Ienter a room where there are curtains draped around the perimeter and industrial-style lights hang from the ceiling. In the middle of the room stands a model wearing a cable knit shirt and tie with trousers emblazoned with skulls down the side of one leg. A few metres away a woman has on a pair of Magic Leap's One mixed reality goggles, but she's not looking at the model and the clothes he's wearing. She's peering into the space above and around him.
Finally, I get my turn to see exactly what she was looking at. I take a seat on a small bench as I'm handed the One goggles and its power pack, which I clip onto the back pocket of my jeans. This mixed reality experience can either be enjoyed sitting down or walking around the model, I'm told. I look up and flashes of lightning appear with crashing sounds emanating from the left side of the goggles. I stand up and the lightning bolts now appear larger. Next, there's floating skulls and a roaring tiger that appears above the model's head. After a couple of minutes, my first taste of Magic Leap mixed reality tech is done.
As experiences go, I have to admit: It was impressive, but it didn't absolutely blow me away. But my experience of upcoming designer Gerrit Jacob's mixed reality collection will be very different to the one that attendees of London Fashion Week’s MA show at Central Saint Martins will have. That's where Jacob's 80's gaming arcades and fairground scene-inspired collection will debut and be modelled by Lennon Gallagher, the 19-year-old son of Oasis frontman Liam. Those mixed reality visuals will be grander, extending to the length of the catwalk, with 10 headsets set to be available for people to experience when the worlds of mixed reality and fashion collide. Three Mobile will also be providing the 5G network, helping ensure that the collection comes to life without a hitch.
Jacob's concept was brought to life thanks to Rewind, a studio that specialises in creating VR, AR and MR experiences for big names such as Budweiser, Sony and HBO. This is the first time the studio will be using Magic Leap's hardware and software to bring mixed reality to the catwalk.
Greg Furber, senior creative and XR director at Rewind, tells us that he's excited with what the once-secretive Magic Leap has now let people play with: "The thing I am most excited about is that it’s the first time you’ve been able to do this without the phone being in the way. The object it creates really belongs in this space and you can move around them. That’s amazing because we’ve been talking about this for so long. To finally be given the technology to do this is pretty sweet."
A fashion fling with AR and MR
The relationship between fashion and tech is by no means a new one. But over the last few years, it's evolved and moved on from the super high-end, luxe wearable tech concepts, as fashion designers turn to augmented and virtual reality to explore how the immersive mediums can elevate shows and even help bring collections to life in stores.
I think AR is mainstream already and people don’t know it
"Fashion is about creating an illusion, so bringing that digital layer is one fashion has been doing for some time," Furber says. "But it's now actually having impact on the process. So if you created a 3D model and wanted to see it and walk around it you can do that with Magic Leap. You can do a fashion show the other side of the world and beam it to them through the headset."
"In this version, we're doing stuff around and above the catwalk. If we were doing it for a collection in a shop window, we can design for items in that collection to jump out. We're only limited by our imagination in terms of what we can create."
Like VR, Furber believes that it's very early days for augmented reality, but the idea that it's a technology that hasn't already filtered into our daily lives is not accurate. "I think AR is mainstream already and people don’t know it," he said.
"Snapchat filters is AR. Even Google Maps is AR. The way we interact with the world is changing things forever. Things like Snapchat, Pokémon GO, these things are bringing us those digital layers. What is happening now is the technology is getting better and the devices are better and people are understanding it more. We're reaching a point where this digital layer we've lived with for over 25 years will exist and persist in perpetuity. This fashion show, it’s not that far in the distant future where you could come to Central Saint Martins at any point and choose to see someone else’s work."
All eyes on Apple
While Furber has clearly relished the opportunity for his team to get their hands on the developer edition of Magic Leap's hardware, he's also aware that there are other players already in this space or planning to enter it, which bodes well for the future for augmented and mixed realities, and could help solve fix some of its biggest problems.
One of those issues is form factor. Furber acknowledges that looking cool wearing Magic Leap's goggles or a VR headset simply isn't a thing right now. However, he believes we aren't that far away from the tech being placed into more aesthetically looking designs. "It’s five years top, probably less," he said. "As soon that happens, they’ll be everywhere. It might be an elite purchase for a while, but it will get cheaper so everyone can enjoy it."
It's impossible to talk about AR without talking about Apple. We don't have Apple augmented reality smartglasses yet, of course, but Furber predicts it will be worth the wait when Apple does finally decide to play its cards.
"Apple is more in this industry than we know - it’s just waiting." Furber tells us."The Apple ecosystem has only existed for 11 years and it's recreated how we interact with devices. They’ve put AR in their devices, they're building an ecosystem and they are learning from people. Everything they need to do AR fantastically is going on in the background. When they're ready, they'll launch something that will rewrite what the rest of the industry thinks will be possible with this technology."