Newsletters > Immersed in The Future

WolfBrown’s new community of practice is designed to support nonprofit arts organizations as they navigate the complex programmatic space of augmented, immersive, and virtual experiences. We hope you find Immersed in the Future rewarding and invite you to join in!

Welcome to Immersed in the Future

ISSUE 1 • January 2023

Diving into the Immersive Future

By Marco E. Bruscoli, Scholar-in-Residence, WolfBrown

Every Sunday morning I’m always impressed to see full-page advertisements in the New York Times for immersive exhibitions. From Van Gogh to Klimt to the Immersive King Tut, during 2022 it was difficult to follow any media without encountering two buzzwords: “IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE.”

I keep wondering – how did these commercial production companies earn the attention of the general public in such a short period of time, gaining ubiquity in almost every communication channel?

The sheer number of new and upcoming immersive exhibitions is astonishing, and the millions of dollars being invested in immersive technologies, formats and spaces is telling a clear story – that this is not a passing bubble but an endemic form of entertainment that activates a wide cross-section of the marketplace.

Visionary nonprofit companies such as Punchdrunk and well-financed commercial experience producers such as IMG, CluedUpp, Fever, and Secret Cinema have secured partnerships with large companies such as Niantic and Disney and earned the luxury of focusing their efforts exclusively on the evolution of storytelling in the creation of transformative, interactive experiences – a burgeoning part of the multi-billion dollar market for “location-based entertainment.” 

At the same time, large companies like OverActive Media and Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. are investing billions in next-generation Augmented Reality (AR) facilities such as the MSG Sphere in Las Vegas – which will completely redefine the live entertainment experience. 

 TeamLab Borderless immersive experience
TeamLab Borderless
Photo Credit: Patrick Vierthaler

Just as the arts sector reconciles with the longer-term prospects of the onslaught of digital programming brought on by the pandemic, the future of digital programming is rapidly shifting towards the Virtual Reality (VR) environment where more visually and aurally immersive experiences are the norm. Organizations such as the National Theatre, the Paris Opera and the Finnish National Opera and Ballet are already committed to a VR future. 

Nonprofit arts organizations are now thrust into a defensive position of reacting to tectonic shifts in the entertainment marketplace climate that were quite evident before the pandemic, but now blatantly obvious. Making sense of the chaotic post-COVID marketplace for immersive experiences has been a focus of our research at WolfBrown for over a year, and is the purpose of this newsletter. What are the most promising artistic possibilities in this confusing landscape of technologies and formats? How can we extend our mission-driven artistic work into the augmented, immersive and virtual programming spaces, and find new revenues and audiences in the process?

While many in the arts sector are experiencing a very real sense of loss, we think the emerging landscape of immersive programming represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine programming for the next generation. We look forward to being your thought partner and trusted guide through this journey. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Watch Our Webinar on Baseline Research

Opera America and WolfBrown Presentation Screenshot

On June 27, 2022 Alan Brown presented a 90-minute session for the membership of OPERA America entitled, “The Future of Immersive Programming in the Arts.” With gratitude to OPERA America, we are pleased to share a recording of this session for those who are interested in seeing the 2021-22 baseline research on immersive experiences.

Projects We're Following

Highlights of immersive experiences that caught our eye

Screenshot of website for Nutcracker Immersive Experience

The Immersive Nutcracker Experience

It was bound to happen. The “Immersive Nutcracker” premiered in November in 11 cities across North America just in time for the holiday season. The producer, Lighthouse Immersive, describes the show as “…an ideal family outing, featuring whimsical animated characters alongside footage of professional ballet dancers.” Another example of commodification of classic titles that aren’t copyright-protected. We imagine they’ll be back with a vengeance in the 2023 holiday season.

Screenshot of Song of Ambassadors Tickets Page on Lincoln Center Website

Song of the Ambassadors

On October 25, Lincoln Center presented “Song of the Ambassadors,” an intersection between opera, technology and neuroscience. Thanks to AI, for the first time the audience was able to see brain waves taking a visible shape. With an inexpensive portable EEG mounted on the heads of actors and audience volunteers, the brain data produced was graphically elaborated in real time from the data-artist Refik Anadol. The aim of this project was to make visible our invisible emotions during an opera performance. The fusion of scientific elements with traditional opera is of course interesting but the purpose behind this project transcends the technology, as reported by the creator K Allado-McDowell. ”My proposal was to think about the concert hall as a place where healing could happen.”

Next To Normal Website Screenshot

Next to Normal

The Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning 2009 musical was reimagined by the producers at IDEAL Barcelona as a live immersive theatrical event. The show was presented without sets or props in a 20,000 square-foot venue, utilizing a surround-sound system and 360-degree projections to create an immersive experience that places the audience alongside the actors. A bold experiment in changing the relationship between the audience and the drama.

Screenshot Website Frameless

New immersive arts venues

Capital investment in purpose-built immersive arts venues continues at a breathtaking pace. Arts District Brooklyn opened in July in Greenpoint at 25 Franklin Street, powered by the web platform FEVER, initially offering three immersive exhibitions: Limitless AI, Flight, and Séance.

London’s first permanent digital immersive arts experience venue called Frameless opened this autumn at Marble Arch Place. The new attraction is a multi-genre and multi-artist experience, featuring iconic masterpieces from the likes of Cezanne, Kandinsky, Monet, Canaletto, Rembrandt, and Klimt with a projection surface of cover of 30,000 square feet.

The Las Vegas Strip’s first permanent digital art museum, Perception, is now open, complementing other immersive spaces such as Area 15. The new space for immersive and high-tech installations is debuting with the world premiere of Leonardo: The Universal Man, chronicling the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci.

Live Nation Snapchat website screenshot

AR experiences

All signs point to the inevitability of Augmented Reality experiences for live shows. Snapchat and Live Nation Entertainment are teaming up for a multiyear deal that will bring AR experiences to select Live Nation concerts that audience members can use to bring the stage and festival grounds to life with AR content, find friends in the crowd, and of course share content on social media. We see that augmented experiences will quickly become the norm at arena concerts, and wonder how long it will take nonprofits to figure out that offering different kinds of augmented experiences in conventional venues might open up the live performance experience to those who wouldn’t otherwise come.

A deep dive into the latest coverage of immersive art performance

Screenshot of LinkedIn Remix Blog

New installations, technology, film-based experiences, and video products

Boston Ballet’s experiment with immersive public art installation
Forbes covers Boston Ballet’s experiment with an immersive public art installation.

Madison Square Garden’s disruptive MSG Sphere
BlooLoop gives a detailed update.on the disruptive MSG Sphere project by Madison Square Garden Entertainment. Will the structure forever change our perception of live events?

AR/VR Oculus Meta Quest Pro
Washington Post shares everything you need to know about the new AR/VR Oculus Meta Quest Pro.

Secret Cinema is expanding
The Guardian describes the $100 million post-Covid acquisition by TodayTix of the producer of immersive film-based experiences, signaling the company’s resilience and expansion as they build new partnerships.

REMIX Summit in London
Peter Tullin, Co-Founder of Remix Summit in London, speaks about the genesis and impact of the “Immersive Experience” revolution on LinkedIn.

Patreon’s new native video product
The Verge writes about Patreon, the nine-year-old platform which lets creators raise money from their fans. Patreon has finally introduced a native video product. Patreon wants to become less reliant on platforms like YouTube, which has been the de facto solution for creators who wish to share video messages with their backers; definitely the beginning of a new market branch called the “Creator Economy.”

Immersive Tech Spotlight

Innovative developments in immersive technology Screenshot aims to disrupt and democratize the prosumer 
motion-capture market provides motion capture platforms and tools to enable augmented and extended reality productions. This innovation will totally disrupt and democratize the prosumer motion capture market currently defined by suit-based solutions, driving an explosion of human avatar expression. technology uses standard camera hardware and mobile devices, eliminating the need and cost of expensive cameras, auxiliary hardware, suits, rigging, and dedicated studios.