KAFFEINE / Arts & Culture, Events, Lifestyle, Public Relations, Travel & Tourism

Reality Check: How brands can dive into new immersive visitor experiences

20 December 2019

‘Layered Reality’ is set to become the new reality for heritage, travel and leisure brands seeking to connect with today’s experience-driven audiences. More than just a virtual reality headset, Layered Reality combines cutting edge technology with immersive theatre and sensory experiences to take visitors into another world. 

We caught up with Andrew McGuinness, CEO of the UK’s leading Layered Reality company, dotdotdot, to explore the challenges and opportunities in this next chapter of visitor engagement strategy.

Kallaway: Virtual Reality and Immersive Theatre have been around for a while. How is Layered Reality different? How does it mean for customers?

Andrew: Virtual Reality is just one of the tools we utilisein a multi-sensory visitor experience which we call Layered Reality. They work with other digital tools like augmented reality and holograms as well as live actors, pyrotechnics, taste, temperature, binaural sound and touch to transport visitors out of their reality and into a whole new one. 

For audiences, this means a new level of interactivity and immersion in a story or experience. Increasingly, today’s consumers want new ‘going out’ experiences - and that’s what we deliver in 90-120 minute sessions, which is much longer than the standard virtual reality snapshot.  This allows us to more fully transport our audiences out of our reality. This is a whole new playing field of audience engagement opportunity. 

Our recent work with Kallaway on Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds is a good example. We brought the iconic 122 year old story alive for modern audiences by transporting them back to Victorian London and challenging them to walk, crawl and survive their way through a Martian invasion, all via a Layered Reality experience. This is a story that’s been popular for years but is tricky to stage. Its Layered Reality retelling means that visitors came face to face with 300 feet aliens towering above them and feel the heat and noise of Parliament being blown up beside them as they bob down the Thames in a boat. 

And do you think this type of entertainment is an untapped, long term opportunity or is it a passing fad? 

I think this is the beginning of a new, long term opportunity.   We’re able to feed into that demand for newer, better customer experience more viscerally and immersively than ever before.  It’s the natural next step in the evolution of entertainment, with brands and IP’s providing enhanced consumer experiences to increase their value and status.

If we look at the opportunity for heritage brands, they can now bring the past alive in a much more immediate and impactful way. 

For example, dotdotdot will be working with the Tower of London and Historic Royal Palaces to retell the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot next year. This new immersive experience will drive new footfall to the Tower and reinvigorate its already strong brand as visitors get chance to travel back in time to the 17th century and test their nerve in solving one of the most notorious conspiracies in British history. 

How can brands best harness this sort of experience?  

Start with the story and the audience. Ask yourself, what story do you want to tell? Who do you want to reach and why? What are you trying to achieve for your audience? Then look at how you can use the technology and immersive layers to achieve those objectives. Your mission should be to create a memory, an experience which your audiences will cherish. You can only do that if you keep in mind that the technology is a tool, a means to an end, not an end in itself. 

What sort of results can brands expect from Layered Reality?  

A good Layered Reality experience will help organisations increase their value and equity through strong story telling. It’ll also boost income generation through footfall, something that’s essential to justify the investment. Certainly, the War of the Worlds Experience has seen tens of thousands of people through its doors since it opened in May.

What’s next for your business? 

We’re excited about the Tower of London Guy Fawkes experience launch next Autumn. And we’re starting to take our experiences to multiple sites across the world – from Tokyo to Dubai and New York. We’re also thrilled to have recently won a TEA Thea Award for Innovation. That’s a prestigious global award previously won by the likes of Disneyland and Warner Bros Studio. And that in itself is a measure of how the UK is pioneering this sort of customer experience and how it’s here to stay, if brands / IP’s want to grab the opportunity with both hands.