In this episode of our 10x10 Sessions, Zappar CEO and Co-Founder, Caspar Thykier, is joined by John Cassy, the CEO and Founder of Factory 42. Headquartered in London, UK, Factory 42 is a creative agency that combines XR with games, theatre, film and television to create award-winning storytelling experiences.
In this session, they chat about:
1. How Factory 42’s mission to reshape the entertainment industry was born
2. How the reach of XR technologies has changed over the years
3. How AR can bring science and art together
4. What’s in store for XR in the next five years
How Factory 42’s mission to reshape the entertainment industry was born
John recounts that Factory 42 has been around for the last five years - “half of your 10-year period”, he remarked - but the company’s premise was born long before that.
“My background before setting up the company was in television and journalism,” he says, reflecting on working at Sky. “I’d always been interested in how you could improve the current viewing experience for customers.”
John describes the search for new ways to entertain the masses on a day-to-day basis when he fell into the world of XR. “When I saw what was happening in the world of VR, AR and MR, and this merging of science and art together through technological improvements, I thought it was an amazing opportunity to tell stories in new ways.”
How the reach of XR technologies has changed over the years
There’s no denying that the last decade has been transformative for the wider XR space. John describes the rate of change as “very, very rapid”, while noting that some things have moved forward a lot more quickly than others.
Reflecting on some of the biggest industry trendsetters, John calls out some of the Enterprise brands who have exposed VR and AR to the masses. “It’s been great to see the likes of Facebook coming in with Oculus, and the huge commercial success that Niantic have had with Pokémon Go.”
When asked whether different brands are more willing to engage in conversations about using AR now than they have been in the past, John responds with a resounding ‘yes’.
“There is more willingness. As the reach of these XR technologies grows, the willingness grows with it. There’s always a group of people who are there as early adopters - but I think as more and more tools become available to make the creation of XR easier, then the market grows and the excitement grows. We’re finding more and more people that are interested in trying this everyday.”
How AR can bring science and art together
As the reach of AR grows, so does the interest in it from those in both the creative and educational sectors. John comments that AR has been able to bring the two together in interesting ways.
“We’ve ended up working with the likes of David Attenborough, the Tate Modern, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum.”
The quest for better storytelling has not been spurned by COVID, either. “We were working with the Natural History Museum and Science Museum on two location-based experiences,” John recalls. “People were going to come to the museum, put on headsets, go through confined spaces, and do a game that was somewhere between immersive theatre and an escape room. We rapidly pivoted to a mobile AR product, which was basically a dinosaurs and robots game for kids.”
The games were designed to teach children during a time where parents were struggling with homeschooling. The team then tested the games against the likes of educational TV to compare metrics like excitement, impact, and the retention of the information.
“The learning through our products was up to 9x better than the existing products. That was a mixture of gameplay, communicating facts in the right way, and the interactivity that XR could offer.
What’s in-store for XR in the next five years
When asked what’s on the horizon for the XR industry, John again mentions the speed at which the industry is moving right now. “The great thing is that the technology is moving so quickly. The things that were not possible even a couple of years ago are now possible and actually even relatively easy to do.” He highlights advances in visual effects, fidelity, rigging, and the speed of headsets as exciting improvements.
“I think the XR world is looking to see what might happen,” he continues, “from the likes of Google or from Facebook, in terms of their next iterations of headsets.
Like many of our 10x10 guests, John calls out the premise of the ‘metaverse’ as one of the most exciting things that the industry still has in store.
“It sounds a bit like science fiction, and, realistically, it is a bit of science fiction today. But then, if you look at the likes of Roblox and Fortnite, these are early versions of the metaverse.”
Looking forward to the next five years, John sums up his thoughts nicely: “I think what you’ll see over the next five years will be astonishing. I genuinely think we will surprise ourselves with what we’re able to create.”