Today we spoke with James Basnett, the CEO of Shape Immersive, a VR/AR company based in Vancouver. Shape is transforming and improving realities through 3D, immersive technologies, and powerful experiences. You can learn more about Shape Immersive here.
Tell us about Shape Immersive.
So Shape is a group of really talented and passionate 3D and virtual reality professionals. Our headquarters is in Vancouver and we build very interesting immersive experiences and virtual worlds through a variety of 3D and software.
What is XR, and how has it grown in use and capability over the last decade?
So you know when we look at AR, VR, MR, and XR, and then you have whole bunch of people who are trying to understand what you’re talking about, we get stuck. You know we’re all living in reality, or at least we’re trying to. What is augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality, and then extended reality? So XR is a term that has really been used as an umbrella for these other technologies. Augmented reality is a layer of information in front of us, and the most popular usage today is mostly going to be face filters. So if you see someone using a face filter on Instagram or in Snapchat, you know you might see those interesting bunny ears or some cat whiskers, that’s augmented reality. So it’s your reality layer, and then the augmented layer which is this 3D thing that’s been virtualized on top of you.
Virtual reality is actually quite different. It is a fully virtual environment – so you’re going to be a 3D cat in a 3D space, and we’re not going to be including information from around here. So when we look at augmented reality, a lot of that usage is coming from a mobile phone, and when we look at virtual reality, a lot of that is going to come from the virtual reality headsets that we see out there. Mixed reality is really just a mixture of those two. It’s where we’re going to take some very virtual environment pieces and overlay them into the virtual world, and then extended reality is just supposed to be this blanket term. Altogether, there’s a lot of very interesting technology work in creating virtual experiences for us coming today.
How does XR impact marketers, creators, and digital influencers?
Well we’re seeing that really pick up now. The first sign that I think all marketing staff, all leaders that are interested in the future of the way that their brands are marketed and amplified is the fact that our social media channels are so committed to augmented reality. At Facebook, there’s 10,000 people now working on augmented reality and virtual reality, which is probably around 20% of the workforce over there. That, I think, can only be the case if we know that this is going to be the media that is driving marketing in our narratives and the way that we’re going to try to produce empathy through our storytelling in the future.
So there’s this third dynamic in augmented reality and virtual reality, at the core it is these 3D images and what happens with that third dimension is that, as a viewer, our audience is actually – their brains are stimulated in new ways. There’s a 70% higher retention of for augmented reality ads than for standard dimensional ads or video ads. Andy why is that the case? It really has to do with some of our spatial intelligence and the way that we are activating parts of ourselves in receiving, whether it’s an ad or some sort of story in the 3D space, that allows us to keep that information in our brains longer. It allows us to retain the information better. And so Google knows this, and Facebook, Instagram knows this, and so they’re really going to start to focus on 3D and augmented reality ads in the future. We are seeing that people love using face filters, it’s a way for us to create content. We’re always looking for ways to create content. Augmented reality is one of the best ways to do it.
Like I mentioned, with Star Atlas we created the face filter, and in another campaign we created a dancing alien so the Tik Tok groups out there could dance next to this alien hologram. So now what we’re doing is we’re giving people a way to create really beautiful content as a way to amplify this new brand as it hits market, and these are opportunities that we haven’t necessarily had before. So it’s a very exciting time, and when you’re engaging people through dance, and through the use of their face, that will hit them in the heart in a way that just looking at a brochure or a standard website is never going to impact them or their emotions or their memories.
What is a Metaverse, and why should businesses care?
Yeah so ‘Metaverse’ is a very interesting term, it’s one that was popularize by a book called Snow Crash. About a year ago very few people were using it, unless they were very much in the meat of virtual reality and these virtual world experiences. Today it is something that’s moved out into the front of the stock market with Facebook announcing a few weeks ago that they’re no longer a social media company, that they are in fact a metaverse company. When you have some of the largest internet providers and social media platforms aspiring to be metaverse companies, I think we have to pay attention. So what is going on here? A lot of it is the evolution of the internet.
You know when we started on the internet, dial up modems, we had websites but there were no web applications and our ability to use internet was quite limited. We’re kind of entering the third phase of the internet now, and metaverse is this blanket term to really talk about the evolution of the internet into a 3D space. So that is where things like instead of an about page on the website, we’re able to get into a virtual reality experience within the CloudAdvisors office. We’re able to meet the team, and their avatars in that kind of environment where we actually receive and enjoy the experience far more. So metaverse is a collection of all these virtual world experiences underneath it. Are they individual, or combined – this is still something that we’re determining as a population on this planet, what we want to do with it. But essentially, it is a virtual world environment, usually driven by 3D, and we have the ability to build in virtual economics into those.
So when we think about how metaverse is going to impact our businesses, well I think you’re going to start to these these are new channels for driving revenue with customers – and pretty serious channels that we have to pay attention to. One thing behind that is, why make money in only one reality? We should make money in as many realities as we can. These metaverse experiences are allowing us to do that. We are seeing some of the largest retail brand on the planet start to create virtual goods, virtual jackets, shoes, and stores, and so we’re starting to drive retail revenue through metaverse environments. If you look at the market of games, it’s larger than music and film and television combined globally, and that’ only going to continue to increase. If can’t go to concerts in person, we’re going to go to concerts in fortnight and in VR, and that’s also where we’re going to start spending our money as a fan to support that artists that we love. So there’s this big consumer pull of money that’s being redirected from some of the experiences we haven’t been able to take apart of the way that we are used to, and it’s going into these digital channels. So that’s a great opportunity for us.
I think on the business side, metaverse is really going to be where we’re meeting our teams, and where we are doing our hiring, and where we’re finding our vendors, whether those be health and benefits providers. You know we’re going to try to meet them in virtual experiences that might tell the story of their company and their offering in a very rich way. We’re already seeing virtual reality drive training forward. So instead of spending maybe $10,000 to fly somebody to a site as they are onboarding to a new company we now have the ability to put them into a virtual reality experience for maybe 30 minutes and give them the same amount of information they would have got had they travelled to site. We’re protecting people, we’re saving money. This concept and the approach around metaverse is going to allow us to more efficiently build and run our businesses. Both internally from an operational standpoint, as well as the front of the market where we are selling more things, more digital goods, and creating demand for our products and services in that space.
Which innovations will catalyze mainstream adoption of XR?
Virtual reality, I think, is going to take longer than we expect, mostly because the human central nervous system has evolved over six million years and virtual reality is kind of trying to hack that. It’s trying to trick our minds and our bodies into believing that we’re in a different place, and I don’t think that the human central nervous system likes that. So this is why we se things like increases in – some of the problems people have around nausea when they’re in a VR experience.
Augmented reality is a place that, over the next few years I think is going to potentially cut down phone usage considerably. We’re going to see people wearing glasses just like I’m wearing now, but we’re going to have information here within the lenses, so the big technology transformation that is needed to catalyze this is going to be getting some of the computer components within an iPhone. You’re going to break them down, and put them into your glasses. We’re going to have RAM, and optics, and all those types of things baked into our glasses. We’re going to have thicker rims, but once we can get all of the iPhone stuff into the frame of glasses, we’re going to be able to have virtual monitors for work. Instead of looking at one monitor or two, we’re going to be able to have much larger pictures that we’re just looking at through glasses.
So this is going to change what it looks like at work, it’s going to change what it looks like to work at home. It’s going to change what entertainment is. Instead of going to that concert I’m going to be able to see a hologram of Arianna Grande in my living room. That is really the thing that we’re waiting for now from a market perspective, is the technology within smartphones to shrink small enough to fit into a pair of glasses.
What are some of the coolest projects you’ve worked on?
Yeah so we’ve been very lucky in the NFT space to work with some of the leaders right now: Star Atlas is a game metaverse, incredibly bright human beings who are leading the charge of creating great virtual and NFT content on the planet. We’re really excited to be able to work with some of those groups. We’ve also, over the past couple of years, worked with Red Bull and Coca-Cola and the Olympics. What we’ve been doing with them is taking some of their great experiences, their event experiences, their consumer experiences in creating 3D version of it.
So if you go to the Red Bull TV app and you click on the AR icon in the top left corner, you’re going to be able to see an experience that Shape designed and developed for Red Bull. This was taking their downhill mountain biking event, creating a virtual mountain, and allowing you to see the same path that the mountain bike riders are taking. It’s with a new perspective, it’s not just in YouTube – you can fully get a sense of the size of the mountain, the slope of it, and you have a way of seeing where that highlight click came from. This is a new way for brands and content producers to be able to excite and engage viewers. It’s far more immersive, they’re paying much more attention, and we’re starting to see that benefits are coming upstream now. We’re seeing more money flowing through these experiences. We really loved what we had a chance to do with Red Bull and the Red Bull TV app.