Experience Radar 4: Forbidden Forests, Luxury Ultra-Marathons And Multisensory Storytelling

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 4, where Harry Potter and Snapchat are enhancing our experience of reality, Swamp Motel’s storytelling is going transmedia, and luxury meets marathons on the Scottish coast.

1. Harry Potter Jumps On The Enhanced Nature Trend With Magical Woodland Walks

The Harry Potter Forbidden Forest Experience in Chesire. Photo courtesy of Harry Potter copyright JKR

Remember when Mat Duerden talked about layering information atop a walk in the forest to create a richer experience in Campfire 14: The Sparks? “I tell my kids that a walk in the woods is great, but the more information we lay on – the names of the plants, the bugs, the history of the indigenous people who used to live here – the more interesting it is. Layers just make life more rich – they pull us into reality,” he said.

Well, it seems like Warner Bros might have been listening in – they’ve just announced a limited-run outdoor, nighttime trail walk experience inspired by the iconic Forbidden Forest from the Harry Potter universe. Taking place at Arley Hall & Gardens, a private estate in Cheshire, UK, the experience will allow participants to get up close and personal with a centaur, encounter a Hippogriff and cast their own Patronus as they explore the woodland trail. It all points towards the trend for enhanced nature, as people return to the great outdoors after a year+ of being cooped up inside.

2. Snapchat’s AR Spectacles Turn Everyday Life Into Mario Kart

SNAPCHAT AR Sunglasses. Photo by Neonbrand/Unsplash

Talking of adding layers to everyday experience: we love this video from Ted Brown, Prototyping Engineer at Snap, showcasing how their AR spectacles can turn a scooter ride into a Mario Kart-style collection course. “Driving a course to build it is a fantastic way to make spatially-anchored user-generated content, and the possibilities are literally endless,” Ted says. Yet more evidence of how far from removing you from everyday life, done well AR can pull you into it more intensely. (For more on the diverse possibilities being opened up by AR, check out Campfire 14: The AR Firestarter With Rob Morgan.)

3. Immersive Entertainment Network Launches In The UK

Photo by Robyn Hu/Unsplash

At the WXO, our mission is to connect members of the Experience Economy to improve the quality of experiences, enhance the opportunities for experience creators, and promote the Experience Economy to the wider world. So we’re always thrilled to hear of other initiatives to connect and strengthen the same – such as the Immersive Entertainment Network, freshly launched in the UK. While a similar platform, the Association Française des Artistes de l’Immersif, already exists in France, this is the first network we know of to share knowledge, skills and resources in the live immersive entertainment sector in the UK, from experiential art to escape rooms.

4. Virtual Reality Becomes The Fastest-Growing Media Segment

Photo by Luxe Interaction

In the last Radar we spoke about how theme parks and film premieres are both using virtual reality to connect with consumers in more inclusive, expansive and generative ways. And according to PwC’s latest Global Entertainment & Media Outlook report, VR is now the fastest-growing media segment above podcasts, gaming, video and e-sports, with revenues reaching $1.8bn in 2020 – an increase of 31.7% from 2019. Although its total share of market revenue remains comparatively small, expect to see more VR integrations in all areas of entertainment and media going forwards.

5. Race Like A Warrior, Recover Like A King With A “Luxury Ultra-Race Experience”

If you’ve always liked the *concept* of entering Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, but found the muddy days and long nights just a tad off-putting, the Highland Kings Ultra – a new four-day camping race on the West Coast of Scotland – might be for you (if you’ve got £15,499 to spare, that is).

The race swaps sleeping bags and energy straws for butlers, speed boats, hydrotherapy pools and Michelin-starred chefs, and is aimed at professionals who want the thrill of achievement and wild terrain without the accompanying stings.

We think it’s yet another example of the explosion of innovation and options we’ll see in experiences over the next few years, and it makes us wonder – what disparate sectors (like luxury and roughing it) could we mash up to create new experiences…?

6. Swamp Motel To Take Over The Silver Screen?

Founders of Swamp Motel, Clem Garrity and Ollie Jones. Photo courtesy of Swamp Motel

We’re always in awe of Swamp Motel and the work they’re doing to push boundaries in the immersive space – read a brilliant case study from co-founder Daniel Hemsley on how they flipped from IRL to URL during the pandemic for an example of how they’re always ahead of the game. And all that innovation is being noticed, with the latest news from Swamp Motel being that their immersive game series, Iskander, has been optioned for film and TV rights by production company Gaumont UK. According to Swamp Motel co-founders Clem Garritty and Ollie Jones:

“We see transmedia narratives as the really exciting future of original IP, and we’re passionate about their development and the impact of storytelling on each platform.”

Clem Garritty and Ollie Jones, Swamp Motel

We couldn’t agree more – and for more on transmedia storytelling, be sure to catch up on Campfire 19: The Metaverse Firestarter Talk With Justin Bolognino.

7. Multisensory Storytelling Strikes In Seoul From Punchdrunk And SATORE STUDIO

Photo by Yuan Studio

In Campfire 19: The Sparks, we touched on the importance of storytelling that engages all five senses, not just sight and sound. So we were intrigued to hear about the opening of Beyond The Road in Seoul, billed as “the world’s first 360-degree emotional experience immersive exhibition”. Experience designers from SATORE STUDIO and Punchdrunk collaborated to create a surreal, immersive exhibition based on the music of UNKLE, in which all five senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, and spatial perception – are stimulated. Sounds to us like Punchdrunk’s handbook for creating better experiences in action – which you can read our summary of right here.

Seen a piece of Experience Economy news we should report? Have news of your own you want to share? Let us know!