A Night Out with Technology

We have recently talked about how technology can help improve your home-life or guide you to a sporting success. The entertainment industry is another area technology has touched, where clever uses for standard tech and cutting-edge advancements have created new, memorable, experiences for nights out you’ll never forget.

The cinema. A classic night out for many. Armed with a large popcorn and generous coke there is no better way to see a summer blockbuster. Until recently… With home TVs now larger than ever and instant streaming options many people opt to stay in and catch the latest films in the comfort of their own home.

To combat this, larger cinema franchises have looked to advancements in technology to see what they can offer that you can’t get at home. The answer lies not with the screens and images, though they have been improved too, but with the simple seats upon which you’re set to spend the next 90+ minutes. Those seats are no longer so simple and now gesture and move to the film, perfectly synced to every scene.

Everything can be simulated from the gentle float of a spacewalk to the violent knocks of a classic car chase. What sounds potentially vomit-inducing is actually really impressive and, once you’re totally absorbed in the moment, you forget it all together.

Some cinemas have taken it a step further with additional motors in the seat’s back that move to the film, recreating the feeling of a hug or the jab of a bullet. Movement isn’t the only addition; jets of compressed air lie hidden in your headrest and by your ankles which add sudden rushes to the film. In these screenings the seats aren’t the only thing to have an upgrade. The auditorium has added smells, bubbles and even rain being pumped in during appropriate scenes.  This is definitely not your standard cinema screening. It’s not for everyone – cinema purists say it ruins a film – but when it works it is really effective and something everyone should try.

While cinema bosses use these effects to bring you closer to the film than ever before, other areas of the entertainment industry have looked to Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to take this a step further and put you in the action itself. Here you are required to don a headset which either adds to your vision (augmented) or completely changes what you can see (virtual).

Tricking your brain into thinking you’re somewhere else, you can experience scenarios that would be far too dangerous in real life. Combine these headsets with other sensory stimulation, e.g. a moving roller-coaster, and your brain is tricked into believing you’re flying through space or deep underwater diving with sharks.

Again this might sound a little vomit-inducing for some but not all of these experiences require you to move – a recent immersive theatre show opened in London promising to explore the idea of lucid dreaming through the medium of virtual reality and no doubt a little trickery from the actors involved. 3D scans of your face taken before you start add to that out-of-body experience as you sit and watch your digital-self drift away.  It’s something I haven’t yet tried but am itching to give a go.

Something I have booked and am equally excited to try is dinner at a restaurant with projected table cloths. These are literally digital projections beamed onto your table meaning that boring white table can be anything the venue desires. Instead of having a menu handed to you, the whole table can turn into one.  But the real trick here is the addition of a scanner above the table as well as the projector.  Now that menu becomes interactive – you can order your food directly from your table, on your table – simply nudge and poke in the right areas. Once your food is on order, you can kill the time by dipping your fingers in a digital pond and playing with the Koi carp or challenge a nearby table to a game of battleships.  The opportunities are endless. I’m sure we all grew up being told not to play with our food – this place breaks all the rules!

Cinema, Theatre and Restaurants – just a few examples of where tech has elevated that ‘normal’ night out. It is a trend set to continue as brands look to stand out from the crowd, creating social media share-worthy experiences. I’m all for it and excited to see how this trend continues and what crazy addition is next….

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