Finding the Magic in AR/VR, with Allison Crank

Virtual and Augmented Reality are key to the next revolutions in entertainment, education, commerce, and marketing, according to Irish-American media and interaction designer Allison Crank, who joined us for this episode of the Blue Sofa Series. Allison creates digital experiences for wowl, an extended reality studio, and her work is at the intersection of art and technology. We sat down with her to discuss the nature of these technologies and how they will impact next generation marketing.

AR vs. VR in Immersive Experiences

When crafting an immersive experience, Allison draws a distinction between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in that they offer different content, interaction principles and value for the user. AR generally uses existing, familiar environments and gestures, while VR places users in an entirely new world and requires more coaching for audiences to understand where they are, what they are doing, and why they are there. “Both of them are very interesting but they are two different approaches,” explains Allison. “From the very beginning you have to ask which one makes the most sense for what you are trying to create.”

Immersive Experiences as Theatre: Setting the Scene

“In the past we had books and novels which were very immersive,” she continued. “Now, as technology gets better, we have new materials and mediums to work with. And while these new materials should build upon the past, they should not try to replicate it; they should do something more.” Filmmakers have been working on this idea for years, directing and producing AR/VR films that have grown in significance at the world’s most eminent film festivals. WIRED magazine’s Senior Pop Culture Editor Angela Watercutter writes “once deemed ‘That thing you do in-between screenings’, interactive offerings—a mix of virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, performance, and other internet-y projects—have blossomed into packed events that generate as much buzz as premieres.”(1)

Angela goes on to describe these experiences as a new breed of theatre, a growing consensus in the AR/VR community, and Allison agrees. When asked what makes a “perfect” VR/AR experience, Allison said it’s key to keep the user at the core and ensure there’s something theatrical about the experience. “Since it’s such immersive material it needs to have a combination of music, sound, visuals, and presence for people to understand where they are, what they are doing, and why that makes sense. It really has to take in all the elements of theater.”

Next Generation Marketing: Finding the Magic

In addition to offering new forms of entertainment and performance, Allison believes marketing will also invariably be transformed by technologies like AR and VR. “Young people who grew up with the internet see the world in a different way… [they] have carved out their identities online. They expect that also of the companies they buy things from and the services that they want. So next generation marketing takes those people into consideration and tries to understand their desires. And VR/AR helps make those experiences personal and ultimately creates a moment that’s a bit magical.”

At MCH Global we strive to bring that magic spark into all that we do and embrace emerging technologies. Stay tuned for future episodes of ‘The Blue Sofa Series’ right here on MCH Global Insights.


1. “Film festivals move to make virtuaL reality a marquee event” by Angela Watercutter

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