Outlook: Digital content and real-world views
Stephen Lawes
Issue: November/December 2023

Outlook: Digital content and real-world views

We are seeing the idea of highly immersive visual experiences come to life, things we’ve designed in sci-fi films such as Iron Man’s heads-up display (HUD) now transitioning into realtime AR views of the physical world using devices from the likes of Meta, Microsoft and Apple. 

As our visual experiences become maintained through transparent optics, digital content is being integrated into our real-world view. But there is an inherent problem with moving from the aesthetic of film into the realm of the here and now. Things can’t be over-designed for aesthetic purposes because AR needs to reveal key information, not just be a visually appealing user interface. This is a space where quality design will differentiate good functionality and experiences from the bad. 

We’ve also seen a trend of mixing analog with digital, as well as references to the past. Such was the case with Loki, where a fun retro design vibe mixed with a twisting futuristic storyline. The Territory Group has also seen this trend in automobile design work, where digital user-interface screens are being complimented with tried-and-tested analog controls – manual knobs and switches that feel reliable and less likely to stop working as drivers get accustomed to new technologies at hand. 

Analog feels instantaneous and safe, whereas screens have refresh rates and resolutions, so a combination of both gives peace of mind. We also expect the rise of haptics to come into play — tactile interfaces that provide touch or force feedback as part of the user experience. For example, a vibrating seat to inform the driver of a pedestrian or a hazard in the street.

Audience expectations continue to grow exponentially with groundbreaking events such as the Vegas Sphere music and entertainment arena, where the sensory overload can be overwhelming at times. This is a completely-new way to experience an event and should be applauded, offering a lot of innovative ways of digital storytelling that have yet to be explored, which is very exciting. 

A mix of physical props and technologies seems to be the road forward in other venue-related experiences, as we see in popular locations such as the 3D flying simulator attraction, Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom, still booking seats with different screens and tactile feelings that collectively bring the experience to life – an event that has rightfully received a VES Award for Outstanding Visual Effects. 

Meanwhile, our community has been hamstrung from the strikes this year. We are all waiting for more production to return, and look ahead to creating compelling effects in 2024!

Stephen Lawes is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Cantina Creative, which is part of Territory Group (territorystudio.com). Territory Studio has offices in London, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver.