GDR spoke to Inition CEO Adrian Leu and executive producer Stephen Shaw to find out what the technology innovation agency is working on, and what they think the future of immersive technology looks like.
Who are Inition?
AL: Inition is a London-based, technology innovation agency. With a strong pedigree in researching and applying new immersive media technologies sharpened over the past 15 years. Inition maintains a technology-agnostic view while trying to match business cases with the latest creative-based, technology know-how.
A lot of Inition’s clients are FTSE250 companies and inside those companies we have worked with marketing, IT, training and HR departments.
Fashion and retail are two of our main areas where we have delivered projects with Topshop, Selfridges, Gareth Pugh, Zaha Hadid, Philip Treacy, to name just a few. Each one of those has tried to push the boundaries of the possible.
SS: With a track record spanning more than 13 years and hundreds of installations in both the UK and abroad, we are known for leveraging new technologies for creative communications well before they hit the mainstream; we’ve been augmenting reality since 2006, printing in 3D since 2005, and creating virtual realities since 2001.
What do you think makes you different from other agencies?
SS: Our undeniable experience and our ongoing dedication to delivering quality and engaging user-experiences. As the saying goes you never get a second chance to make a first impression so apart from our exemplary creative, development and software teams our almost obsessive attention to user-testing and retesting stands us apart from the more commodisited agencies out there.
AL: We have a strong understanding of and experience in combining hardware, software and content in a product or installation that highlights the user experience rather than the underlying technology. This requires a good understanding of the capability of the innovative technology we use. It also needs a practical approach about what works and what doesn’t, especially with latest immersive technologies, a creative mindset and delivery rigour.
Tell us what you’re working on at the moment.
SS: While we can’t mention specific ongoing client projects, our two most exciting platforms of the moment are undoubtedly the Hypervsn holographic projection system and our partnership with Ultrahaptics.
While the future of virtual, augmented and mixed realities is undoubtedly holographic we still have some way to go before we can attain an appropriate level of consumer hardware adoption to realise the true potential and power of our holographic futures.
Until this time platforms like Kino-Mo’s Hypervsn holographic LED projection system have the power to deliver in-store/window display faux holograms for retailers and FMCG/CPG shopper marketers that can immediately deliver truly engaging wow-factor consumer engagement. Kino-Mo is delivering tangible proven results for the likes of P&G, Cola-Cola, Carrefour and Clarks shoes.
Kino-Mo is essentially a high resolution LED projection system with two rotors pushing out amazing 3D animated videos to deliver faux holograms. This new dynamic visualisation system can also be underpinned by a central CMS that enables us to push virtual real-time content updates and playlists remotely.
The other exciting platform, Ultrahaptics, is just as fascinating. We can all imagine champagne bubbles dancing on our tongues but now, through ultrasonics and haptics, we can also feel these invisible bubbles with our actual hands delivering a new level of brand engagement through our sense of touch.
AL: The main promise of haptic technology platforms like Ultrahaptics is a total rethinking of how we interact with objects. A button, a lever, a dial can be recreated anywhere and takes us closer to the holy grail of the invisible interface.
Which technologies do you think will become the most important for brands who want to have deeper engagement with customers in the future?
SS: American performance artist Laurie Anderson once famously said that: “Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories”.
I think this resonates well here in that I also feel that the technologies new, old – or even those yet to be invented – are simply the canvasses and delivery channels for content.
After spending six years in augmented reality (AR) prior to joining Inition this summer, I’m hugely excited about what the AR future holds for us. But as seemingly dynamic as virtual and augmented channels are, the most important aspect of any immersive retail or brand experience will ALWAYS be the content…the story itself.
Another exciting area for brands consideration will be that of spatial audio. Academy Award winning writer-director George Lucas (Star Wars, American Graffiti) once told a reporter at Variety, “Sound is 50 percent of the movie-going experience.” But in a recent video interview, Trance & Trainspotting director Danny Boyle says that sound makes an even greater impact: “The truth is, for me, it’s obvious that 70, 80 percent of a movie is sound,” he says. “You don’t realise it because you can’t see it.”
Inition has a strategic partnership with Mixed Immersion – a 3D audio production company with a focus on creating amazing immersive experiences within Experiential, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Live Performance. We recently collaborated to create an amazing in-store experience for adidas’ new Nemeziz boot launch for which 3D spatial sounds was a key component to deliver that all important wow-factor.
In addition to this we both collaborated on the stunning ‘Spatium’ room-scale VR experience with milliner Philip Treacy, which launched at SXSW 2017 and had its UK premiere at the launch of Mailbox Birmingham last month. Read more about that here.
AL: The trend that we will see in the next year or so will be towards miniaturisation of the technologies and an increase in ergonomicity (less cables, more wireless access, better, more comfortable, smaller headsets). We’ve already heard about the imminent launch of standalone VR headsets (from Oculus or HTC) that will require no smartphone or cables or separate lighthouses for tracking (what’s called inside-out tracking). The true benefit will be reached when technologies like AI, voice recognition, gestural interface, computer vision, ubiquitous wireless connection will meet AR and/or VR. Those wearables will understand the environment, involve the user in meaningful and contextually intelligent interaction (voice, gesture, touch) and seamlessly blend (as in the case of AR) the virtual with the physical. The whole concept of omnichannel will then disappear.
What are the biggest challenges you have to overcome when promoting the use of tech in retail?
SS: Having already demonstrated my penchant for a good quote I think that both the challenge and answer of this question is best answered by Jacob Bofferding of Geometry Global Chicago, who said: “Activation is the art of addition. Brands must add something positive to consumers’ lives, even when they aren’t buying. Don’t take away their time – give them an experience they’ll thank you for.”
AL: One of the challenges is to think more in terms of transformation whenever we think about innovative technologies: What is the service layer that can be added to an experiential project. What is the application? Answering that question is about finding a long term strategy for using those technologies to drive growth rather than just temporary, immediate experiential gratification. As a client, I would like my attention to be rewarded.
Are there any sectors where you haven’t seen much experiential marketing activity, but that could benefit? How do you see this developing in the future?
AL: Retail is a sector that’s leading the way but looking beyond, we think fields like Finance, Utilties, Government could benefit a lot from a stronger experiential layer to entice customers. We are currently talking to a few clients in those sectors to see how immersive technology based projects can give their users, especially millennials, a new lease of life in trying to understand and engage with their services.
Finally, you’ve been doing a lot of research around biometric data, how do you see this being used best in the future?
AL: At a top principle level, biometrics offer brands the ability to look “outside in” and measure how their clients react to different environments, products and interactions. And that can be done in a way that emphasises economies of scale. The creation of a virtual environment is the capital investment here but the distribution and changes can be done in a very cost effective way.
To take things forward, biometrics can also be used in an experiential way, where customers can affect the environment they see based on feedback from monitoring of their senses (eye movement, pupil dilation, perspiration etc). This feedback loop can create some really interesting experiences where not only visuals are involved, but also other senses.