This year’s WebXR Brand Summit took place last Thursday, September 15, preceded by a more open Town Hall event the week before. Organized by the same organization that organizes the Polys Awards, the event included panel discussions and use cases on how brands are exploring WebXR to increase exposure and services on a more spatial and connected internet.
Not just for brands
Not for the faint-hearted, the full live remote event lasted nine straight hours. Hosted by the tireless Sophia Moshasha and Julie Smithson with technical support from Ben Irwin, the event featured 20 speakers in 11 sessions. If you think that means there were just people selling sneakers all day, you’re missing the importance of brands in immersive spaces.
“This is where we believe it starts. Brands made initial investments in this space from the early days. … We owe them a lot of credit for starting to experiment,” Moshasha said in a welcome speech with Smithson. “Discussing the history of brands in immersive technology is valuable for everyone.”
A Fireside Chat with Amy Peck
“Immersive spaces” and “immersive technology” are important terms because, according to the first speaker of the WebXR Brand Summit, we are not yet in the “metaverse”. This means that while we should reflect on the history of brands, it is also a term for brands to reflect on themselves and then move on.
“Now is the time for brands to ask themselves what their DNA is and extrapolate their DNA into the future,” Amy Peck, founder and CEO of EndeavorXR, said during a fireside chat with Moshasha.
As you would expect these days, a number of discussions also touched on cryptocurrency and blockchain assets, as well as data security in a more connected web. Peck said this more connected future is an opportunity for brands to build rather than lose trust.
“When you start looking at a transparent model and giving some power to consumers, you humanize that relationship,” said Pic. “The focus shouldn’t be on technology or Web3 or the metaverse, it should be about the human experience. … We can do anything in these virtual worlds, so let’s not do everything we do in the real world.
Monetization, product placement and native advertising
The problem with the Metaverse isn’t just that it’s a potential red herring. It can also put brands in a position where they have to bet on the platforms and companies they believe are most likely to be part of a future metaverse. However, this can be avoided by betting on WebXR instead.
“When people talk about metaverses, it’s very hard to predict which one will win”, said Zesty co-founder Elijah Tai. Zesty creates posters that can appear as organic advertisements in immersive experiences, but also as portals to other experiences. “We developed this kind of interoperable framework.”
See also: Is the key to the metaverse more links between virtual spaces?
Following Tai’s talk, a panel discussion on Product Placement and Native Advertising in the Metaverse featured Ashley Crowder, CEO and Co-Founder of VNTANA, and Evan Gappelberg of Nextech AR, moderated by Andy Fidel. The conference focused on 3D assets as a limiting factor in the reaction of the immersive world.
“Scale is what needs to happen for brands to invest and really get value,” Crowder said. “Creating 3D content has really been a barrier to adoption.”
Between a recent surge of interest in immersive experiences and an explosion of tools for creating fast and affordable 3D content, that barrier has fallen. “The floodgates are open,” according to Gappelberg.
“Technology will change but for us, the basis is 3D models”, said Gappelberg. “From there, it’s about what you can do with the 3D model.”
Capturing spatial imagination
What brands do with their 3D models was a theme echoed during the “Capturing the Spatial Imagination” roundtable with Terry Proto, CEO and Co-Founder of Virtual Reality Marketing, Samantha Wolfe, Founder of PitchFWD, Kiira Benzing, Director and XR producer of Double Eye Studios, and Tom Ffiske, editor of Immersive Wire.
One of the themes of the conversation was that many companies overestimate the amount of money – and perhaps even the amount of work – needed to create immersive experiences, because they unnecessarily want to compete with the over-the-top activations of big brands.
“The best experiences I’ve seen are the smaller ones where you just dive in and it’s all good,” said Ffiske.
Another benefit of smaller, simpler activations, at least initially, is that they allow brands to experiment with space and find their own voice.
“It’s new technology, new environments. There will be failures. It’s not going to work.” says Proto.
Wolfe added that people appreciate innovation. Everyone doing the same thing at the same time is not an innovation.
“If you do it because your competitors did it, that’s not innovation,” Wolfe said. “Innovation is looking at what they’ve done, then looking at the landscape and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.”
To reduce costs and accelerate innovation, Benzing is once again emphasizing the value of re-presenting 3D assets for consumer-facing activations that might already exist from in-house design and use.
“If they create a 3D model for something, that model has so much life beyond just the initial activation,” said Benzing.
The future of virtual commerce
Entering the Web3 and metaverse for a non-tech business was a major topic of a panel discussion on “the future of virtual commerce” with LAMINA1 Chief Strategy Officer Tony Parisi, Community Space Manager Jake Steinerman and Wendell August Forge Chief Strategy Officer Will Knecht. Knecht ran his century-old gift business into the NFT space.
“While people here do this stuff every day, 99% of the world doesn’t,” Knecht said. “Education was an important part of our process.”
Steinerman pointed out that some people are intimidated to learn or invest in any aspect of emerging technologies because the convergence of these technologies suggests that they have to go together all the time.
“There’s this misconception that NFTs and the metaverse are intrinsically linked – that you have to have a MetaMask wallet and know what NFTs are to even engage in immersive experiences,” said Steinermann. “There’s also this idea that to have these experiences, it has to be in a helmet.”
Even Parisi commented on organizations’ ability to enter high-value emerging technologies and commit at surprisingly low prices.
“It doesn’t have to be on a game development budget. Simple and affordable tools already exist,” said Parisi. “There are a lot of places that shape the value proposition and it doesn’t have to be a super expensive process.”
So much more at WebXR Brand Summit
Nine times out of 10, event coverage can’t capture every session and this was definitely one of those times. There was a demo from Head Office Space, a taste of TheMall, and lots of great talk that just couldn’t be taken in.
The WebXR Brand Summit 2022 will be available to watch again on YouTube, but as of this writing, the video is not yet live. To get you wet in the meantime, the town hall event that took place in preparation for the full WebXR brand summit is already posted.