Experts Discuss the Future of Immersive Storytelling at SXSW
As the media landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, and audiences divide their attention between new tools, platforms, experiences, and immersive ways to engage with their favorite content, the world of storytelling continues to explode with new possibilities afforded by immersive computing.
R/GA Senior Connections Planner Christine Song, Facebook Head of Developer Marketing AR/VR Kimberlee Archer, and HP Global Head of Virtual Reality for Location Based Entertainment Joanna Popper joined the forum. They discussed how their perspectives drive their approach to an exploding world of storytelling and how they use new tools, old tenets, and breakthrough practices to engage, empower and co-create with their audiences.
They also considered how the adoption of immersive computing—at a time when there’s an ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion—is helping shift perceptions thanks to VR & AR’s ability to provide alternative experiences.
“VR is optimized for presence; it puts you in the place of someone else and allows you to experience things from their perspective,” said Archer. “So, it’s a game-changer in terms of empathy and being a tool for conflict resolution.” She added that the technology could also be a valuable asset when it comes to preserving culture, such as when it enhances and amplifies generational storytelling.
“With VR/AR the conversation becomes less about looks and fashion and more about, ‘what are your goals and dreams?’” Song, who recalled her experience working with AR filters for Mattel’s Barbie, said. She added that, although Barbie inspires girls with their “You Can Be Anything” messaging, it’s all up to the parents who can use these social media filters as conversation starters.
“What it’s exciting to me is that this is happening at a time when the conversation that we have about who is in the workforce making decisions is different from the past,” said Popper. “We’re embarking on this era, and now data and studies say that when you have a representative leadership and workforce, you have a better stock price, financial performance, and decision making.”
Popper, who believes immersive computing is the next technological wave that will follow the mobile era, added that it’s critical for companies to do their fiduciary duty and bring different voices into the rooms where decisions about this new wave of technology are made.
Lastly, Callen asked panelists for their advice regarding more women and people of color joining the industry. “Nobody has concrete expertise in this ever-evolving space, so it’s a good time to join, everyone that’s coming in is contributing to the greater good,” said Archer, admitting that she never thought she’d end up working with AR and VR with her background in entertainment.
“Don’t be intimidated by having a different background,” said Song, adding that if someone knows how to work their phone and computer, they’re on their way. “You can be an advocate from any industry; If you work in marketing, you can be the one encouraging the brand to experiment and take a risk.”
“If you have engineering, coding, computer science or tech skills, there are lots of opportunities. Even if you want to work in this industry and have no tech skills, we still need lawyers, financial and marketing people,” said Popper. “It is a very collaborative and collegial community; we see each other as partners in building the industry together.”