Report from Daqri’s 4D Expo: You Too Can Create Augmented Reality Experiences

Report from Daqri's 4D Expo: You Too Can Create Augmented Reality Experiences

Augmented reality developer Daqri hosted
its first annual 4D Expo in Los Angeles last week, where it announced the release of Daqri 4D
Studio — a web-based application that allows content creators to create, manage, deploy and analyze augmented reality campaigns. Similar to QR codes, augmented reality campaigns are designed to combine physical and digital experiences. A physical object is augmented if data has been incorporated into its design. Data is then subsequently revealed through the use of a computer device such as a smartphone, creating an augmented reality experience.

Up until now, Daqri has kept these tools in-house, serving as a consultant to a wide-range of clientele,
including but not limited to Lego, Ford, Cadillac and Sony, who are looking to build augmented reality campaigns.

Daqri’s 4D Studio is designed to democratize the tools used to create augmented reality experiences so that anyone — including independent filmmakers — can enrich the narratives they create over multiple platforms. The application possesses an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop workflow that supports plug-ins from many pre-existing platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Unity. While most features are available in the free, individual version, there are certain limitations. At the individual level, users are limited to creating 25 experience targets and they do not have the ability to collaborate in a shared 4D workspace. In order to access these features, users would need to pay for a Pro account, which retails at $500 per month. For an independent filmmaker, however, the individual version would most likely suffice as he or she would still own any additional IP created within the 4D Studio and published through the Daqri application — a YouTube-like space for sharing and engaging with augmented reality.

Over the course of two days, key Daqri personnel, alongside thought leaders
from several different industries including entertainment, participated in a
series of demos and discussions that not only interrogated the way that we currently
engage with ideas, but also offered alternative methods of engagement that are
not far off from becoming standard.

To
address how 4D will impact the future of Hollywood, Daqri brought in Luke Ryan
(previously of Disruption Entertainment, the production company behind “Pacific Rim” and “Noah”), transmedia producer Zak Kadison of Blacklight and
Christopher Bremble of China-based VFX company Base FX. Ryan, Kadison and Bremble were all in
agreement that the Hollywood system is broken, citing marketing costs and
major shifts in consumers consumption habits, such as binge viewing online, as
the major causes of this breakdown. As Ryan puts it quite simply, “Marketing
costs too much and doesn’t do enough.” Furthermore, in countries like China,
where media consumption is an automatic function, most people, Bremble points
out, watch everything on or through their tablets.

When you
work in transmedia — a term Ryan, Kadison and Bremble use interchangeably with
augmented reality throughout the course of their discussion, despite the fact
that the definitions of both are widely disputed — Ryan says, “you are
spreading out the ways you can experience one singular idea.” He goes on to
cite Hulu’s “East Los High” as an example. Ryan became involved with the
project through his relationship with transmedia producers at The Alchemists. Funded
by a handful of non-profits and consumer products looking to educate youth in
the Latino community about healthy living, the series consists of 24 episodes. The
world of “East Los High,” however, reaches far beyond just the series. The
creators enrich the viewers understanding of the characters via additional
short-form videos featuring the characters, such as a sex column, a cooking
show and a video diary. “AR,” as Ryan points out, “can give you a sense of
place.”

While “East Los High” is certainly an inspiring example of how an independent
filmmaker might go about using transmedia and augmented reality, it was the
sole example of original content cited by Ryan, Kadison and Bremble during
their discussion. Every other example brought up related back to a project
based upon a pre-existing property or brand — a red flag for independent
filmmakers working on micro-budgets and are unable to afford to option rights.

Given
Ryan, Kadison and Bremble’s professional pedigree, however, the emphasis on
pre-existing properties doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, as much as they
would like to consider themselves disruptors — having exited the studio world
out of disillusionment with “the old ways” — they are still very much key
players in that world. While it is not incorrect to call them entrepreneurs, it
is important to recognize that they are of a particular segment. As opposed to
going totally against the grain, they orient themselves towards the future while
simultaneously extending a helping hand out to their forgoers. They are, in fact, agents of change.

But when
the studios have people like Ryan, Kadison and Bremble guiding them through the
evolving landscape, how then, if at all, can the independent filmmaker make use
of a tool like augmented reality when he or she does not have the capacity to
operate on such a massive scale?

Daqri appears to have attempted to
answer this question via a conversation between Daqri co-founder Gaia Dempsey
and independent filmmaker Anand Gandhi, whose film, “Ship of Theseus,” received
much praise upon its premiere at TIFF in 2012. Dempsey’s point of entry for the
discussion was “the power of awe,” how it is generated through storytelling and
how augmented reality might be able to further enrich that experience. Despite
the cerebral and abstract quality of his filmmaking, Gandhi was very
enthusiastic about the potential of using augmented reality in the near future,
for he sees it as the means to “reappropriate
a huge amount of ancient wisdom.” He conceptualized this opinion by
comparing it to the purpose of mythology. Gandhi goes on to point out that man
created mythology as a form of “transcendence…to help us deal with death,
define systems.” Today, however, technology, he says, has provided us with
tools that allow us to produce simpler, immediate narratives that “directly
translate wisdom that is useable on a day to day basis.”

Perhaps
then, the potential of augmented reality as a tool for the independent
filmmaker is to be used to reveal rather than build. If that is the case, then that opens up the possibility of using it to tell stories across all types of
genres, not just science-fiction and fantasy.

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