Archive: Jan 2020

The G Word — XR Gimmicks Are Great!


Draw & Code’s Phil Charnock considers the argument of whether AR and its sister technologies are too gimmicky — or whether there is no such thing as too gimmicky.

In new technology generally — and XR particularly — there is an innate distaste of the word gimmick. It’s time to dispel the notion that gimmicks are bad and to question whether the developing mediums of AR, MR and VR are as saturated with them as some will make out.

OK, let’s open up the Oxford English Dictionary. It says that a gimmick is ‘a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade.’ That does not sound inherently negative to me. Is this not how every TV ad or publicity stunt works? And that’s apt — marketing is one of the primary uses of immersive technology — and a vital one that has kept the creative end of our industry ticking over for the last decade.

Short-form, marketing-led uses of XR have enabled an awful lot of good to happen in this sector. Would the team who are treating PTSD using VR be a well-oiled machine without working on some fun, engagement-driving 360 content for a conference? Or the ground-breaking AR navigation tool that emerges from a team schooled on apps for retail brands? Maybe not.

Here’s a case in point where a fun and frivolous use of mixed reality turned into something altogether more functional. In spring 2019 Draw & Code collaborated with Philips Displays on a technically advanced Magic Leap experience that was intentionally made to be swift and succinct for the user. Designed to grab attention at ISE in Amsterdam — the A/V industry’s shop window event.

Philips ARc

Early in this development we also started work on a SLAM-based app for the same team, however, it was a very different proposition. Called Philips ARc, it was a tool to enable Philips’ agents to spec screens according to the constraints of the space — and to see a live visualisation of them in-situ. The realistic-looking 3D models of screens neatly appear to hang on the wall, creating an accurate and useful real-time visualisation and measurement tool for the display industry. Without the event-based mixed reality app, would we have been invited to create something that can be used daily by Philips retailers?

Let’s rewind further, all the way back to the debut of the App Store in 2008. The week it opened its digital doors saw iBeer take its place as one of the top 10 iOS apps. For those who were slow to shift from a Blackberry, this app was essentially just a glass of beer on the screen that appeared to drain away as the phone was tipped. And that was it — a two second experience that will have found its way onto an alarming percentage of early iPhones.

Gimmick

I still vividly remember when future Draw & Code co-founder John showed me the iBeer app. It brought our office to a stand-still. We poured over it (pun intended) and something clicked. Or rather it didn’t click — this was the upstart device with barely any buttons to click. The idea of multi-touch technology married to gyroscopes, web connectivity, GPS and a camera was new to us — as it was to everybody. With iBeer we saw the world of possibilities that John was already fixated upon. This playful, throwaway app had engaged us, albeit for mere seconds, but it led us to declare that the era of the multi-touch smartphone was upon us — and we needed to be a part of it. I doubt we were the only creative types to be fascinated by the possibility of early App Store apps, even those as fleeting in their appeal as iBeer.

Fast forward to today and the original team at Draw & Code are a decade deep into exploring the world of XR — not that it was called that when we started dabbling with it. During that time we’ve frequently advocated short, sharp and impactful immersive experiences. This is new technology, often presented in an event setting, so a quick-fire format can be very welcome indeed.

The Ready Player One-esque vision of elongated or always-on sessions with a headset on has not, as yet, transpired — for most of us at least. Maybe it yet will — if you had told me that one day computers would constantly be running in our pockets and we would need to legislate against people still using them behind the wheel of a car I may have raised an eyebrow before going back to trying to find my way down the street with a paper map so complex that once unfolded it would never be able to be flattened again. Of course we’re edging closer to an all-encompassing headset future with smart glasses in industrial environments and a new generation of wireless VR that boasts ever more well-conceived user experiences, but there is a lot of ground to cover — and enjoy — along the way to that.

AR

Look at Snapchat’s lenses; each is throwaway in isolation. However, they add up to become something much larger. Indeed, we crunched some stats a few years ago and found that in a single day there are more people engaging with AR that is created on Snapchat than the total number of daily users on Twitter. Stop and think about that for a minute. Oh, and if you’re wondering, we took active user stats from both platforms then took away the amount of bots on Twitter to reach this conclusion.

Should we, in fact, embrace the idea that short and instantly accessible is the form that AR is likely to take? Snackable content (that title goes through me but it works here) happens to be the way many mediums work at their best. The three minute pop song. The arcade game. The haiku. Memes. It’s OK to enjoy short, punchy and ostensibly simple content — let’s celebrate this nascent era of experimental and ‘gimmicky’ spatial computing instead of lamenting it.

Draw & Code Kick Off 2020 By Announcing a New CEO – Spencer Crossley


Draw & Code are proud to announce the appointment of our new CEO. Spencer Crossley, formerly of Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, is joining the UK studio to work alongside studio co-founders Andy Cooper and John Keefe, who remain in their current roles.

Spencer was targeted to aid the continued growth of the business and to leverage his enviable track record in commercialising video game and entertainment IPs. After spending the 2010s delivering projects for global clients, Draw & Code is building upon its existing work-for-hire capabilities by developing and launching immersive entertainment products.

Boasting decades of experience as a senior board-level executive, Spencer Crossley is an expert in interactive media, video games, high-tech toys and more. A founding member of Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment UK, Spencer was key to the launch of the Lego video game franchise. This was just one IP amongst many others as Warner Bros’ embryonic games arm quickly grew to become the UK’s third largest video game publisher. This followed Spencer’s previous appointments at Hasbro, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and Mindscape International as he progressed from a marketing background to commercial sales and senior management roles. Meanwhile, as founder of Atomic Entertainment, he has worked on commercial strategy and funding for start-ups and high-growth companies – many sharing commonalities with the agile studio environment of Draw & Code.

“This opportunity to work with such an innovative team in the world of immersive technology, LBE and connected play is thrilling,” said Spencer Crossley, CEO of Draw & Code, “Immersive location-based entertainment is an area that is already valued at $4.5bn and is growing rapidly, while connected play is a trend in games and toys that is creating opportunities to disrupt the status quo – I look forward to helping Draw & Code unlock their potential in these fast-moving markets.”

Draw & Code were one of the earliest work-for-hire studios to commit to immersive technology. Established nearly 10 years ago, we have worked with brands such as Mercedes, Philips, Nokia and Red Bull. Along the way, the team has pioneered new technical and creative IP internally such as SwapBots and a yet-to-be-revealed LBE (location based entertainment) product. The impending commercialisation of these products is the impetus for the studio seeking to bolster the team’s strategic expertise.

“Spencer’s experience of bringing interactive entertainment products to market will be invaluable to Draw & Code as we push ourselves into new markets. This revised company structure will also allow the existing management team to focus on production, R&D into new technologies and to continue to grow our client base,” said Andy Cooper, Co-Founder of Draw & Code.

During 2020 SwapBots will be launching to retail after a successful Kickstarter campaign ahead of the reveal of a new LBE product.

Pink Floyd WebAR Experience Debuts


Sony Music Entertainment has collaborated with Draw & Code to develop a new AR (augmented reality) experience celebrating the release of Pink Floyd’s The Later Years box set. The latest WebAR technology is employed to allow fans to place iconic album artworks into the real world. All the user needs to do to access the AR experience is to go to PFLaterYears.com on a smartphone and follow the on-screen instructions.

Pink Floyd’s The Later Years, released on December 13th 2019, and is an 18-disc set covering the material created by David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright from 1987 onwards, and featuring over 13 hours of unreleased audiovisual material.

This experience explores the album covers from the collected works of The Later Years and enables fans to see animated versions of the artwork appear in their environment via a smartphone. What’s more, this is all done without needing to download an app. Draw & Code has chosen 8th Wall’s WebAR platform to allow for an augmented reality experience that launches straight from a website.

“Exploring the world of Pink Floyd has been a blast. Not only are they one of the finest bands of all time, they have always experimented with creative, visual concepts to expand upon the music — augmented reality sits well in the mediums they have embraced,” said Andy Cooper, Co-Founder of Draw & Code.

There are three main ways to engage with The Later Years artwork. The first is to place elements from the artwork into the world around the user. Monolithic heads rise from the ground and streetlights contort on the pavement as key visual motifs from the world of Pink Floyd flood into the real world.

Secondly, the user is invited to capture photos of the experience and share them with friends. There are simple on-screen guides to help make your own take on the album art — this is record sleeve design that can be influenced and shared by fans.

The third element to this playful exploration of Pink Floyd’s output are animated ‘glyphs’ derived from the new logo for the band. The logo can be viewed in 3D, rotating through several states — each alluding to hidden visual codes for each of the albums featured in the box set.

“Each artwork is visually striking with a common theme jumping out from each: the juxtaposition of surrealist interpretations of everyday objects and situations sitting incongruously within our reality,” said Mike Snowdon, Creative Lead at Draw & Code.

Pink Floyd’s The Later Years AR experience can be accessed by a majority of modern smartphones by heading to PFLaterYears.com.