Four 2024 trends
Two years ago, futurologists everywhere were predicting how the metaverse was going to change the world. It’ll happen one day, and hardware like the Apple Vision Pro and the (relatively budget-friendly) Meta Quest 3 are bringing it closer. But it’s now clear the metaverse will have limited impact in the near-term.
Instead, 2024 is going to be all about real-world experiences that are more immersive, more interactive and more talk-worthy than ever before. We’ll witness a sea-change in how reality can be extended and enhanced.
Four trends demand particular attention.
Virtual Out of Home (VOOH)
Faux OOH ads – in other words, CGI ‘fakes’ that are expressly created for social viewing and pass-on – featured strongly in 2023. Prominent examples included Maybelline, Jacquemus’ ‘Bambino Buses’ and JD Sports / North Face teaming up to wrap Big Ben in a puffer jacket.
Many of these executions were highly effective, winning coverage in the mainstream media. In a cluttered environment where it’s increasingly difficult to grab people’s attention or spark word-of-mouth, some believe this is the future of advertising. Others dismiss it as a fad – or possibly even illegal, since it implies an association with and endorsement from the media owner in question.
Clearly, content like this has a role to play in the mix; but there’s a real risk of the trend being overdone. Novelty is good but can wear out quickly, especially if audiences feel they’re being hoodwinked.
Next year, we’ll see that faux OOH was simply paving the way towards something different and better: executions that combine digital out-of-home technologies with augmented reality to deliver real-world experiences that are just as extraordinary as any CGI fiction. Think of it as DOOH+.
Rather than watching passively on YouTube or Instagram, people will be able to experience the content first-hand. And thanks to AR, they’ll even be able to interact with it.
One of our guiding beliefs is that ‘wow moments’ are most powerful when experienced in the company of others. Watching the Gorillaz AR concert on-screen is impressive enough – but it can never match what it must have felt like to actually be in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus.
We’ll see more of these location-based events in 2024, enabled by advances in smartphones, new mapping technologies and the spread of 5G. One company pushing the envelope is disguise. Working with Snapchat, its RenderStream™ technology allows AR experiences to be integrated seamlessly into the real world at concerts, shows and sports matches. This example for Princess Cruises, activated at the Los Angeles Rams’ SoFi Stadium, demonstrates what’s possible.
A key benefit of AR is the way it allows experiences to be multi-layered. Our first Pixel Artworks Originals Feature, The Butterfly Trail, shows what we mean. If they choose, visitors can simply immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of Professor Pelegrin’s botanical workshop and glasshouse, played out across four-storey high, 16K wrap-around screens. But for those who want to delve deeper, they can use browser-based AR to transform digital chrysalises into glittering butterflies that land in the palm of their hand.
AR will also start to penetrate our TV screens. Broadcasters have been swapping in perimeter hoardings by country for a long time, but technology is taking this to the next level. Invisible to fans within Bank of America stadium, TV viewers of Carolina Panthers home games are being treated to AR experiences like this. The creative potential is jaw-dropping.
Artificial Intelligence means the rate of progress is going to accelerate fast. We’re already experimenting with AI to create content on the fly in response to a user’s prompts. Enabling individuals to co-design a truly open-ended experience will be a monumental breakthrough.
Transparent LED film
Transparent LED film might not sound that sexy; but when it comes to visual storytelling and creating immersive environments, it’s a game-changer. It enables the full blending of the physical and digital realms.
The technology’s key benefit is the fact that it’s almost as transparent as glass – which means you can overlay digital information and animations onto physical items in, say, store windows or museum display cases. The film can also be used in architectural design, adding depth and intrigue to the aesthetic without overwhelming it.
Being a modular product, transparent LED film is a highly scalable solution. The use cases in retail are particularly relevant, and we expect to see adoption spread rapidly in 2024. It’s likely to be front and centre of retailers’ efforts to expand their digital media networks into the offline world.
We wrote in “Store-telling and the art of the S.E.L.L.” about the importance of using shop exteriors as signals to attract passers-by. Transparent LED film offers a better way to do this because it doesn’t obscure what’s inside. Rather, it allows store owners to create a mesmerising dual-layer visual effect. The next step will be to pair these displays with sensors or augmented reality to deliver personalised, interactive shopping experiences; for instance, by changing the content as a customer approaches.
Few marketing events in 2023 attracted more interest than the opening of the Sphere Las Vegas, especially the 580,000 square feet of LED screens that cover its exterior. It’s a crying shame that plans to build a counterpart next to the Olympic Park in Stratford now seem unlikely to happen.
When the Gulf states decide to build an experiential landmark, they do it on a grand scale. The Al Wasl in Expo City, Dubai has just been recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest interactive immersive dome, while the plans for The Mukaab in Riyadh are simply mind-boggling.
Expect to see a lot more of these landmarks announced in 2024 as countries compete to build bigger and better. The reason is straightforward. Just as Paris constructed the Eiffel Tower to celebrate the World’s Fair of 1889, cities want and need global icons. This is partly about national pride and identity; partly about exerting soft power on the global stage; and very definitely about the hard-headed business of attracting tourists and other visitors.
These four trends demonstrate how the coming together of increasingly powerful technologies will enable breathtakingly immersive experiences, unlocking a new wave of innovation.
Each has the capacity to satisfy deep-rooted human needs: play, escapism, sensory stimulation, an elevated sense of community. Add in the requisite dose of creativity and they give brands, NGO’s and governments the opportunity to engage and educate audiences like never before.
The metaverse may still lie in the distance, but 2024 will see forward-looking organisations find exciting new ways to push back the boundaries of reality.