Finally: 3-D that makes sense

It was only a matter of time before Disney Parks and Resorts responded to the success of Wizarding World of Harry Potter at rival Universal’s Islands of Adventure. And with the announcement of an Avatar world at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you should look for Disney to apply 3-D technologies where they make the most sense, which is creating an experience instead of trying to tell a story in a movie.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter is fun facsimile of the celebrated town of Hogsmeade from the beloved Harry Potter series of books and movies. But it feels like a small attraction wedged inside a bunch of other sections of Universal Orlando, just like Jurassic Park and Marvel Super Hero Island.

Based on news reports, Disney will collaborate with mogul and Avatar director James Cameron to surround park visitors in an immersive environment that recreates the world of Pandora from the movie, not just a ride or two.

Thomas Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, offers a revealing quote in a Huffington Post article about the collaboration between Cameron, his producing partner Jon Landau, and 20th Century Fox:

“One of the things that we found when we screened (AVATAR) was that the scenes that people liked best were not the obvious things, like the big battle scenes, and that sort of thing. It was the creatures. It was learning to fly. It was being in the forest at night. The impression that we got was people just like to go to Pandora . . .So here’s an opportunity to use (our) animatronic technology, and all of these amazing craftsmanship and design capabilities of Imagineering, and possibly rolling in mixed-media, 3-D projections, holography. Whatever makes sense to build, bring this world to life and actually get to wander in it and explore it, and see things you didn’t see either in the first film or in the subsequent two.”

James Cameron will remain closely involved in the development of the $500 million Avatar park. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013, and evidently other Disney properties beyond Animal Kingdom may see their own Avatar attractions.

Given Cameron’s commitment to developing 3D technology – he launched a technology venture earlier this year, building on his use of 3D in movies – the Avatar experience will achieve in a theme park what movies have thus far failed to accomplish: apply 3D successfully. Cameron’s technologists and Disney’s imagineers can go wild dreaming up ways for tourists to interact with six-legged Direhorse, four-winged Mountain Banshee, and blue Prolemuris.

With $500 million being sunk into the project, I have a feeling park visitors will experience something that does not require wearing dorky sunglasses, either.

For more reaction from Disney followers, check out this blog post from Inside the Magic and this Yesterland discussion of the news in context of the history of Animal Kingdom.

Technology = customer experience in 2010

AT&T Retail Surface Experience from Razorfish – Emerging Experiences on Vimeo.

Recently my employer Razorfish appointed Ray Velez to the newly created position of chief technology officer — a move that underscores the importance of information technology to the agency business.  As my Razorfish colleague Joe Mele wrote, “You better have devs in your creative department.”  In 2010 you can expect more talk about technology coming from agencies and marketers — but what we’re really talking about creating great experiences that build businesses.

Much has been said already about how agencies need to possess strong “back-end technology skills” in order to compete effectively — as if technology is supposed to be an invisible support tool.  It’s certainly true that the ability to link a web store front to an ecommerce booking engine requires gritty technology lifting skills beneath the surface.  But in addition, technology helps clients create memorable customer experiences in highly visible and innovative ways.

Clients and agencies are at a crossroads.  Customarily agencies have helped clients say things more effectively.  But clients need agencies to help them do things more effectively, like launch new products and services, create great consumer experiences, and participate in the social world.  As Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is formed, primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does.”

Technology is essential to empowering brands to do things, especially in the creation of great experiences in the digital world.  For instance, Mercedes-Benz USA and Razorfish applied CGI to bring to life the luxurious nature of the new E-class sedan via a digital campaign and immersive microsite.  Three-D technology was essential to a recent effort to demonstrate the features of the new Coors Light cold activated can on the Project:Cold microsite.  And AT&T has turned mobile phone shopping into a playful experience by applying Microsoft Surface in-store.

To be sure, the real innovation occurs when technology is coupled with customer insight, creativity, and strong user experience skills.  But technology is the catalyst, front and center.

When he was announced as CTO, Ray Velez discussed the importance of cloud computing at Razorfish.  He was thinking of companies like H&R Block, where Razorfish used an existing cloud infrastructure to create the Don’t Miss It Game (instead of building a video hosting infrastructure).  In February 2010 Razorfish will give a more complete insight into the importance of cloud computing to the marketer at our third Technology Summit in San Francisco.  Throughout 2010, multitouch will continue to play an important role in the work we do, too, shown to great advantage on the Razorfish Emerging Experiences blog.

You can get a better sense of the Razorfish technology vision on the Razorfish Technology blog, hosted by Ray Velez.  And of course through our work throughout the year.

Auto shopping in 3-D

Razorfish operations in Germany, known as Neue Digitale/Razorfish, have launched the first real-time 3-D configurator for Microsoft Surface — which makes it possible for multiple customers to design their own Audi A4 automobile together.  Consumers can collaborate to design their own car, including adjusting the paint finish and selecting packaging components.  The final configuration is projected on to a high-definition display.

This an experience best seen, not explained — so have fun with the video above.

Razorfish (my employer) and our global network have been employing touch-based environments in industries such as retail and automotive for quite some time.  We strive to show how the art of branding is about building great consumer experiences, not plastering one-way messages.  Check out the Razorfish Emerging Experiences blog for more examples including the Razorfashion application.