By Caspar Thykier, Co-founder and CEO of Zappar
It’s been a week now since the end of AWE, which is enough time to reflect and get a healthy sense of perspective after the euphoria of the first large in-person gathering for the XR community in some time. And I have to say that the afterglow still lingers and the cynicism hasn’t kicked in!
Now I should say that the folks in and around XR are an endlessly positive bunch which you would expect for people pioneering a new computing platform: panhandling for digital gold comes with a degree of optimism generally, but with that comes a sense of camaraderie and a collegiate approach to problem solving where, although we might be competitive, the amount of blue ocean is so vast that in our group endeavour the tide rises for all (to continue the water-based analogy).Folks in and around XR are an endlessly positive bunch which you would expect for people pioneering a new computing platform: panhandling for digital gold comes with a degree of optimism generally @ZapparApp Click To Tweet
An Open Forum
This means that AWE is an incredibly open forum for discussion around new product developments and software solutions, best practice, creating standards from every aspect of the ecosystem from top to bottom.
The tone is undoubtedly set up by the ever ebullient personality of Ori Inbar who always kicks off AWE with his special brand of positive energy and off-beat humour. It immediately takes the shackles off and opens up the room and event to informal discussion.
John Hanke’s keynote from Niantic and launch of Lightship brought so many important themes together of how AR can play a positive benefit in our lives and deliver those missing elements for immersion from accurate location mapping, occlusion, and collaboration to deliver heightened experiences. His words about the time for AR being now certainly resonated with our sense at Zappar of where the market is for mobile AR after ten years of foundation building.What crystallised in my mind during the event and countless conversations with both old and new voices across the industry, was a sense that we are at a point where the stars have somewhat aligned for AR @ZapparApp Click To Tweet
In many ways what crystallised in my mind over the two and a half days of the event and countless conversations with both old and new voices across the industry, was a sense that we are at a point where the stars have somewhat aligned for AR: when it comes to the performance of devices; the speed of networks; the capability of the software and developer tools; and the greater understanding, amongst the business and brand community, of the power of AR to drive positive results for different use cases.
AR Coming of Age
There are of course many exciting new developments still to come but we’re now at a level of maturity in AR with enough data points to see that spatial computing really delivers a level of engagement, positive brand experience, and conversion to sale that many other media cannot provide. Sure, buy your usual digital media if you want reach, but what is reach without engagement? And how real are those impressions? Spatial computing and AR deliver a digital content experience that is active, lean-in, and commands attention with levels of engagement that other channels can only dream of. Looking at the level of creativity on display at the Auggie Awards you can see why. (And OK, yes we did win the Best Campaign Award for our work with Countdown in New Zealand alongside their shopper marketing agency Craze so I might be a bit biased!).Spatial computing and AR deliver a digital content experience that is active, lean-in, and commands attention with levels of engagement that other channels can only dream of @ZapparApp Click To Tweet
Now it would be hard to write a piece on AWE without mentioning the Metaverse given how soon after the Facebook (sorry, Meta!) announcement the event fell. I can’t speak for everyone but my sense was that overall people see the ambition of Meta as being positive in terms of the firepower it will put behind the exploration of the next computing platform but probably don’t thank it for the level of confusion and misunderstanding it now brings.
The late noughties and early teens saw a lot of work trying to explain what AR isn’t as much as what is and its potential benefits for brands, businesses, and end-users. Back then, as now with the Metaverse, there was a fairly clear consensus on the direction of travel required for AR to become more everyday and useful to people, and over time that came to pass (from tech to tool). The Metaverse is in a similar position of becoming a reality in time, as long as we don’t confuse people, make it overly complex and ensure the community works together to deliver the right safeguards, security, interoperability and standards that everyone will benefit from and learn the lessons and mistakes from the web. I think Tony Parisi’s Seven Rules is a pretty great start point if you want to get into the weeds of it. I look forward to seeing how it all lands at AWE in 2030.My sense was that overall, people appreciate the ambition of Meta as being positive in terms of the firepower it will put behind the exploration of the next computing platform but not the confusion and misunderstanding it brings Click To Tweet
Raising the Bar
Finally, I must also give the bar at the Hyatt a special mention. The hotel is pretty unassuming and the bar is too but for two days and nights, it becomes its own microcosm. If you happened to be passing through and not attending AWE as a guest, the array of headsets people were wearing and the snippets of conversation you’d pick up would make you feel as if you’d landed on another planet! But it’s here, as always with events, that the real connections get made and new opportunities germinate and partnerships formed.What the bar at the Hyatt Santa Clara lacks in character and color it provides as a blank canvas that is painted on in glorious technicolour by this wonderfully eclectic assortment of coders, creatives and clients at AWE 2021 Click To Tweet
There is no Zoom call or virtual lobby that can get you down these weird and wonderful rabbit holes created by organised serendipity and unconstructed conversations. What the bar itself lacks in character and color it provides as a blank canvas that is painted on in glorious technicolour by this wonderfully eclectic assortment of coders, creatives and clients at AWE. It’s a rare thing but luckily we will be back again before we know it in June ‘22 as AWE hopefully returns to its original slot in our calendars.
A big thank you to the organisers and all the attendees for making AWE a singularly special event.