Immersive Technology: the New Trend in Nightlife
The days of the jukebox have come and gone. For a brief period in American history, youthful socialites and music enthusiasts gathered at the ice cream parlor to enjoy a banana split over the tune of the Beach Boys. Years later, musical gatherings took a new direction: disco. Characterized by flared bell bottoms and glittery satin, disco truly reinvented the nightlife standard. As we edged closer to the end of the century, the celebration extended to the television, where viewers could turn to MTV for the latest in trending and decadent venues. We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings, and the change has never stopped, only evolved.
We have a natural tendency to see these eras as static, so we’re quick to categorize the jukebox to the 50's, disco to the 70's, and MTV to the 90's. Rarely, however, do we consider our own unique imprint in musical history. No one can deny the influence developing technology has had in modernizing our society, and nightlife is no exception.
The industry has made a strive toward elegance over the past two decades, and for the most part, they’ve made progress. The size and frequency of bars, pubs, and nightclubs have grown tremendously, especially in coastal regions sprawling with young adults. When we consider population growth, however, none of this comes as a surprise. As of 2018, the largest age group isn’t the famed baby boomers, nor is it the most recently born generation z, but instead is millennials between the ages of 20 and 30.
The behavior of the nightlife millennial has been noted. Their tendency to maximize their attendance at bars and nightclubs has popularized a relatively new term: the bar-hoppers. In an industry where the hoppers come and go as they please, managers strive to create an atmosphere of overwhelming stimuli. In addition to increasing venue size, most prominent clubs incorporate colossal LED screens into the locale. The word “screen” is an injustice to their size, and perhaps a better descriptor would be to refer to them as walls. In most cases, these “graphic walls” are paired with equally impressive audio systems. The caveat with these attractions is that they rarely work in unison, meaning that these walls and audio systems act independent of each other and independent of the nightlife attendees. Surface reality can alleviate this inconsistency.
In case the term surface reality seems foreign, let me clarify its definition: surface reality blends movement with immersive technology to form an environment where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Much in the way that virtual reality replaces, surface reality enhances. Its most noticeable feature is its adaptability to any surface, which makes it an ideal complement to the LED walls. So what does surface reality look like in the nightlife ambiance? Sensors locate monitoring an individual or group and projecting their movements onto the walls. Their dancing and gestures are exaggerated by an array of customizable graphics. Functionally, it makes the LED walls entirely interactive by “cartooning” those who wish to participate.
The simplicity of location-focusing is one of the most outspoken benefits of immersive technology. The system isn’t limited to just interacting with an audience member, it can be quickly arranged to focus on the DJ or the audience as a whole. An opener may prefer to engage the audience by focusing on the dances of the crowd, while a more prominent headliner may choose to cast his own movements onto the LED wall. Immersive technology is designed to cater to these user preferences.
As standard with any technical trend, it always takes time for new technology to propagate through the societal ranks before mass adoption. We can only guess at the luxuries of Tomorrowland’s nightlife, but it’s a safe bet immersive technology will be an integral feature.