SXSW 2022 CHAT WITH CHARLES SEGUIN: THE XR INDUSTRY, FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND EMERGING TECH

Charles Seguin, Co-Founder and CEO at Digitalnauts, answers a few questions on the representation of the XR industry at SXSW 2022 and gives us his top tips.

TELL US ABOUT HOW THE OPPORTUNITY CAME ABOUT FOR DIGITALNAUTS TO GO TO SXSW.

“We were selected by an Innovate UK funding called GBIP (Global Business Innovation Programme). They had selected 15 companies to go to SXSW to demonstrate what they can do as well as get the chance to make new connections, find new clients and look for investment opportunities in the US.  

It was a great event to be part of and it allowed us to showcase some of our tech and service to the US, something we’ve never had the chance to do before, actually. We met a lot of new companies from all over the globe, UK, Europe, Asia and the US, that we think might link to new projects in the near future. We’ll keep you updated on that! 

With that we also managed to meet more people from Innovate UK, Audience of the Future, KTN, UKRI (Reasearch and Innovation) which are amazing people and want to continue working with them as they’re truly a great team.”

WHAT'S THE IMPRESSION SXSW LEFT ON YOU AS A GLOBAL EVENT?

“The event was just over a week, and despite technically being enough days to do everything, there was so much going on, it was actually impossible to manage it all! SXSW is a massive event. It’s definitely worth going, especially if you want to explore more creative projects and create connections in America. 

I managed to see “most” XR projects and companies and what they were showcasing (including some 360 videos, lidar scan with an artistic touch, AR and VR as well). It was quite refreshing to see what’s happening in the art and creative word, which, as you know, is an important part of SXSW overall. 

SPEAKING OF XR, WAS SXSW A GOOD EVENT TO HAVE CONVERSATIONS AROUND THE IMMERSIVE AND XR SPACE?

“The XR space at SXSW highlighted two main types of projects, which ultimately are a reflection of the industry at the moment: 1. very good projects (most of which I’ve liked) and 2. very good ideas but poor execution (probably due to time or resources, I’m assuming). For the second type, it was great and inspiring as well to see what the creative minds were going for, which reminded me of a very relevant point in XR development: the importance of storytelling. It’s storytelling that makes or breaks a project in XR, you can convey so many emotions and you can immerse the user even more, so much so that they can forget they’re even wearing a VR headset, for example. All these elements also make the experience overall more memorable, of course.  

In terms of technology at SXSW, to be honest I was a bit disappointed. It’s true that most of them were using innovative tech, like volumetric captures, lidar scans, cloud rendering for web experiences and that was absolutely brilliant. There are also companies that created their own hardware to capture their subjects to higher resolution. However, some companies really would need to go back to the basics. For example, you can’t forcibly move a user without letting them know or guiding them first. Another example is bad VR legs that would make people fall by accident, showing bad development practices overall. “

There were also a few fully immersive exhibitions powered by amazing tech (Spatial, Unity, MeowWolf, Dell, DC, Porsche…), which was great to see. However, the reality is that the equipment for these experiences is so expensive that it can’t realistically be implemented at scale or for the average consumer, even in enterprise, although it was a great showcase and brand awareness. 

Surprisingly, there were not as many hardware manufacturers represented at SXSW, and overall, a few industries within XR were missed. No MR, no HoloLens or MagicLeap, which I think would have made a well-rounded and inclusive XR space at SXSW.

Could you name some of your favourite xR projects at sxsw?!

ANY TECH OR CREATIVE HIGHLIGHTS THAT LOOK PROMISING? ANY DEAD ENDS? I’M THINKING ABOUT THAT NFT WATER BOTTLE YOU SENT US WHILE YOU WERE THERE!

Some promising things happening are photogrammetry and the improvement of quality with 360 videos and interactive storytelling. From a professional point of view, the capability of the technology and what we can do with it is extremely exciting for the future.   

Other than that, obviously the NFTs craze was real at SXSW this year! I don’t specially believe in the current state of NFT, at the moment, it is only a fad that requires some legal barriers. The sketchiness of it, the grey area makes it attractive from a finance point of view, but ultimately, it is a nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. The NFT technology has a lot of potential: being able to create a unique non-fungible token of a piece of art is actually a great idea, with a lot of potential for a future “metaverse” world but this industry needs a lot of work to actually make something decent with it. 

Being me and not buying into the NFTs, it was crazy to see around 70% of the SXSW festival being focused on NFTs and the word “metaverse”. It was disappointing as this doesn’t truly represent the XR space right now and where the industry is going, NFTs and the idea of a metaverse are being thrown around for the sake of grabbing attention, brand awareness and marketing strategies. But, in my opinion, this behaviour is ultimately misleading.”

WHAT’S A PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE SOMEONE GOING TO SXSW FOR THE FIRST TIME? IF YOU HAVE SOME TOP TIPS, WE’D LOVE TO HEAR THEM!

CHECK OUT THE SXSW 2022 OFFICIAL DIGI VLOG.