Last year British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori’s London pop-up included a series of events and activations to engage locals, including a gaming tournament and a basketball signing session. The aim, Ilori said, was to “bring retail back and start a conversation about the future of our stores, how we curate these spaces and what experiences we can create to forge deeper, more meaningful connections.” As lifestyles continue to evolve, the retail sector is learning to adapt, delivering on a growing need for connection among consumers, with developers betting big on independent traders to create a community feel.

6. Batman Unmasked To Pop Up In London

Batman Unmasked, London

London-based fans of the Caped Crusader take note, as news reaches us that a new immersive Batman experience will be winging its way to London for a limited time in September to coincide with the 85th anniversary of DC’s Batman and Warner Bros studio’s centenary. As reported by the Radio Times, Batman Unmasked promises to be the UK’s most comprehensive Batman showcase to ever grace our shores, featuring costumes, props and vehicles galore spanning the Caped Crusader’s cinematic history.

Running from 15-17 September at 180 Piccadilly in London, the exhibition will feature gadgets, costumes, set props and vehicles from Michael Keaton’s 1989 Batman through to Robert Pattinson’s 2022 take on the super hero, including Batcycles from The Dark Knight and props that were used by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and Ben Affleck showcased in a setting designed to mirror Bruce Wayne’s Batcave. Visitors can explore The Joker Zone and get up close and personal with the cackling criminal, played by Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix, and marvel over costumes from The Dark Knight and Joker.

7. Crayola To Open 5 FEC Experiences In The US

Crayola experience, US

Colouring giant Crayola has big expansion plans over the next five years and is set to open five new family entertainment centre experiences in the US by 2027. As reported by BlooLoop, the first will be an FEC in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which is due to launch next autumn. Crayola has collaborated with BrightColors and Kingsmen Xperience on the 30,000-square-foot venue, which will boast over 20 interactive attractions and a retail outlet selling the world’s largest selection of Crayola products. At the FEC colouring fans will get to name their own Crayola crayon, star in their own colouring page and create melted wax art.

“We’ve sharpened our crayons to create a new experience that transports guests into the whimsical world of Crayola crayons and markers,” Warren Schorr, Crayola’s senior vice president of business development and experiences, told BlooLoop. The latest Crayola Experience is the brand’s sixth attraction, joining venues in Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Florida and Arizona. “We’re excited to be developing the first of the next generation Crayola Experiences,” said Robin Turner, managing director of BrightColors, a division of attractions operator Good Vibrations. “We will continue to focus on family-friendly markets with a strong tourism draw to bring the colourful world of Crayola to new audiences.”