What Will the Future of Immersive Entertainment Look Like?

4 min read

The future of immersive entertainment is here, and it's already changing the way that we make art and tell stories. From virtual production and remote workflows to sensory integration, technology is ushering in new ways of bringing creative visions to life. Here are five trends that are shaping immersive experiences for new generations of audiences.

1. Illuminated and image-filled spaces

Many of today's immersive experiences give us massive images that are so sharp they blend fiction and reality. Projection technology uses bright, sharp reproduction to achieve this.

Native 4K projection technologies offer ultra-high resolution, so that pixels stay sharp and close together even when throwing an image onto large surfaces. It enables event organizers to fill large spaces with vibrant, animated images that stay crisp and clear while bringing the entire environment to life.

This creates powerful experiences both outside and inside spaces. The NOW Art Foundation’s public art exhibition, LUMINEX: Dialogues of Light, is one example of this. For one-night only, this outdoor walkable experience transformed the streets of Downtown LA using Panasonic projectors. Six digital art installations used cutting-edge projection mapping technology to project against the backdrop of entire buildings in a five-block radius offering viewers a truly immersive experience.

But, even with dense 4k image resolutions, many large spaces must stitch multiple projected images together so that they can take immersive projection to the next level. With this capability, image size becomes virtually limitless. The key to achieving this invisibly is razor-sharp images edges with no drop-off in light. This is difficult to achieve with lamp-based projectors, but laser-based units have the necessary image precision to align images perfectly.

2. Experiences molded to their environments

Historically, organizers have had to mold environments to experiences, using temporary walls and screens to create appropriate projection spaces. Today's experiences flip that narrative by adapting themselves to fit the environment.

Projection spaces are rarely flat. They're three-dimensional, with curves and contours that are structurally important to buildings. Thanks to 360-degree video projection technology, we can mold projected images to fit perfectly around these spaces, creating seamless images that fit perfectly with their environment. In the Van Gogh exhibition, the Toronto Star building's 11,000 square feet of industrial pillars, concrete and metal became part of the canvas thanks to three-dimensional mapping technology that fitted images perfectly to every surface.

Developments in optics technology are creating new capabilities for projection experts to bring large images up close and personal, adding new dimensions to exhibition spaces. One example is the new Illuminarium: WILD – A Safari Experience. Panasonic collaborated with Illuminarium to create a custom ultra-short throw lens with minimal offset and loss of light. The collaboration enabled the organization to project its natural wildlife images up close without losing light at the edges of the image, and without having their own shadows disrupting the experience. It all contributes to an incredibly immersive result, enabling visitors to roam Illuminarium's various rooms as though they're among the animals they're watching.

3. The imaginary becoming reality

While large-scale projections are pushing back the boundaries of art, augmented reality is also helping to create increasingly immersive experiences. This technology superimposes computer-generated imagery onto real-world scenes, enabling visitors to see and manipulate fantasy objects that can move and morph.

The Luminex exhibition featured AR elements, accessed through artist Nancy Cahill's 4th Wall app. While people typically view these experiences through their phone screens today, mainstream AR glasses are just around the corner.

The Portal, AREA15's live event space, uses 4K projectors to bring art to life. From outer space to under the sea to a fantastical jungle, the technology makes it possible to create any setting for any type of event, whether it's a theater performance, concert, or corporate event.

4. Full sensory experiences

Some of the old-school ways to engage visitors never went away — they just got a lot better. Yesterday's vibrating cinema seats and surround sound audio helped immerse audiences. Today, exhibition spaces have modernized and mastered these technologies. By keeping in mind sight, scale, and sound, they offer 360-degree experiences. 

For example, the Illuminarium features entire haptic floors, precisely linked to the full-room video that illuminates its walls and ceilings. When visitors see an elephant walk within what seems like touching distance, they'll also feel the vibration from its huge, heavy steps underfoot.

The space also uses binaural audio technology, which uses stereo algorithms to create the perception of distance. It's so good that it can convince visitors that a wild animal is directly behind them or off to one side. It doesn't get much more immersive than that.

5. Interactive spaces

The days of passive one-way experiences are over in spaces like the Illuminarium. Interactivity is key to keeping audiences engaged. In the entertainment center's forthcoming space exhibition, visitors will be able to do more than walk on the moon; they'll leave footprints, too. Technologies like remote sensing LIDAR experiences help sense audience positions so that the exhibition can adapt to them dynamically, bringing levels of interactivity that simply were not possible before.

5. Shared experiences for in-person and virtual attendees

While the entertainment industry is slowly returning to normal and offering live in-person events, many spaces still want to serve at-home audiences. Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras enable virtual attendees to experience the sights and sounds of an event in exquisite detail, making them feel like they were right there in the event space. 

For example, the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas uses PTZ cameras to capture every moment of the competition from multiple angles. The stream is then displayed both on the arena's 50-foot LED video wall displays and livestreamed to screen around the globe, so both in-person and virtual audiences can share the same experience.

The future of immersive entertainment is big, bright, and sharp. It embraces the spaces it inhabits, and promises to delight audience with every pixel. Get ready for an experiential form of entertainment that will take audiences to new heights, eliminating the fourth wall to reinvent creativity in the round. As today's creators get to grips with the capabilities of these modern developments, what new worlds will they invent tomorrow?

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