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).

and:

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.

Welcome To The Jim Beam Virtual Bar Where You Are The Bartender

Jim Beam is using web-based augmented reality (WebAR) to turn customers into bartenders where they can mix up their perfect Jim Beam Highball from behind a virtual bar. The experience, which is accessed directly in the mobile browser with no app required, features four virtual bar locations all stocked with Jim Beam varieties, mixers, ice and garnishes.

Customers who access the WebAR experience with their smartphones choose from four different bars including an outdoor patio called Backyard Jams and the high-end Beam Bar. Once selected, the customer places the virtual bar in their space where they are presented with a stocked bar to make their virtual drink. After selecting the right glass, customers need to aim at the selected glass to flick ice into it before swiping on the screen to select between Jim Beam Bourbon, Jim Beam Apple or Jim Beam Honey. After swiping up on the screen to pour the Jim Beam in the glass, customers then pick their mixer and their garnish to complete their drink. For those that chose lemon or lime as a garnish, users need to swipe up to cut the citrus and then pinch on the screen to squeeze it in the glass.

The WebAR experience was created in 8th Wall by Arcade, in a collaboration with brand experience agency, Quantum.

The Virtual Bar WebAR experience ends with the option to take a photo of the Highball just mixed, complete with the list of ingredients you selected. Customers can save the photo and then share it with their friends and social networks. Customers can also choose to move their phone beyond the bar to take a peek at the full virtual bar area and access a “Jim Beam Welcoming Offers” blackboard in the bars to be sent to offers from Jim Beam.

The Jim Beam Always Welcome web app is the one-stop-shop for everything Jim Beam, including the virtual bar, tailored highball suggestions, a flagship global music series and more!

Try it yourself by visiting the new ‘Jim Beam Welcomes‘ digital experience on your mobile.

This article was first published on the 8th Wall blog.

Missing gigs? Bring the music to you…

Coronavirus has taken many things away that we previously took for granted, including live music. Artists and music venues have been robbed of their ability to put on live shows, so important for both their exposure and their livelihoods. And fans have had to make do with internet streams and recordings.

In response, Arcade has teamed up with US-based music industry activation platform Buzznog to launch one of the world’s first spatial gig experiences. Fans anywhere in world can bring iconic venues and artists into their homes to enjoy sets played out in front of them.

The first experience united the famous Knitting Factory Brooklyn venue with California indie band The Mowgli’s.

Users can control the lighting, effects, crowd noise and more, and choose where and at what scale they want to watch the 30-minute gig. 

This first gig was released as a native app for iOS and Android, and delighted fans all over the world.

You can download it here: onelink.to/mowglis

More gigs at different venues will follow, and we will be adding capabilities to experience performances via web, and in either AR or VR. Though initially offered for free, the platform will create a vital way for bands and venues to bring in badly needed funds, giving the industry a vital lifeline after suffering so heavily from the effects of the pandemic.

Let the music play!

Interested in what virtual experiences could do for you?

WebAR is on its way – and it’s going to change everything

The most common way for people to experience Augmented Reality (AR) today is via their mobile phones as opposed to wearable devices like glasses or even device-free AR. For a variety of reasons including cost, availability and social norms, most agree this is likely to remain the status quo for the foreseeable future.

One thing that does look set to change is the way the phones themselves access AR content. To date, downloadable apps have been the main source but this creates a challenge: not only do we have to make the experience itself appealing, we also have to motivate people to download an app in order view it.

A now-infamous 2017 study in the US confirmed that, on average, the majority of consumers download zero apps per month. This created a bit of a panic for mobile immersive tech businesses – what are we going to do if no-one is downloading apps?!

Smartphone Users - Number of App Downloads per Month
More than half of US consumers download ZERO apps per month...what are we going to do?!
Google AR Panda
There's a panda in our office. Thanks, Google!

Well, let’s not panic just yet. First, once you get beyond the headline the data actually showed that many people do download apps given sufficient reason to do so. And second, another potentially more powerful answer lies in the emergent space of app-less AR experiences, or what has been coined ‘WebAR’.

This is the growing ability of the web browsers in our phones to recognise, position and serve up AR content, without the need for any app downloads. An example comes from Google, who are using WebAR to add AR search results to certain objects, including many animals (left).

Here, Arcade CEO Jon Meggitt and MD of Arcade Netherlands, Sten Duindam, about the rise of WebAR, what it means for the industry and, most importantly, the impact it could have on the role of AR in everyday life.

What is Web AR and why does it matter?

Jon Meggitt: WebAR is the catch-all term for describing the provision of augmented reality experiences via the mobile web browser. It is being driven forward by individual developers and large technology companies alike, who have all understood why it’s going to be such a game-changer when the public can access AR just as easily as they do a website today.

What are the biggest benefits that WebAR offers?

Sten Duindam: In many ways WebAR is just much less hassle for the user. That’s for two reasons: it removes the barrier of app download and it works on older devices.

JM: Exactly, those two advantages over app-based AR combine to create a much higher chance of mass user adoption, which means the value and potential reach of an AR experience that we create goes through the roof.

What limitations are there in using WebAR vs native apps?

JM: Well, it is true that the mass accessibility of WebAR does come with a few compromises, for now at least.

SD: When you develop apps for a specific operating system like iOS or Android, you can leverage the most efficient practices and functionalities to that operating system. But you can’t do that with WebAR, where it’s one experience for everyone. You also don’t get full access to a device’s computing power. Native apps use the processors of the device, whereas web applications are limited by the processing speed of the various browsers.

JM: Which is why the industry typically estimates that WebAR functionality is around 12 months behind what can be achieved in native apps, so you do have to take that into account when designing for WebAR. But firstly that gap is closing as more of the big players recognise the importance and value that WebAR offers, and second it’s not always a bad thing to be a bit conservative in the AR features you use – they tend to be more reliable!

How would you advise organisations interested in AR to choose which method to pursue – native apps or WebAR?

JM: One of the biggest considerations for almost every project we work on is: “how many people will use it?”. If we’re working with native apps, as we have been for much of our work with Merlin’s SEA LIFE en Madame Tussauds for example, then a big part of the challenge is to work out how to promote the app and motivate people to download it. We can help with marketing, and we’ve got plenty of experience in what works and what doesn’t, but it inevitably puts more responsibility on the client and their marketing teams, which may not always have the resources to give it the focus it needs.

Roxy the Ranger, an app-based experience created by Arcade for SEA LIFE

SD: The right approach is to first focus on the concept and only then decide on a technology. But I totally agree with Jon, it is becoming gradually easier to create WebAR experiences that have enough of the AR ‘wow factor’ to deliver against more and more of the briefs we receive, and the seamless access it gives people is incredibly valuable. So it should almost always be part of the consideration.

What are your predictions for the future of mobile AR and what impact is WebAR going to have on the way we use AR in general?

JM: We are living through what our CSO, Alex Book, calls the ‘normalisation’ of AR. With WebAR making it easier and easier for people to access and use AR as a part of their everyday lives, it is undoubtedly one of the big factors that is going to help AR fulfil its potential, and justify the excitement that’s been surrounding it for so many years.

SD: Exactly. We all know wearables are going to become the norm at some point, but when that is is still anyone’s guess. But in my view the biggest step towards wearables isn’t necessarily technology; the audience needs to play with AR some more and get accustomed to it. Once it is normalised, the mass adoption of AR that follows is going to be the thing that finally makes wearables normal too – and WebAR is going to have a huge part to play.


If you’re interested in the effect of WebAR or would like to discuss a potential project, please contact Jon at our London office on jon@arcade.ltd, or Sten at Arcade Netherlands on sten@arcade.ltd.

Jon Meggitt, Arcade CEO
Sten Duindam, MD Arcade Netherlands