The Future of Immersive Storytelling: Perspectives from The Frontier Summit

Location: The Frontier Summit, Vancouver. Panel Moderator: Adam Wilson, CEO & Founder of Polyform
Panelists: Jeff Gipson – Immersive Director, Disney. Brandon Harper – Senior Designer, AXON. Stacie Ant – digital artist and co-founder of XELEVEN.

Immersive storytelling is not just a buzzword; it’s the new frontier for artists, technologists, and communities. The Frontier Summit in Vancouver provided a space for a riveting discussion about the future of this innovative form of storytelling. Moderated by Adam Wilson, CEO and Founder of Polyform, the panel included experts like Jeff Gipson, Immersive Director at Disney, Brandon Harper, Senior Designer at AXON, and Stacie Ant, a digital artist and co-founder of XELEVEN.

Bridging Real and Virtual Worlds: Scientific and Emotional Applications

Starting the conversation was Brandon Harper, Senior Designer at AXON. Known for his collaborations with various organizations, Harper delved into his work on facilitating augmented reality experiences in scientific research. Specifically, he talked about a data pipeline that ingests ocean mapping data, enabling researchers from different parts of the world to collaboratively plan expeditions in an augmented reality environment. The technology, in essence, breaks down geographical barriers and fosters international collaboration in scientific research.

But Harper didn’t stop at scientific applications. He also discussed how augmented reality has the potential to be a tool for social change by building deeper empathy and understanding. He cited the use of VR in police training, where officers are placed in emotionally immersive scenarios that deal with issues such as mental illness or homelessness. These training modules, according to Harper, offer a much-needed nuanced perspective, especially considering the often limited training that American police receive.

The Democratization and Gamification of Storytelling

Stacie Ant, a digital artist and co-founder of XELEVEN, turned the focus toward the democratization of creative tools. She emphasized how platforms like Instagram and TikTok are not just social media platforms but robust storytelling mediums. Stacie pointed out an interactive AR campaign for Nike that effectively gamified a celebrity athlete’s personal narrative, turning viewers from passive consumers into active participants. She argued that AR technologies offer an extension of the imagination into physical reality, allowing digital landscapes and characters to manifest in the real world.

Beyond Headsets: The Social Fabric of Immersive Entertainment

Adam Wilson then steered the discussion toward the limitations of current hardware like headsets. Citing examples such as Las Vegas’ MSG Sphere and Japan’s teamLab Borderless, Wilson posited that the real future of immersive entertainment lies in large-scale, multi-user installations. These environments, according to Wilson, offer a kind of social interaction that isolated VR or AR experiences can’t replicate. They allow for shared experiences that make storytelling not just immersive but also communal.

Drawing the Fine Line: Immediacy Vs. Depth

As the panel discussion drew to a close, Wilson emphasized the need for balance. While technology offers unparalleled storytelling capabilities, it also presents challenges such as shortened attention spans and the ethical considerations around immersive experiences. The key, as per Wilson, is to navigate the fine line between immediacy and depth, spectacle and meaning, to unlock storytelling’s full potential.

Immersive storytelling is a field ripe with opportunities and challenges. But one thing is clear: it holds the potential for a richer, more empathetic form of human connection and expression. By participating in forums like The Frontier Summit, we can continue to shape this exciting narrative and its technological future.