MusicPlayXR Now, Abbey Road’s 13th Red Talk, on Extended Reality

MusicPlayXR Now, Abbey Road’s 13th Red Talk, on Extended Reality

28th November 2022
In our 13th Red Talk, the first we have held in Abbey Road’s Studio Three since lockdown, we were excited to explore an area of music tech linked to many strands of our current exploration at Red (including our incubation with metaverse start-up XONE): extended reality (XR) hardware and experiences.

It’s easy to imagine a perfect world of seamless high quality extended reality. Our truth is more District 9-esque in that hardware limitations at scale will heavily influence what’s possible and what’s not.

Our guest speakers were:

· Greg Ivanov, Head of AR/VR/Lens Partnerships, EMEA at Google

· Dave Haynes, Founding Partner, FOV Ventures

· Pip Brignall, CCO & Co-founder, The Round

· James Shannon, CEO & Co-founder, XONE

· Alica Molito, CIO & Co-founder, XONE
So, first to where we are in the XR development cycle, which was brought up by guest speaker Dave Haynes, and can be framed using the Gartner Hype Cycle of Technology.

A graphical representation of the maturity and adoption of an innovation across its lifecycle using a bell curve, in each cycle there are five phases: Technology Trigger, Peak of Inflated Expectations, Trough of Disillusionment, Slope of Enlightenment, and Plateau of Productivity.
Haynes opined that we’re already up the Slope of Enlightenment with VR applications after an Innovation Trigger stage in 2016 followed by stagnant progress in the following years. At the same time XR is being used in various industries including marketing, gaming, education, manufacturing, and is paving its way to becoming an entrenched daily experience for us.

Our speakers felt that in terms of hardware and content development, within the next two to three years we can expect:
- Lighter devices, with ultra-thin pancake lens adoption
- Better quality pass through from VR devices
- More engaging and meaningful experiences
- Artificial Intelligence playing a bigger role in metaverse experiences

And longer term into the next 20 to 30 years:
- Seamless interaction and interoperability with VR/AR hardware
- Lightweight 'glasses' with AR capability and AI capability to correct your
- Heads-up-display-like interplay between real world and digital overlays
- Portability

It was almost unanimously agreed that no one has got the metaverse experience ‘right’ or ideal so far, for reasons including the following:

1. Unclear definition of the metaverse and how it should be explored:
The ‘Chief Metaverse Officer’ has become a crucial role in our unfolding meta-landscapes and a role that is typically responsible for the development and maintenance of a company's online presence in a metaverse. A new tech-inspired role companies are hiring for alongside Chief Crypto Officer.

However, industry is finding it difficult to get this role right where there are so many views as to what the metaverse is and what it could be.

Skeuomorphism is difficult in VR/AR hardware:
Digital Skeuomorphism is a design approach where technology provide visual cues that mirror real world cues, instantly and instinctively communicating how a user interface works. XR hardware, save for the mobile phone, has not been optimised for day-to-day use/repetitive wear yet, making skeuomorphic design and feel tricky.

Cost of each hardware evolution is prohibitive. VR/AR in general, save for the mobile phone and innovations like Google Lens, means buying expensive hardware, which often ends up sitting on the shelf after a short period of time.

Mobile-first AR feels like the best near-term mix between power, affordability and scale, but the experiences and underpinning delivery technologies are still nascent and finding their way.

3. Trying to directly recreate live, physical experiences with virtual

There was a dialogue around whether we should be trying to recreate experiences directly or adapt them, with Haynes saying the ‘recreate’ approach didn’t prove itself with the first wave of VR entertainment apps in 2016/17 who were experimenting with 360 video. Though he would like to see more experiences that look to go ‘beyond reality’ which he glimpsed in some of the early Wave VR gig experiences.

In our ensuing panel discussion, Ivanov emphasised how important scalable hardware experiences should be, hinting at lessons learned with Daydream VR and highlighting the easy-to-use and low-cost nature of AR while pointing to the value adding nature and importance of APIs that can enable content on low cost devices, Geospatial API being a leading example, with Ivanov imagining, for instance, a real world tour experience overlayed around the outside of Abbey Road via ARCore.

Brignall said that at The Round they treat XR experiences as a separate entity in their own right that can complement physical shows and other content but are not designed to be a like-for-like replacement. Expressing lessons learned during earlier work in theatre, Brignall views these experiences as being a more interactive way to connect with audiences and for audiences to connect with each other in a way that they typically would not when in the same physical room, whether they are enjoying the experience live or during a playback.

The keyword here is experience, not trying to replace live physical experiences directly with digital ones but enabling AR to become as powerful as VR while exploring more of the 'what and why' behind XR experiences.

While discussing brands executing well in the Metaverse, Haynes thought Nikeland in Roblox fit the meta-bill. Nikeland is Nike’s purpose-built metaverse space that uses the Roblox platform to allow its fans to meet, socialise, take part in promotions and engage with a whole range of brand experiences. That plus Nike’s separate success selling an NFT genesis collection of personalised Nike Cryptokicks suggest to Haynes that Nike is matching the power of metaverse and Web3 technologies with authenticity and appeal to their fanbase.

Bringing our XONE founders James Shannon and Alica Molito into the conversation via video call was a fun addition to the conversation and our speakers in Studio Three jumped into the round to watch the call, setting the mood for the informal discussion atmosphere we are so fond of creating during Red Talks.

Not before some formal questions to XONE which saw Shannon wholeheartedly backing the relevance of mobile first AR as the most accessible route at scale with low barriers to entry where start-ups should be building business models and UX design first.

Molito backed this from her design perspective saying that developing for mobile is ideal because it is easier to be consistent across hardware and software generations as the hardware and software evolutions are incremental and consistent, rather than representing new devices or ground up builds to port to.

With these views Shannon and Molito rounded the convergence of our panelists on mobile being the first place XR can scale and reach early potential. At that point we started moving to our floor discussion, which, as always, we won’t include in our write-up but are happy to say was vibrant and informative.

We are most grateful to our speakers and attendees for making this such a wonderful event, and we are already looking forward to our next Red Talk, in 2023.


Related News