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CANNES 2019 Marché du Film

Cannes XR devotes a whole day to the Augmented Reality Summit

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- CANNES 2019: The Marché du Film’s Cannes XR delved into the current status of AR experiences, their technical and narrative limitations, but also how they could enhance our real world

Cannes XR devotes a whole day to the Augmented Reality Summit
AR/VR pioneers Lucas Rizzotto, Emilie Joly and Amaury La Burthe, and moderator Michel Reilhac

The last of the six days of the Marché du Film’s Cannes XR (14-19 May) programme was dedicated to augmented reality (AR), with a series of panel discussions, three presentations and one focused development showcase. The AR Summit opened with the discussion panel “Fusion of Worlds: Discovering AR Storytelling”, where three AR/VR pioneers, moderated by Michel Reilhac (Submarine Channel), shed light on their approach to the technology and its applications today.

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Amaury La Burthe, audio designer and founder of Paris-based studio Novelab, presented an AR game based on the French animated series Minuscule, which brings the famous insects into the real world. He mentioned that it is all well and good to be immersive in virtual reality, but when it is applied to augmented reality, it helps to develop the characters of the story and enhance our real environment – and possibly also our daily lives. Nevertheless, it might not yet be the right moment to merge VR and AR, as the latter is still in its infancy.

Emilie Joly, interaction designer and CEO of Swiss studio Apelab, talked about her new AR series, The Legend of KAMI, which is a location-based entertainment experience. The series asks the user to visit specific places in order to “unlock” the next chapters of the story. Comparing the experience to that of visiting a museum, Joly focused on how the physical presence of the user is vital for the development of the story. She also mentioned that a new AR/VR story is in development and underlined that by experimenting, storytellers in real and virtual worlds can fuse them together by creating new levels of interactivity.

Next up, Lucas Rizzotto, director and VR/AR creator, focused on how the merging of these two worlds could be both an advantage and a major disadvantage for the existing technology. He stated that, at the moment, the most important thing is character development – for example, coming up with a 2D hero who has to exist in a 3D, real-life world – rather than the mix of different realities. Also, the equipment being used today specifically for AR is rather limited, and the primary implementation method is via phones, as there is a wider access to that audience. Despite this, the success of the apps has not yet reached a level where the market could be considered mature enough. Both of the other panel members agreed with this particular point.

Taking the Pokémon GO game as an example, as it is probably the most widely known and widespread AR application, the panellists agreed that it was a smart use of a technology that was developed for over five years. More importantly, the narrative that was created was actually happening in the user’s mind, instead of in the physical world, which is an interesting concept to bear in mind for AR’s current baby steps.

The coherence of the worlds themselves is, of course, the main challenge, as the phone is only a tool that offers a blank canvas in terms of the setting, and then each creator must evolve his or her own worlds and stories to persuade the user to interact and, through that process, build a narrative. There is a fear that by constructing a half-baked, disappointing experience, this will discourage the audience from continuing to follow developments in AR. Therefore, every choice is critical.

On the plus side, by adapting the writing of the stories, some major disadvantages can be turned into advantages. In particular, some of the AR experiences can twist reality into something that is magical, and by reducing distances, AR can bring an almost fairy-tale-like fluidity to our world. Rizzotto opined that the next era of AR would be more closely intertwined with our emotions. It therefore won’t create the kind of satisfaction generated by the passive observation of something designed to entertain, but rather a closer, more sentimental attachment, especially when the experience is combined with something related to people’s personal stories or memories.

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