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How Nexus Studios Plans to Bring Augmented Reality to Entertainment Venues

Amusement park guests may soon be able to get personal tours from their favorite characters, who will guide them from ride to ride with the help of mobile augmented reality (AR) technology, helpfully pointing out landmarks along the way.

London- and Los Angeles-based Nexus Studios has been working on incorporating AR into entertainment venues for the past two years. This month, Nexus launched a first public demonstration of its technology in Dallas, where it transformed the AT&T Stadium into a massive stage for location-based AR visualizations.

Nexus launched the football-themed experience in Dallas in partnership with Samsung and AT&T, along with help from location technology provider Scape Technologies. It allows users of Samsung’s 5G-ready phones to stream huge holograms of Dallas Cowboys players, take AR selfies with their idols, access live AR stats and scoreboards during the game, and even play an AR game that has Cowboys players facing off against robots during half-time.

AR overlays and filters aren’t new; consumers have been playing with Pokemon Go and other AR games for years. However, Nexus Studios didn’t just want its Dallas Cowboys holograms appear anywhere in the stadium. Instead, it wanted to make sure that the virtual players would scale up correctly, stay within the playing field, and actually interact with objects.

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“We want AR characters or objects to occlude behind balconies, doors or rooftops. We want AR to know the physical dimensions of the real-world. We want 80-foot football players to jump up and touch the jumbotron,” explained Nexus Studios head of XR & interactive arts Luke Ritchie in a recent blog post.

To achieve this, the stadium had to be scanned, and rebuild as a virtual model. Using Scape’s visual positioning system, Nexus was then able to recognize the position of each and every visitor of the stadium, and their relation to other objects around them — a key to enabling the experiences developed with Samsung and AT&T.

AT&T Stadium AR Experience

However, Nexus didn’t want this to be a one-off project. “We are trying to make the entire venue AR-ready,” co-founder and executive creative director Chris O’Reilly told Variety. “We know a lot of details of the building.”

Those details could in the future be used for other AR experiences, playing out in the same venue. Or perhaps, at one point, consumers will be able to pick and choose between multiple AR information layers and experiences to customize their stadium visit.

To facilitate that process, Nexus built its own platform for location-based augmented reality experienced, dubbed Gilda. The platform can use a variety of positioning technologies to fill stadiums, theme parks and other public venues with AR experiences, explained O’Reilly. “Different locations will need different visual positioning systems,” he said.

Various venues may also tap into different technologies to get AR to their visitors. In the case of AT&T Stadium, Nexus relied on the carrier’s nascent 5G network to stream holograms in-real time to compatible handsets. This not only helped to show photo-realistic imagery of the players without forcing users to download any data, it also solved the latency bottle-neck that users often experience at crowded venues, said O’Reilly. “This was a real-world test of 5G.”

What remains is another challenge altogether: How can you get consumers to embrace AR beyond face filters and Pokemon Go? O’Reilly argued that stadiums and public venues could play a key role in advancing the use of this technology.

“People are already taking photos,” O’Reilly said. And with the camera already open, it’s easy to imagine adding AR information layers, be it a football scoreboard or an iconic theme park character guiding your way to the next ride. “You get over a user behavior bump.”

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