Augmented Reality (AR) is paving the way for a new generation of digital superstars in Fox Network’s innovative new series, Alter Ego
Alter Ego is the latest in a line-up of reality singing competitions that puts talent centre stage by keeping its contestants’ identities a mystery. But what really steals the show in this new and improved take on the concept, is its innovative use of AR tech.
The pitch: vocalists from all walks of life, who don’t conform the superficial standards of the music industry, perform as AR avatars of themselves in front of judges Grimes, will.i.am, Alanis Morissette, and Nick Lachey, allowing them to be critiqued on one thing alone: their talent. The identity of the avatars is only revealed to the judges and in-person audience once a contestant is eliminated or the winner is crowned.
So how do we ‘see’ them perform? Backstage, contestants are clad in motion-sensor bodysuits and facial recognition tech, which is then fed back to 3D-creation tool, Unreal Engine, and rendered into avatars who mirror the singers’ every move and expression on stage using hologram-inspired displays, all in real time. Check it out.
It adds a whole new dimension to the artists’ performance. The otherworldly avatars are based on each contestant’s dream persona, or alter ego, and have been designed to their liking. They also enjoy some super human abilities, like eyes that can shoot lasers, shapeshifting tattoos, and spontaneous combustion – the sort of things that wouldn’t be possible for mere mortals.
Does all the smoke and mirrors (and pixels) actually make for captivating entertainment? With eye-level monitors strategically placed so as to create the illusion that the performing avatars really have taken centre stage, the crowd’s and judges’ reaction says it all. They genuinely seem blown away.
But, as is often the case when technology is injected into art, one can’t help but wonder if the human aspect gets lost and the gimmick steals the shine? In this case, the converse is true. It actually solves one of the music industry’s most pertinent problems. By removing any chance for bias or prejudice based upon a performer’s real physical appearance, it allows the raw talent, the voice, the humanity, and the personal stories of the competitors to shine through.
Not only is Alter Ego pushing the boundaries of AR to a new limit, what really excites us is how it has breathed new life into what has become a stale and standard show format. And this is only the beginning. This type of thinking could very well revolutionize all aspects of reality and real-time entertainment, and reimagine not only superstar performances, but even live sport.
If you haven’t already, ask yourself this: if your brand is in the business of real-life and real-time audience connections, how can you make the “virtual” an actual reality? We’d love to answer this for you.