What the Czech is Going On?
Ryan Bell Director of Digital Strategy

Ryan Bell
Director of Digital Strategy

Ryan Bell ventures to the Czech Republic for Socialbaker's Engage 2017 and discovers that LA might not be the only hub consistently producing exciting VR experiences. 

I’ve been on the inside of VR looking out for some time. Los Angeles has seemed like a VR bubble for the past few years, and its hardened shell seems easy to look into but hard to look out of. As I continue to meet with companies and talk to brands during my second week in the Czech Republic, I’ve begun to realize just how global the movement has become. My workshop at Socialbaker’s Engage 2017 last week was totally packed, and I found out that CzechVRFest will have over 1,000 attendees (the first of its kind). Suddenly, I began to realize this world of tech that I live in is changing.

This realization truly hit me when I was leading the Engage VR workshop, where 6 teams came up with 6 separate amazing use cases. The winners of the workshop were basically dirty cheaters (or, at the very least, filled with ringers). Their team consisted of VR geniuses from Red Bull and IKEA, two brands that have already done amazing things in 360˚ video, augmented and virtual reality.  The team’s four-minute presentation was so innovative and intelligent that I didn’t have to tally scores.

Yesterday while visiting DIVR Labs, I played an alpha that had two components that I loved—I’m always looking for these transformations in story that give VR and AR purpose. Stereoscopic cut scenes made me reminisce about the stage changes in Pac-Man and the interface for… well, (I guess I shouldn’t say because I don’t know how much of this is public), but I feel like I’m constantly putting more small companies into the “Brands I Believe In” folder.

The real point is that AR and VR matters more now than ever. Brands recognize the value and come to the creative strategy guys like me to see not only what can be done, but what should be done. Mobile VR and AR have the most reach at the moment (and for the foreseeable future) but it’s important to get your chops in creating real VR experiences so that you’ll be ahead of your competition. I use the word “experiences” with weight.  I’m easily impressed by games and movies, but they seem to be a port from something a little outdated. VR and AR are still at this nascent stage reminiscent of the silent film era— interaction is so limited that things like flicking a ball in Pokémon Go seem transformative. Yet, they are, and there’s so much more that we’ll see as we move past or enhance mobile capabilities.

The Czech Republic has been a place of wonder and art for me.  Travel makes me feel more connected, insights from meetings outside of the US are valuable to bring back and breathe life into projects that may have started to lose their luster.

We are creating millions of little bubbles and they’re beginning to get bigger. This is a time in our history that a transformation is occurring and this renaissance will allow the future of creativity to explode in a way that connects social to art and story. It is our job to breathe life into this expanding universe in the ways that we know how. It is our job to understand how we fit into the digital transformation that is now barreling forward so that we can learn faster, connect more deeply and, in the end, create a world where technology works together, for a brighter future.

If you’d like to work with me on a project, send us your ideas, or share your company goals, feel free to contact us at Hydro Studios, or send a tweet: @Ryan_A_Bell.