AR/ VR: WRESTLER

Idealog - - IDEALOG MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES -

“We don't want to cre­ate ex­pe­ri­ences just for the sake of us­ing cool new tech­nol­ogy,” says Ben For­man, CEO and co-owner of Wrestler. “Oh no no no.”

Wrestler, he says, is a com­pany on a mis­sion: to cre­ate VR/ AR ex­pe­ri­ences which have real world im­pacts.

“Let's use vir­tual and aug­mented re­al­i­ties to make our ac­tual reality that much bet­ter,” he says.

So far, they’re man­ag­ing to do that nicely. With a port­fo­lio al­ready con­tain­ing high-fly­ing brands like Al­birds, eco­s­tore, the NZSO and Mercedes, and Welling­ton Air­port, the group is be­com­ing known for unique and in­ter­ac­tive sto­ry­telling, both vir­tual and oth­er­wise.

Own­ers For­man and Kat Lin­tott both saw the po­ten­tial for the vir­tual medium while in­volved with 8i. Hav­ing started one of New Zealand's first com­mer­cial drone com­pa­nies, how­ev­erm they knew that try­ing to push new tech­nol­ogy into mar­ket too early can be a chal­lenge.

In 2013, the pair founded a bou­tique pro­duc­tion com­pany, which later merged into cre­ative video agency mak­ing called Wrestler. At the start of 2017, the mar­ket felt right, so a new VR/AR arm of Wrestler was es­tab­lished af­ter three years of dream­ing and schem­ing.

“With a com­bi­na­tion of com­mer­cial and orig­i­nal projects un­der de­vel­op­ment, we were able to get a feel for where all of this tech was head­ing,” says For­man. “The high road and the low road, ef­fec­tively. We chose the high road – cre­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that im­pact peo­ple pos­i­tively in the real world.”

“We're not say­ing we’re the best at gam­ing or film or the­atre or any­thing spe­cific like that, we're say­ing that we're com­ing at VR/AR with a com­pletely new per­spec­tive, open to what­ever dis­cov­er­ies come our way. Clients seem to be drawn to that hon­esty, as ev­ery­one knows that if you call your­self an ex­pert in an emerg­ing field, then you're just an ego­tis­ti­cal wanker.”

But what about those re­al­world clients? Though the tech is ex­cit­ing, it's still new, so the com­pany knows that it's get­ting real-world bums in seats that counts.

“This is tech­nol­ogy and ex­pe­ri­ences peo­ple don't even know they want,” says For­man. “Even we don't know what this stuff is go­ing to look like un­til we start ex­plor­ing and cre­at­ing.”

“The key for us is to get peo­ple into our stu­dio, have some beers, play some VR/AR and then start riff­ing on ideas. The great thing about ex­pe­ri­en­tial is that it’s tac­tile, and for that rea­son any­one can start imag­in­ing ideas and ex­pe­ri­ences they would like to ex­pe­ri­ence or cre­ate. This gets buy-in re­ally well be­cause we're tak­ing them on the jour­ney, and at the end of the day, we're all hu­man and we like to be in­cluded.”

Fore­man says that right now, the goal for Wrestler is to keep work­ing, keep learn­ing and be ready for the boom when it hap­pens.

“We know in its present state, the in­dus­try is pre­ma­ture, but the prom­ise in the fu­ture is big,” For­man says.

“There­fore, our game plan is to put our heads down and de­velop enough IP in pipe­lines, con­cepts and pro­cesses, so that when the money does start flow­ing and real in­ter­est builds, we'll be per­fectly po­si­tioned to dom­i­nate the mar­ket.”

Just what those op­por­tu­ni­ties will be is un­known, says For­man, but the prom­ise is “in­sane”.

“This has the po­ten­tial to change the way we en­gage with our world and com­mu­ni­cate. No big­gie.”

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