“If you fall in virtual reality, do you fall in real life?” asks Clyde DeSouza, a virtual reality (VR) filmmaker and the author of “Think in 3D.” He is paying homage to “The Matrix.” It is a pertinent question in a constantly evolving world.
We are at the Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity where the future is just one of the topics being discussed across three days of talks, panel discussions, interactive sessions and moments of learning for the advertising industry.
How are new economies shaping the future? Where now for storytelling and production? Who will be among the next generation of creatives, and how is data being used in an environment that favors trust and transparency over intrusion?
These are the questions being asked and answered by hundreds of delegates and speakers from the worlds of advertising, media, film production, branding, PR and marketing who have descended on the Madinat Arena to embrace an atmosphere of learning and experimentation. In turn they are hoping to transform that learning into effective brand communication.
Alongside them are students and young creatives from universities and agencies across the region; all eager to soak up everything the Lynx has to offer. It is an environment that champions creativity in all its forms across all media, with audience insights as highly prized as innovation.
It is technology and how it will change our lives, however, that is top of mind. “The technologies that are going to be mainstream, which are truly going to change the world in the next 10 years, have probably already been born,” says Jerry Daykin, global digital partner at media agency Carat.
“But, like an acorn that grows into an oak tree, what those technologies might end up doing — might end up allowing us to do — we can only guess at.”
Daykin points to technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), bots and voice control as being integral to how we might choose products in the future — posing challenges and opportunities for marketers.
“These (technologies) open up far more natural ways of communicating and allow our virtual assistants to manage some of the more mundane tasks in our lives, or even start making decisions for us. In these instances a bot might effectively be deciding which specific brand or item to purchase on a consumer’s behalf, and doing so based not only on their purchase history but based on what millions of other bots have learned,” Daykin says.
“If your product gets good reviews it could instantly be added to millions more shopping baskets, or vice versa be removed. Brands who want to grow their share will have to convince these AI gatekeepers first, rather than humans; it is not clear what new tactics will emerge to do this but in some ways it is similar to how marketers have long since tried to appeal to search bots through SEO marketing.”
VR, 360-degree video a view of the future
Dubai-based film production company Collective BKP is one of the first in the region to fully embrace virtual reality and 360-degree video. It is also one of many companies with a profile at the Lynx — in this case a branded coffee bar serving cappuccinos and espressos in exchange for a business card.
Elsewhere are the stands of advertising agency Leo Burnett and media agency Starcom. There is a “Start-up Alley” powered by Choueiri Group and a technology stage from Dentsu Aegis. Emirati YouTube and Instagram sensation Futaim Al-Falasi and Emirati-Yemeni singer Balqees Fathi take to different stages to discuss the role of influencers.
“To put it simply, virtual reality and 360 video are the future,” says Omar Abbas, Collective BKP’s partner and film director.
“Now that we have unlocked the technology and made it accessible, it is only a matter of improvement until we get to create experiences that erase the line between reality and illusion. We have only just started to discover the wonder and fascination that high quality immersive experiences can create.
“The very near future is going to see artificial intelligence and machine learning become standard online and in hardware. This will elevate augmented and mixed reality (MR) to a level where it becomes a part of our daily lives — while wearing a pair of light MR glasses, you will be able to see holograms that look real. You will be able to talk to them like you do to a person. This will translate into virtual reality by creating characters that behave like real people. Besides that, graphics processors and CPUs are advancing to the point where CGI will become indistinguishable from reality in VR. It is going to be awesome.”
Among the regional and international delegates is Danielle Guirguis, “chief smartie” at Smarthouse Films in Amsterdam, who is at the Lynx to explore a new market and the opportunities it offers. Half Egyptian, she is in Dubai for the first time.
“There are lots of opportunities here in the Middle East, while the European market is quite overloaded,” she says. “So people coming from outside the Middle East are sensing the business opportunities. It is like New York or Shanghai, but not saturated yet.”
Is the influence of influencers waning? Is a diet of big data feeding creativity or hindering it? Question after question is being posed by the organizers of the Lynx, which runs until Wednesday, in a bid to move the creative industries forward.
“The reality is that technology is getting bigger and bigger, but from a creative perspective we just see technology as a platform for enhancing creativity,” says Terry Savage, chairman of the Dubai Lynx.
“The really important thing is, if you want to make the best work, you have got to see the best work and understand the best work. And likewise, if you want to use technology in an effective way you have got to really understand that technology. And this is what the Dubai Lynx is all about.”