What Dreams May Come with the Apple Vision Pro

Why We Think Live Events Might Finally Be Ready to Get Serious About XR and Spatial Computing

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Artists Versus Technology: Do they have to be in competition?

There’s a pervasive false narrative in our society that most gifted artists have no love for new technology. This idea is reinforced by YouTube videos of Broadway performers scolding those who interrupt performances by capturing video on their phones. What rightly infuriates actors in such encounters is rude behavior and selfishness. The use of a phone in these cases is incidental, but the technology itself becomes the enabling scapegoat and further reinforces the popular notion that REAL artists should loathe tech (or at least feign befuddlement at all these crazy new gadgets and gizmos).

This is crap. Broadly speaking, artists have long been early adopters and the deftest users of technology. Do you think Andy Warhol’s silk screens didn’t require him to master and use that technology in a new way? What about Leonardo da Vinci creating blueprints for flying machines between The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa? Theater artists, in particular, have an incredibly extensive track record of pioneering new technologies to enhance how they tell stories, from medieval pageant wagons to computerized show control systems.

Managing Partners Jackie Lau and Lisa Cecchini (from left) experimenting with VR in the NYC Office

How Apple is Changing the Game

Thanks to Apple, a new kind of technology, spatial computing, has entered the zeitgeist in the form of the Apple Vision Pro. And before you rise to object and read me the extensive history of VR, AR, and XR technologies and their use in consumer entertainment, just know that I have been strapping computers to my face since they were light enough to do so. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I have a closet full of decaying VR headsets in my apartment and have been banging the drum of their potential to revolutionize our industry for over a decade. The reason I’m giving Apple credit for bringing this conversation from the Discord server to the dinner table is partially due to the volume of press and marketing dollars they’ve expended to do so (see Vanity Fair’s digital cover story featuring Tim Cook from Feb 1). Also, their track record of forcing the masses to finally pay attention to leaps in technology is well established; most people’s first digital music player was an iPod (but I’ll always have love for the RIO 500 from Diamond Multimedia I bought in 1999, which is sitting next to my Google Cardboard in the above-mentioned closet).

What This Means for the Live Events Industry

I bought a Vision Pro at launch and have been playing with it for a couple of weeks. In fact, I’m using it now to write this piece (it really does do an excellent job of drowning out the noise of an open floor plan office). I agree with many of the reported gripes (it is really hard to demo the experience to others) and accolades (probably the best movie-watching experience I’ve ever had). When I think about what this technology will mean for live events, I’m cautiously optimistic our industry will finally start to get serious about this conversation and ramp up the creation of amazing experiences that embrace spatial technologies. A lot of tech companies have invested a ton of money in evolving the hardware required to blend our digital and physical worlds; now, they need the storytellers to come in and make the tech sing. It’s no coincidence Apple tapped Alicia Keys to be featured in one of its first immersive videos on the device (between that, the Super Bowl Halftime Show, and the opening of Hell’s Kitchen, I really have no idea when she sleeps). 

And I’m not limiting my enthusiasm to traditional sit-down theater experiences. Within the agency, we’re geeking out with clients about spatial in every vertical, from Broadway and sports, to attractions and museums. We’re fielding more questions about the possibilities for this tech from a wider swath of the C-suite and, yes, giving lots of demonstrations of the headset (Apple, make this easier, for the love of Zeus!). It might not be cool yet to be seen wearing a headset on a plane (as I did on a recent flight to Miami), but it is becoming less of a shock. Let us know if you’re ready to come out of the mixed reality closet and join the conversation about what comes next in this space. Just close the door behind you before all the legacy gear we’ve jammed in there spills onto the floor.

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