Apple Vision Pro is the end of a wait but the start of an era

When we set up ARCADE back in 2016, we knew we wanted to combine our expertise in digital experience with our passion for real-world environments, though initially we weren’t sure how. It was Tim Cook’s conviction about the power of augmented reality that helped us realise AR was the answer, and is why it has been at the core of our business from the very start.

Every year since then we have been waiting for Apple to unveil the AR wearable that would confirm their intention to lead the next digital revolution towards spatial computing. The longer the wait went on, the more we began to wonder if he and his company would ever actually do it – but after today’s announcement it seems the wait is finally at an end.

As has often been their way in the past, from desktops and laptops to mp3 players and mobile phones, Apple are far from the first-movers in mixed reality headsets. But they have proven time and again that doing it right – meaning both functionality and form – is more important than doing it first.

Even at an eye-watering $3,499, the injection of intrigue and attention the Vision Pro will bring to the XR industry is going to kick-start an entirely new phase of growth to an already burgeoning sector. In some ways the past few months have seen a rare plateau or even a dip in the hype surrounding XR, driven primarily by uncertainty around the Meta-driven ‘metaverse’, with some commentators even going so far as to write its obituary. Though we at ARCADE have never been enamoured by the m-word, Apple have just proven that, far from dying off, XR is only just getting going.

Apple’s entry into an already developing XR headset market should act as a signal to every other competitor that they are doing something right. From Meta’s new Quest 3 to the brilliantly affordable Zapbox by our friends at Zappar and everything in between, Apple of course have designs on domination, but the Vision Pro will be the making of the wearables market to the benefit of all.

The high price plus the fact we are all going to have to wait at least six months to try it for ourselves means that, as Tim said, “this is just the start”. But make no mistake: after being at the forefront of every digital consumer milestone for the past 30 years, Apple just officially started the era of spatial computing, and it’s going to change everything.

Well done Tim, we knew you’d get there in the end.

Jon Meggitt is Co-founder and CEO of Arcade.


Arcade to exhibit at M+H Show

With Arcade’s wealth of experience creating immersive experiences for arts, culture and heritage organisations across the UK and beyond, it was only ever a matter of time before we transitioned from simply attending the sector’s biggest annual conference, the M+H Show, to actually exhibiting there – and 2023 is the year it has finally happened!

Come along to the show on 10-11 May and say hello to the Arcade team, who will be out in force to talk all things immersive, in particular how our Playable Places™ visitor experience platform can help the arts, culture and heritage sector to engage its audiences in new and more exciting ways.

Arcade is pleased to welcome visitors for FREE – just click here to claim your free ticket, and head to Olympia to chat with the team, watch co-founder Alex Book’s talk on our insights from The Keeper of Paintings and what they can mean for the sector, or just have a play on our retro arcade machine!

The Museums+Heritage show runs 10-11 May at Olympia in London. Claim your FREE ticket hier.

We’ve been using ChatGPT’s language model for 18 months – and it’s awesome

Alone Together with ChatGPT's language model

As ChatGPT has been making headlines across every corner of the internet over the past couple of months, it’s worth remembering that the incredible technology behind it – OpenAI‘s GPT-3 language model – has actually been around for quite a bit longer. In fact, we have been working with it for the past 18 months, and I thought it would be useful to reflect on our experience.

As far back as mid/late 2021, we chose GPT-3 as the engine to drive our upcoming immersive AI short film series, Alone Together, produced with Dustin Harvey from XO Secret and Afro Viking Pictures. From the moment we integrated it into our app architecture we were blown away by its capability to mimic human speech behaviour, and it continues to amaze us every day.

Alone Together is a collection of episodes in which users watch a dramatic situation unfold between two characters, before finding themselves thrust into one of the roles and tasked with continuing the conversation. They are free to further explore the drama or to veer off and ask the character absolutely anything they want. Whatever the user decides, the character responds in an astonishingly human way – all thanks to GPT-3.

Users can follow the narrative or ask the characters anything they want

A hit at SXSW

Our goal was to explore the boundaries of AI chat in a creative context, and GPT-3 was by far the most promising of the language models available. And it certainly caught the attention of visitors to our demo at SXSW last year, being one of the first implementations of the technology in a creative medium.

The experience goes like this:

Watch a short film episode. After 2-3 minutes the linear film seamlessly becomes interactive, with the user taking the position of the main protagonist, but also now in control of the camera – with which they can look around the film set in 360 degrees. An accurate avatar of another character from the film is sitting opposite the user and speaks to them. The user talks back, and is understood by the avatar, leading them into a conversation. After a couple of minutes, the film becomes linear again.

For the SXSW demo we had developed a single short narrative, but have now developed this into a four-episode series, with each episode both a discrete experience and part of an overarching whole. To avoid any spoilers I won’t go into any more details just yet!

On the path to true human-AI conversation

The more important point, at least for those of us interested in the tech, is what’s happening inside the app. To deliver the user experience above, we complete the following sequence of events in under two seconds:

  • Capture the user’s voice as an audio file (using custom algorithm to determine when user has started and stopped a sentence)
  • Convert the audio to text using iOS native Speech-to-Text engine
  • Send the resulting text to our GPT-3 model using OpenAI’s GPT-3 API
  • Get resulting text response from GPT-3
  • Send resulting text to Microsoft’s Text-to-Speech service
  • Get resulting audio file from Microsoft and play in the app
  • Synchronise the avatar to the resulting audio using SALSA lip-sync plugin
  • Repeat

The result is AI interaction which is getting closer and closer to true human conversational behaviour. Its uses are clearly vast and widespread, but in our case we are thrilled to have successfully used it to unleash entirely new forms of creative expression.

ChatGPT will continue to astonish, terrify, delight and anger the world, but our experience with the GPT-3 model behind it demonstrates the mind-bending creative possibilities that are unlocked by this incredible advanced technology.

Alone Together is coming to festivals this February, with a wider release scheduled for later in 2023.

Jon Meggitt is Co-founder and CEO of Arcade.

A Massive Step for the Real-World Metaverse

Light beams on an aerial view in AR

Late last week, Niantic launched Lightship VPS for Web – instantly advancing the state of immersive tech further than anything else has managed to since we started Arcade 5 years ago.

What is Lightship VPS for Web?

It is not so much a new product launch, but the combination of two already powerful platforms:

8th Wall – the most advanced WebAR platform in the world, that empowers agencies like us to create augmented reality experiences that can be accessed through the web browser (without the need for a native app).


Lightship VPS – a visual positioning system for mobile devices to not just recognise the location of a user in the real world, but also understand the spatial and semantic nature of their surroundings, enabling us to create hyper-contextual augmented reality experiences.

So why is this so exciting?

Arcade’s mission of ‘connecting people to place through play’ is founded on a belief in the latent power of the devices in our pockets to connect people to the real world, and to make more of it through play and storytelling. And this is exactly what this release will allow us to do, producing more relevant and engaging experiences that feel seamlessly integrated into the world around us, accessible to anyone with a mobile device.

We have demonstrated the impact of this type of approach recently with our Keeper of Paintings experience at the National Gallery. By programming iOS and Android devices to recognise the real-world paintings, we were able to tell such a compelling story that over 40% of users are repeat visitors – that’s kids wanting to return to an art gallery to carry on playing!

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The real-world metaverse?

The Keeper of Paintings is an app-based experience, but Lightship VPS for Web will allow creators like us to combine this kind of world-understanding with the accessible nature of WebAR. This is the power of what Niantic calls ‘the real-world metaverse’. Niantic CEO John Hanke has made the point that ‘Metaverse’ is a term appropriated from dystopian portrayals of a future where society no longer wants to inhabit the real world and instead escapes into virtual ones. This is not the future that Niantic – or Arcade – is building towards.

Lightship VPS for Web is Niantic’s latest response to the hype and hyperbole surrounding the ‘metaverse’, that asks us all to believe in the world we have. Not to escape it, or leave it behind, but to join together in revealing its magic and beauty, exploring new ways to engage with it and each other.

We believe. Let’s go.

Roxy the Ranger: The story behind the world’s first AR chatbot in a visitor attraction

SEA LIFE Junior Ranger AR Poster
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"Bij Arcade draait alles om het leggen van betekenisvolle verbindingen tussen mensen en plaatsen"

It starts with strategy: Roxy was created for the London Aquarium by Arcade, to amplify SEA LIFE’s ‘Amazing Discovery’ essence, which is all about fun, interactive learning.

Augmented reality is de perfecte technologie voor een uitdaging als deze, omdat het een uniek vermogen heeft om tot de verbeelding te spreken, vooral als het spaarzaam in plaats van hardnekkig wordt gebruikt. Het toont ons werelden, plaatsen, objecten - of, in dit geval, karakters - die voor het blote oog verborgen zijn, maar zelfs als het apparaat verdwijnt en Roxy uit het zicht verdwijnt, blijft ze in onze verbeelding volharden. We kunnen haar misschien niet zien, maar we weten dat ze in de buurt is. Als gevolg hiervan wordt onze relatie met het aquarium en de wezens binnenin getransformeerd en radicaal verdiept.

“It’s important that AR is used to enhance experiences, not replace them”

Roxy is beschikbaar via een gratis app en helpt SEA LIFE-bezoekers, vooral gezinnen met kinderen van 4-10 jaar, om meer te begrijpen over de wezens die ze zien door ze te entertainen, te onderwijzen en te belonen door middel van een reeks boeiende uitdagingen. Kinderen kunnen met Roxy chatten en haar verschillende vaartuigen besturen (inclusief een straalachtige onderzeeër en vliegmachine), en worden aangemoedigd om hun volwassenen te ondervragen over de feiten die ze gaandeweg hebben geleerd. Roxy beloont ze met Ranger-kaarten en aan het einde van de ervaring worden ze volwaardige Junior Rangers!

Critically, the AR experience is designed to amplify the connection between visitors and the aquarium. In between challenges, visitors are encouraged to explore the space without Roxy’s help, creating a virtuous circle of engagement between the physical experience and the digital one.

“It is was really important to have a character, so there was something in the space for kids to see and interact with”

Roxy speelt de rol van een SEA LIFE-curator of aquariaan, en was ingewikkeld ontworpen om zo geloofwaardig mogelijk te zijn, terwijl hij ook een schattig, geanimeerd karakter omarmde om jonge bezoekers aan te spreken. Het was belangrijk om haar het gevoel te geven dat ze dynamisch betrokken was bij de wereld van het aquarium, waar haar voertuigen binnenkomen - waardoor kinderen met haar mee de tanks in konden gaan en een gevoel van gedeelde ontdekking kregen.

"Het verhoogde het niveau van betrokkenheid, het verhoogde het niveau van plezier, het verhoogde de mate van interactiviteit"

 De impact van de ervaring, zoals gevalideerd door twee onafhankelijke onderzoeken, was fenomenaal. Vanuit een zakelijk perspectief werd ‘verblijftijd’ in het begin als een belangrijke maatstaf beschouwd, met als doel deze met 10% te verhogen; Uit onderzoeken bleek dat bezoekers die de app gebruikten gemiddeld 25% langer in het aquarium doorbrachten dan bezoekers zonder, met dramatisch hogere tevredenheidsscores en toegenomen 'waar voor hun geld' gevoel tijdens hun SEA LIFE-ervaring.

Net zo belangrijk, zo niet meer, uitten zowel kinderen als ouders hun opwinding en vreugde over hun interacties met Roxy. Vooral ouders waardeerden het educatieve voordeel en waardeerden de manier waarop hun kinderen de tijd namen om met Roxy en de zeedieren zelf om te gaan. 

"Werken met Arcade was ongelooflijk. Ze zijn goed bereikbaar, zo deskundig, zo meegaand, zo leuk om mee te werken. Ik zou op ieder project, elke dag en overal weer met ze samenwerken." – Rita Marcal, Global Senior Brand Manager, SEA LIFE.

5 principles for responsible AR to address screen time phobia

Augmented reality and the great screen debate

Screen time. We hear a lot about it, almost exclusively in the context of how best to limit it. A small but growing number of resorts, restaurants and other visitor destinations are making the news for offering incentives to customers who lock their phones away, more and more apps are designed to help us (and our kids) spend more time screen-free, and Apple has even launched a built-in screen time limiter with iOS 12. All of which throws more fuel onto the good tech / bad tech fire – and the debate continues to rage.

As practitioners in augmented reality, we are challenged regularly about mobile screen time by concerned clients: “but I want my kids to use screens less, not more” or, “won’t this just make people walk around with their screens in front of their face all the time?”

These are fair challenges, and the immersive technology industry – especially those of us focusing on the mobile side of things – needs to take them seriously. It’s not enough to wave them away with platitudes about how engaging, entertaining and rewarding the experiences are. The truth is, in a world of mounting concern about digital addiction and the antisocial behaviours mobile devices can foster, it doesn’t matter how great an immersive experience is; if it means promoting more time glued to our screens we are only going to encounter more resistance.

Instead, we have to play our part in reassuring society that the innovative, engaging experiences we create have a positive impact on how we engage with the screens in our pockets. Responsible, socially-aware design and development is key, which is why we at Arcade believe in a set of principles that help us achieve just that:

Windows, not screens

To us, your device is a magic window onto an invisible world. The content is not in your phone, it is in the physical environment beyond your phone. Our experiences are designed to make the device as unobtrusive as possible – something to be looked through, not at.

Heads up

Most mobile content is viewed ‘head-down’ – neck and eyes extended downwards, device pointing towards the floor. Our augmented experiences raise the gaze and reacquaint you with the world around you, at eye-level.

Put it away

We design narrative-led, connected experiences that create a virtuous circle of engagement between the physical and digital worlds, which don’t rely on your device throughout. A specific location triggers a digital experience and, when it is complete, your phone goes away again until you reach the next one.

Healthier habits

Mobile usage is not created equal. Immersive experiences like ours are designed to positively shift people’s usage patterns, substituting those that isolate them from the physical world to those which meaningfully engage them in it.

Primacy of place

Lastly, Arcade was founded on a fundamental belief in the importance of place in the digital age; augmented reality is simply the tool we use to foster a deeper connection with, and appreciation of, the world around us. The physical environment drives the technology, not the other way around.

By adhering to these principles, we at Arcade – and the immersive tech industry as a whole – can respond to the challenges that are coming our way with confidence and conviction, that locking phones away isn’t the answer; making them part of our healthy engagement with the world around us is the key.

#augmentedreality #screentime #playableplaces #arcade

Arcade proud to be founding members of the Open AR Cloud

Open AR Cloud Logo

Following Ori Inbar’s announcement of the Open AR Cloud during AWE Europe 2018, Arcade was privileged to be part of the first working group later that day.

We are fully supportive of the group’s shared mission to drive the development of open and interoperable AR Cloud technology, data, and standards to connect the physical and digital worlds for the benefit of all. We believe AR cloud technology will profoundly change the way we see and interact with each other and our physical surroundings. We are dedicated to creating standards, guidelines, tools, and data required to build a better world. We know that, above all, we must protect and preserve our individual and collective freedoms, privacy, dignity, and opportunity … for one and all.

NPL & Arcade Win Explorers Award to Develop AR App

NPL Logo

The National Physical Laboratory and Arcade, working in collaboration, have won an NPL Explorer’s Award for their Digital Image Correlation Project.

The team is developing a prototype augmented reality app that enables users to leverage the power and functionality of NPL’s Digital Image Correlation algorithms to accurately track changes in their environment.

Digital Image Correlation is a non-contact technique that uses algorithms to compare two images; acting as an advanced ‘spot the difference’ tool, to automatically record changes. The technology is already being employed by industry to monitor infrastructure wear, predict maintenance needs and provide quality control but it shows promise in many other applications, such as healthcare monitoring and aiding insurance claims.

This project aims to demonstrate proof of concept for delivering the technology in a widely accessible app format, and will employ intelligent and user-centric design.