Why ‘The Metaverse’ risks dragging down the very thing it stands for

As reality bites for Meta, what is the risk for the rest of us seemingly caught up – whether we like it or not – in ‘The Metaverse’?

“You’re doing metaverse stuff aren’t you?”

This is a question I get from friends and family on a fairly regular basis.

The answer is always, “well, sort of”, and then I try to explain that the word represents different things to different people, that no-one really knows what it means, that it’s all quite confusing, but that ultimately, whether it has a label or not, the kinds of three-dimensional digital experiences that we create are all about being exciting, effective, playful and as utterly brilliant as we can make them.

But by then they’ve stopped listening because it’s not simple, memorable and short. Bloody metaverse.


There’s no denying that the popularisation of the term ‘metaverse’ has been a big driver of interest in digital immersive experiences over the past 12 months.

Even those of us that have remained staunchly cynical about the word (like us at Arcade) have benefited from the surge of interest in the immersive space. This trend was arguably already happening, triggered principally by the pandemic, but the m-word and its billionaire supporter(s) unquestionably gave us all another boost of acceleration.

The flip side of that same coin, though, is that when it is increasingly associated with negative news stories – plummeting share prices, people losing their jobs, as is the case right now – then we have to expect the hype we have seen amongst partners, clients and the general public to turn, justifiably, to concern.

Reality bites for Meta, its staff and shareholders, but that doesn't mean the immersive revolution is over

“So is the Metaverse over then?” might well be the response to these latest headlines. And this raises the possibility that the really good, solid gains our sector has made over the past 12-18 months, as more and more of society has seen for themselves the tangible benefits of immersive technologies, could disappear in a puff of metaversal smoke.


But three-dimensional digital experiences are here to stay.

AR and VR applications in entertainment, arts & culture, retail, marketing, training, healthcare – frankly, pretty much everywhere – are proving their worth as new and effective ways of engaging audiences.

The technologies we use have matured beyond measure since Arcade started back in 2017, and can today deliver the kind of robust, reliable and persistent experiences we could only dream of.

Examples of Arcade’s work, demonstrating how far digital immersive experiences have come

Irrespective of what we call it, it’s an exciting time to be at the centre of this space. As a strategist I have a fundamental belief in the power of language, but in this case it makes no sense to be reliant on a word. The things being created are too good, too important, too impactful to be made or broken by a name.

The m-word has burned brightly. Like all big fires it draws people towards it. Some perhaps got a bit too close and are suffering as a result. And just maybe the fire is starting to die down – or even going out completely.

But please just remember: a name is just a name, and not the thing itself. What we and others in our industry do is wild and precise, thrilling and practical, persistent and ephemeral, and all the more exciting for its mind-boggling variety and resistance to any singular definition. Any attempt to pin it down or wrap it all up in one convenient little box is perhaps always destined to fail. And maybe that’s for the best.

Whatever happens to the word itself, we and our peers in the immersive industry are not the metaverse. We don’t need a word to define everything we do. We’re bigger than that. We’re better than that.

Alex Book is Co-founder and Chief Strategy Office of Arcade.



Keeper of Paintings Nominated for an Auggie

Auggir Awards logo (AR Awards)

Just a couple of weeks after its launch at The National Gallery in London, The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception has received its first award nomination. The immersive game created for, and in collaboration with, 7-11 year olds and their families is up for ‘Best in Location-Based Entertainment’ at the prestigious Auggies, run by AWE.

Voting is open to the public until May 5th, and you can register here to vote for The Keeper of Paintings and any of the other incredible immersive experiences across 15 categories.

Find out more about The Keeper of Paintings hier, and book your ticket to play the game for free at The National Gallery hier!

Children and Augmented Reality Characters in the National Gallery

Get in touch to find out more

The Keeper of Paintings launches at The National Gallery

Children and Augmented Reality Characters in the National Gallery

The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception, the free mobile-based immersive game set at The National Gallery in London, has officially launched to the public.

The AR app is the first of its kind launched by The National Gallery, and has been created with the help of over 80 children.

Having been selected as winners of the StoryFutures China Storylab commission in early 2021, the launch is the culmination of a year-long project by the Arcade team, working in collaboration with The National Gallery, StoryFutures and a wider partnership group including Royal Holloway University of London and Brunel University of London.


This child-led experience takes place in the National Gallery, London but also, through augmented reality, a wider imagined world of Keepers where a group of magical beings who help care for some of our world’s most precious objects. 

Young Gallery visitors are asked to help guide a fictitious Keeper of Paintings to find a lost ‘Palette of Perception’ – a magical object with special gems that gives them ‘powers’ – to engage with the paintings digitally. As they move through the Gallery responding to the app’s story, a new digital world is revealed where visitors can solve puzzles, find hidden secrets, and collect the gems connected to the paintings.

The app is designed to be fun and rewarding for children and their families, but its primary goal is to foster interest and engagement with the Gallery’s masterpieces. The challenges within the game all require the kids to explore the art with their eyes, and include regular breaks in which they are prompted to put the phones away and chat about the paintings with their friends and family.

The cleverness of the app design is that the rewards only come via close study [of the paintings] with the naked eye.

The Sunday Times
Video afspelen

Jon Meggitt, Co‐Founder of Arcade and lead developer, says: ‘We were absolutely thrilled to win the opportunity to develop this experience in partnership with this special and talented group, but working alongside StoryFutures, the National Gallery, the wonderful kids of the Children’s Advisory Group and all the other partners has exceeded every one of our expectations.’

Lawrence Chiles, Head of Digital at the National Gallery, London, says: ‘It’s fantastic that we are able to launch our first dedicated app for children that creates a new perspective on the paintings at the National Gallery. Arcade, the children and all the partners involved have created something really magical.’

Professor James Bennett, Director of StoryFutures at Royal Holloway, University of London, says: ‘The National Gallery and Arcade have taken on a massive innovation challenge. This project shows what can be achieved in linking great storytelling with innovative new immersive technologies. Perhaps the most exciting thing is that the story of The Keeper of Paintings has only just begun.’


The Keeper of Paintings and the Palette of Perception is designed for 7-11 year olds, will run at The National Gallery for at least 12 months, and can be downloaded for free on the Apple and Google stores now.

To plan your visit to The National Gallery, please visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk/keeper


Old Operating Theatre Goes Immersive

AR hologram of doctor

The Old Operating Theatre, as Europe’s oldest surviving operating theatre, has some astonishing stories to tell. Standing in the space, you can almost hear the echoes of 19th century surgeons carrying out amputations with no anaesthetic as dozens of smoking students shouted their approval or concern.

The museum is open to the public near London Bridge and offers a chance to step back through history – but now gives visitors an opportunity to hear these stories from one of the surgeons themselves, thanks to the magic of augmented reality.

Visitors to the Old Op can use an app to meet Mr Benjamin Travers, a renowned British surgeon who was appointed as lead demonstrator at Old St Thomas’ Hospital and was in charge when the women’s operating theatre was created.

Mr Travers appears as an AR hologram and welcomes visitors to the operating theatre, assuming them to be medical students late for his latest class. Across three short interactions he explains the surgery of Mrs Elizabeth Raigen, a patient whose injuries required her leg to be amputated below the knee, a procedure described at the time in The Lancet, one of the oldest medical journals in the world. Hear all about this fascinating – if slightly gruesome – surgery, from the surgeon himself!

Mr Travers augmented reality experience is live at The Old Operating Theatre now, and is free with admission. Book your museum ticket hier.


Arcade 2021 – A Year In Review

AR showreel

An important note: I’m always cautious about being too positive about Arcade’s recent successes, given the terrible toll the pandemic has taken on so much of society. Please read everything that follows with the caveat that this is a specific perspective from a business that is doing well in an industry that, on balance, has benefited significantly from the societal changes brought about by COVID restrictions.

Happy holidays,


What a strange, wonderful, challenging and elating year 2021 has been for Arcade.

In hindsight, the defining feature of 2021 had actually begun the year before. During the final few months of 2020 we had started to see a noticeable rise in inbound enquiries. Clients from all kinds of sectors – some known to us already, some sent our way by word of mouth or an internet search – began to get in touch to find out more about “all this immersive stuff” and perhaps dip their toe in the water. More immersive briefs were being launched, with bigger budgets attached.

At the time it was unclear whether this was coincidence – a blip, disconnected from any wider trend – or if what we had been predicting (and hoping for) for some time was finally coming to pass, that organisations were beginning to see immersive experiences as more than gimmicks; core engagement tools rather than peripheral nice-to-haves.

2021 has shown it was very much the latter.

Driven by the necessities of adapting to a COVID world – in which traditional models of audience engagement were breaking down and being replaced (or complemented) by new, tech-led experiences delivered via immersive media – businesses of all shapes and sizes have well and truly woken up to the potential of a spatial future.

It was these experiences that led us to brand Arcade as ‘The Spatial Agency’, a positioning that has served us well and, I think, complements the overarching mission that continues to drive us, of ‘connecting people to place through play’.

2021 saw Arcade putting our mission to work at many places includingThe National Gallery

2021 also showed that our vision for a positive future of physical and digital interactivity is shared by some of the most important players in the tech and cultural space, from Apple to Google to Niantic. And whatever you might think of Facebook Meta, there is no question that they are one of the leading voices in putting immersive technologies – and the experiences they make possible – front and centre of mass public awareness. There may not be a consensus around what ‘The Metaverse’ actually is, but the fact that immersive environments are being talked about in the mainstream press and across dinner tables around the world can only be a positive for us and our industry as a whole.

The result for Arcade was a year packed full of all-time highlights in the agency’s short life to date. From creating a multi-award winning world-first sports fan engagement experience for The Hundred in partnership with Sky and ECB, to building web, social media and connected packaging AR experiences for brands such as Disney, Jim Beam en Lipton Ice Tea, to winning the pitch to design and build a hugely ambitious immersive game for young National Gallery audiences, to exploring new ways to combine AR and AI in immersive storytelling, and working with countless other cultural and heritage organisations to tell their stories in completely new, three-dimensional ways – we will look back on 2021 as the year that Arcade caught fire.

These wonderful projects and so many others also gave us the opportunity to grow the agency, more than doubling in size in both the UK and the Netherlands. We welcomed some incredibly passionate and creative talents to the team, and are building a business of which we can all be very proud.

So we look ahead to 2022 with cautious but deeply-held optimism. Though this dramatic growth in all things immersive could yet prove to be a passing fad, all the signs are that it is here to stay.

Despite our optimism we fully recognise the challenges this brings with it, specifically about the kind of world we are helping to create – one that becomes more reliant on its devices rather than less. Our view, one that is shared by some of the leaders in our industry that we admire the most, is that when done well, immersive experiences can create more meaningful connections with the world around us and each other. Far from isolating us or offering an escape from reality, it enhances our relationship with reality. This is our goal, and one we are committed to achieving in everything we do.

We owe a tremendous thanks to all the clients who have put their faith in us this year. We pride ourselves on delivering beyond expectations (including, often, our own!), and cannot wait to continue to do so in 2022.

From all of us at Arcade, wishing you all health and happiness over the festive period and beyond.

To see how Arcade can help you in 2022, get in touch

Why ‘Augmented Reality’ is dangerous

Scary Face with Glowing Eyes

What does ‘augmented reality’ mean?

I’m not talking about what it is, I’m talking about what it means. That phrase. Those words.

I ask, because we tend to use them without much thought. Most of us who are familiar with the technology are aware that there is a gap between those who know AR and those who don’t, yet we still throw the phrase ‘augmented reality’ around without stopping to think about its impact. It’s just AR, isn’t it?

But language matters, especially when we are describing something unfamiliar. As an example, let’s take one of my favourite words: skyscraper. We all know what this is. It’s a big, tall building. Of course it is.

Buildings that scrape the sky

But look again: Skyscraper. Skyscraper! Sky! Scraper! When people first heard it in the 1880s, referring to a building taller than ten stories (!), it must have been a stunning and slightly terrifying concept: a building that scrapes the sky?! But over time, as it became just another noun like all the rest, we no longer saw the concept or its scary connotations — just the thing it described. What it gained in clarity, it lost in emotion. Simultaneously established and eroded by familiarity. But where ‘skyscraper’ was coined to evoke a sense of wonder, ‘augmented reality’ seems to be far less benign.

Augmented. Reality. Aug. Men. Ted. Re. Al. I. Ty.

To many coming across these seven syllables for the first time, it’s not just a mouthful, it’s intimidating. “I understand ‘augmented’”, someone might think, (although I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard anyone use it in everyday speech), “and I understand ‘reality’ – but put them together and it sounds…unfamiliar. Complicated. Maybe even dangerous. A threat. You’re doing what to reality? Ahh, it’s for techies, isn’t it, and maybe kids? Either way, I don’t think it’s for me.”

“I don’t know what augmented reality is, but I don’t think it’s for me…”

This represents a genuine threat, at least to those of us who believe passionately in its potential to fundamentally change the way we live. That’s why it always amazes me that there are some who seem to revel in the barrier this creates. I guess it offers them a sense of superiority, a feeling that they have ascended to a higher plane of existence reserved for the initiated. The enlightened.

But that’s crazy: underneath the intimidating label lies a technology whose very existence is pure inclusivity. It is the next phase of the democratisation of information, knowledge and experience. Untethered at last from 2D screens and set free in 3D environments — or ‘the world’, as we tend to call it.

What happens now?

I see three options from here. Either ‘augmented reality’ follows ‘skyscraper’ in being accepted and integrated into everyday language, losing along the way the scary, veiled menace contained in the language of its name. Or it remains, lurking, looming, leering and generally getting in the way of the thing so many of us want, which is widespread normalisation and mass uptake of this thing we call AR.

Or we find a better alternative.

I can live with the first, I pray we avoid the second, but my vote is for the third.

I’ve mentioned before that ‘digital reality’ — as a complementary partner to ‘physical reality’ — has some appeal. It doesn’t distinguish between AR and VR, but that distinction is starting to lose its relevance anyway. If I step through a portal in AR into a fully virtual environment does it become VR? If there’s a hole in a VR environment than allows a glimpse of a user’s surroundings is it AR? Frankly: who cares?!

Digital reality: Welcoming, inclusive and democratic

Today, I would argue that ‘augmented reality’ doesn’t mean what we want it to. We need something welcoming, inclusive and democratic, just like the technology itself. And AR, right now, doesn’t do that job.

Mass uptake of immersive technologies is agreed by most to be inevitable; it’s a question of when, not if. But for that to happen, the barriers we have almost wilfully erected around the technology have to be pulled down. And what better place to start than with the words we use to describe it.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Alex is Chief Strategy Officer at Arcade. Contact him on alex@arcade.ltd.

Do you like wearing glasses? Soon you’ll have no choice…

Man wearing Nreal glasses

Do you like wearing glasses?

You may already wear them. You may occasionally wear them, like sunglasses or reading glasses. Or, like me, you may no longer wear them.

I wore prescription glasses for a few years but never got on with them. I didn’t like how they felt. I was forever forgetting them. I was worried about losing or breaking them. If I was hot they would keep sliding down my nose. I tried contact lenses, which were better but also caused irritation and discomfort, and were a hassle. So in the end I went for laser eye surgery and never looked back.

Man Wearing Spectacles That Are Too Tight
Some people find wearing glasses uncomfortable

But as someone working in the immersive technology space, I have long been aware that my glasses-free lifestyle may be under threat. Amongst technologists there is a near-universal vision for the future that positions glasses as the centrepiece of immersive living, itself now seen as an inevitability rather than a prediction.

Abstract Swirly Pattern

(For more on that, see Kevin Kelly’s must-read primer on the ‘Mirrorworld’ in WIRED Magazine: https://www.wired.com/story/mirrorworld-ar-next-big-tech-platform/)

The ‘wearables’ arms race has been underway for many years, and the majority is focused on glasses — or at least objects you can wear on your head. Augmented reality is, surprisingly for many, a decades-old concept, with mid-late 20th century AR hardware almost exclusively taking the form of unsexily-monikered ‘Head Mounted Displays’.

Then came the smartphone with its evolving array of cameras, and the focus shifted, at least in the short-term. The industry now had a viable means of delivering AR experiences that was free of many of the issues dogging wearables — some technical such as field-of-view, some aesthetic (the primary stumbling block for Google Glass), some commercial (a Magic Leap One headset starts at well over $2000), but mostly about distribution; there are 3.3 BILLION smartphones in the world (at the last count) not including AR-enabled tablets and other devices.

Evolution of AR. Clockwise from top left: Ivan Sutherland’s ‘Sword of Damocles’, 1968; Google Glass, 2013; Pokemon GO, 2016; Magic Leap One, 2018

Smartphones remain the most democratic and effective hardware for AR, but are seen as a stepping stone in the natural evolution of Kelly’s ‘Mirrorworld’; the best we have today, but edging ever closer to obsolescence once AR glasses reach maturity and take over.

So how long have we got before it’s glasses all the way?

The indications are that it’s not far away. Every digital expo puts its immersive wearables front-and-centre, as a vision of the tantalisingly-near future. Magic Leap, Microsoft’s HoloLens and even Google Glass are aimed primarily at the enterprise landscape from warehouses to operating theatres to battlefields, where looks aren’t as important as function. NorthVuzixNrealBoseAmazonSnap and many others are exploring a more fashion-led, consumer-focused approach.

AR x Fasion. Clockwise from top left: Nreal Light, Vuzix Blade, North Focals, Bose AR

But the biggest excitement is continuing to build around Apple’s long-anticipated AR glasses launch (latest best guess: sometime next year). The theory is that if Apple does what Apple always does (come late to market but blow everyone else away with unassailable form AND function), then that will be the tipping point: a ‘normalised’ lifestyle choice that opens up mass, globalised access to immersive living.

As someone working in immersive technology this is incredibly exciting. As someone who has gone to relatively extreme lengths to avoid wearing glasses (actual lasers shooting into my eyeballs), I am left wondering if I’m the only one with a mild sense of unease as we move towards a world where we all have to wear them in order to be a part of modern society, or if others feel it too?

Either way, it’s coming. So we’d better get used to it.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Alex is Chief Strategy Officer at Arcade. Contact him on alex@arcade.ltd.

[AR]T Walk with Apple – Review

Arcade Team at Apple Covent Garden

BREAKING NEWS: Chaos descends across the city of London. An unknown creature soars over Trafalgar Square. A giant leaps off a roof at Covent Garden, then disintegrates into dust. Ordinary people transform into comic-book characters, follow multi-coloured roads and stop to watch folktales being told in the trees. 

It’s pure madness, yet total entertainment. 

The [AR]T Walk by Apple superimposed colour and creativity onto a drizzly Friday morning.

We set off on the 1.5k walk, with ‘Beats’ headphones around our necks and the latest iPhone XR in our pockets, curious as to how the tech-giant Apple ‘does AR’.

Here are the four lessons for AR experiences.

1. Not everything needs an explanation

The meaning of art is tricky to pinpoint and often artists strive to create work that’s ambiguous. Add the fact that AR is relatively new to society and can prove tricky to get to grips with – art and AR combined is a challenging mix. But somehow, it worked, and I praise Apple for taking the risk.

As stand-alone digital art installations, we had little idea of what to expect. We were given a brief introduction to the artist and the name of the piece – for example Pipilotti Rist, ‘International Liquid Finger Prayer’ – then that’s it, we’re left to our own devices, quite literally.                                                    

We all hold up the phones and stand waiting for something to happen.

All of a sudden, a screeching bubble-like creature shoots upwards and we all try desperately to follow it.  The creature seems directionless – even the audio is purposefully distorted so we can barely make sense of the words. Nobody knows what it is, or exactly what it’s saying, and that was all part of the joyful, if slightly unsettling experience.

When developing an AR application, it’s important to distinguish between what the user can be allowed to interpret on their own, and what they have to know before they start. The  multiple functions and symbols of an AR application can be difficult for the public to comprehend – and Apple knows it.

Play Video

Pipilotti Rist, ‘International Liquid Finger Prayer’, in London’s Trafalgar Square

Play Video

Pipilotti Rist, ‘International Liquid Finger Prayer’, in London’s Trafalgar Square

2. Tell me only what I need to know

Before we set off, our guides provided a briefing session to familiarise us with the technology. 

The first skill we needed to practise: anchoring. We were asked to stand in a line and hold out our phones at eye level. We then opened the app and practised, one by one, turning our devices – slowly – towards a designated spot on the wall. 

This was a key function throughout the experience and each anchor activated the next digital art installation. However, it became tedious needing to constantly stop and anchor at a random point.

How could this be solved? Make the ‘anchoring’ motion more relevant to the artwork. 

The artwork was full of make-believe creatures and it would be interesting if, between art pieces, the users follow one of the creatures with their devices – moving at the same pace and direction. These movements of our device could automatically anchor the user. This would keep us within the digital art world and make the overall experience more seamless. 

The second skill: taking pictures and recording video. Our guides asked us to capture a photograph and a video using the buttons – a feature that we constantly used during the experience. 

These buttons were a faded white at the bottom of the screen and therefore quite discreet. 

Without the guide explaining what they were/what they are used for, we may have only noticed them halfway through the experience when photo opportunities would have passed or worse, not noticed the buttons at all. So it was worth getting clued-up before setting off.

3. The outdoors aren’t always great

As we walked through parts of London full of famous landmarks, the crowds became an issue. I found myself bumping into strangers and avoiding people who were trying to get a glimpse of what I was watching on my device.

So, could we put this experience indoors? Well, not without lessening the effect. Some installations relied on features from the outdoors. In Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s installation ‘This is it’, for example, we all needed access to tree trunks. When we held our devices up, the trees turned hollow to reveal a fairy-tale being told inside.

Just as we were all settling in, typical British weather kicked in and raindrops were falling onto our devices. We immediately had to put the phones away to protect it.

The darkening sky was the perfect canvas for Pippaloti’s screaming creature to fly around but whenever the sun came out, I couldn’t look up into the device because it was too bright. 

Unless Apple ensured that everyone was equipped with umbrellas and sunglasses before we set off – which is impractical to hold and store – the weather determined if we could have our devices out and held up.

To avoid user frustration, AR should work rain or shine. But for now, however all-powerful Apple are, they can’t control the weather. Not yet, anyway.

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Pipilotti Rist, ‘International Liquid Finger Prayer’, in London’s Trafalgar Square

4. My arm hurts

An AR app depends on user interaction, but that doesn’t mean you can ask too much of them. Designers need to be aware that users need moments for the phone to come down, or even go away – and the interaction still needs to flow with those breaks included.

For any AR designers, it’s worth testing: how long you can hold out a phone in front you at eye-level or above? For me it was around 30 seconds, and my fellow walkers seemed to agree. The final two experiences both asked us to hold our phones up high for up to two minutes, which necessitated switching hands, propping up our elbows or employing other tricks to make it more comfortable.

How to ensure the experience is ache-free? Either place breaks into the experience, or cut down the length of time we need to hold our phones in an upwards position. Otherwise you’ll have some pretty uncomfortable users.

I had little exposure to AR before joining Arcade – but experiences like this make clear that AR is already far more widespread than most people realise, and the exciting reality is that society will very soon be using it on a regular basis. And not just for [AR]T Walks.

Digital Reality: Welcome to the new normal?

Girl Playing Wizards Unite

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with names like ‘augmented reality’, ‘virtual reality’, ‘immersive technology’ and the like. They sound exactly what they are: dreamed up by technology geeks, inspired by science fiction, designed to sound futuristic and literally unbelievable. The result is a lexicon that makes some salivate – you know who you are – but puts many others to sleep. Some in my industry will find this hard to believe, but this type of language, for some, is eye-rollingly dull, off-putting and maybe even a bit intimidating. “This isn’t for you” is the perceived message – in most cases the very opposite of what it is trying to achieve.

So I, for one, am delighted by recent developments where the tech is being relegated to its rightful place in the narrative – i.e. almost invisible. The tech industry often gets a bit carried away and forgets that the experience is king, not the technology.

Google to the fore

Google is leading the way, first with the introduction of its 3D search functionality. Without any big fanfare, it has added a ‘View in 3D’ option to its mobile search. No app download, an incredibly simple interface and within seconds you can be face to face with a giant panda, amongst many other animals (the range of 3D objects is due to expand dramatically). There is still an ‘AR’ tab, but it is a pleasantly understated presence. The result is an experience that makes it seem as if occupying the same physical space as a digital giant panda were the most normal thing in the world – which, as it turns out, it sort of is.

They followed up by announcing that AR functionality is being embedded directly into YouTube, so users can seamlessly engage with content they are watching, such as trying on cosmetics during a YouTube tutorial. Early screenshots show that the focus is on the experience – ‘AR’ is nowhere to be seen.

And Google’s good work is set to be compounded by the arrival of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the latest ‘planet-scale’ offering from Niantic (by absolutely no coincidence at all, an ex-Google company). Niantic’s monster hit, Pokemon GO, is often cited as the game that introduced AR to the mainstream but, as anyone who’s played it knows, the AR elements are far from integral to the gameplay. Harry Potter appears to be different – AR-driven gaming is fundamental. But like the Google examples above, the important bit is the experience and how good it is, not how ‘AR’ it is.


A recent Deloitte report on immersive storytelling uses the phrase ‘digital reality’ to describe immersive experiences, as distinct from ‘physical reality’. I like it. It might only be a small nuance to some, but the world is already so familiar with the notion of ‘digital’ – and a sense of familiarity is exactly what the immersive tech industry needs from the audiences it seeks to engage.

It seems to me that we are gradually realising the truth: AR and other immersive tech are simply new creative tools that we can use to solve old creative challenges. Incredible, mind-blowing tools, but still just tools. Tools for digital reality. How very normal.

Google AR Panda
Hello, Panda
MAC Cosmetics Try On App
MAC Cosmetics 'Try On', coming this summer. Image: Google
Harry Potter Wizards Unite
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite by Niantic