By Matt Brennesholtz
Audience Entertainment and Barco announced on March 18th a partnership creating a new interactive technology platform for moviegoers called iD — Interactive Dimension. iD builds upon digital projection and 3D technology to create a new cinema environment allowing moviegoers to physically connect and control the screen’s content the moment they take their seat. The partnership marks the start of the roll-out of Audience Entertainment’s technology as an integral experiential component of Barco’s newly announced CinemaBarco entertainment concept to 3,000 screens globally in North America, China, Western Europe and Latin America.
Audience Entertainment Interactive Cinema had a chance to talk to Barry Grieff, founder and CEO of Audience Entertainment. He says the roll-out will begin in May, 2014 and the hope is to have 500 installations by the end of 2014 and 1500 installations by the end of 2015, with a longer term goal of 10,000 installations. The installation will be at no cost to the theater owner and will be paid for by Audience Entertainment and Barco, who is an investor in Audience Entertainment. Grieff said the per theater CAPEX amount was actually quite small.
Initial monetization of this investment is likely to come from interactive pre-show ads. Audience Entertainment has five years experience from before the announced partnership with Barco and Grieff says that interactive pre-show ads are roughly 4-10x as effective as non-interactive ads. Due to this higher effectiveness, advertisers will be willing to pay more for the ads. Grieff said that the CAPEX is so low, it can practically be recovered from a single ad.
Grieff says there are patents on the Audience Entertainment technology but he still expects competitors when the technology proves itself. He says the Audience Entertainment partnership with Barco is not exclusive and Audience Entertainment technology can be used by others. In theaters where the Audience Entertainment/Barco system is installed, the partnership will have an exclusive contract prohibiting other interactive installations by competitors.
“As we launch our new CinemaBarco theater-wide entertainment concept, audience interactivity plays a significant role among several immersive technologies designed to bring showmanship back to the cinema and effectively engage this media-savvy generation of moviegoers,” commented Wim Buyens, vice president entertainment & corporate for Barco. “Audience Entertainment’s Interactive Dimension will add a tremendous new facet to the movie-going experience, and we couldn’t be more pleased to partner with such a forward-thinking company.”
Audience Entertainment Interactive Cinema iD InstallationAudience Entertainment offers the following comments on the four main components included in the iD turnkey system:
- Camera: Our camera enables us to detect the audience in real time. Our proprietary system allows us to capture large crowds, to date our largest has been 60,000 people. The system can work in a wide range of lighting conditions to enable iD content in almost any surrounding. A super powerful input system with a small footprint.
- Projector: The iD system interfaces with most common projection systems, from Laser, 4K, 2K and LED. Through a standard digital connection we are able to deploy interactive content onto your screen.
- iD Server: The home of the magic, filled with clever algorithms, top of the line hardware and of course the best support industry thanks to Barco. What more do you need to know?
- Audio: Just like our video output, we interface with all standard audio components. From stereo to surround, we cover all the bases. It really is designed to work in almost any setting.
The main feedback from the audience to the iD system is via motion detection using the camera that monitors the audience in real time or by audio feedback. For example, the audience is asked by an on-screen or audio request to wave its hands, and the camera and iD box analyze the audience response. This then guides the next step in the interactive content. Pre-show, Grieff says interaction with mobile devices is also possible, but they don’t plan on using that during the main feature. He added that the company will announce in the next couple of weeks the release of a software development kit (SDK) to be used by content creators in the generation of interactive content for the iD system.
Audience Entertainment has posted a short interactive story called “Gemini II” on its website to give visitors a taste of interactive entertainment. Viewers are asked to select the story path at two places with their mouse, not by waving their hands. Perhaps the main take-away from watching this was not how entertaining interactive entertainment is, but how difficult it is to make effective interactive content.
Audience Entertainment has posted eight case studies of the use of its technology to its website. Past clients include brands such as Coca Cola, Disney Cruise Lines, Nokia, Orange Mobile, Samsung, Sony, Volkswagen and Volvo among others. In addition, Audience Entertainment interactive technology was used at the SXSW Gaming Awards show.