At Blueprint, we imagine the future. As we enter the holiday season, we considered what the future holds for people, business, and the technology landscape concerning one of my favorite holidays: Halloween. However, we didn't just set out to imagine the future of Halloween. We wanted to apply our experimentation methodology and create a proof of concept (POC) that brings to life the idea and demonstrate what's possible.
This blog post is Part 1 of a four-part series that covers each distinctive phase of our experimentation methodology. This part is about getting immersed in the problem and the technologies that can be brought to bear to address the challenges.
I have fond memories of Halloween. As a child, Halloween represented a time of unlimited possibility. You could be anyone or anything, fully immerse yourself in the identity, and people would reward you with candy. As a parent, I have the joy of watching Halloween bring about that same level of excitement in my daughter. Even as a teenager, she still loves choosing a costume to wear to school and plans out the various haunted houses she wants to visit.
When considering what Halloween could look like next year, two very distinct thoughts came to mind. The first is a people problem. According to a statistic from the National Safety Council, children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. In 2017, October ranked No. 2 in motor vehicle deaths by month, with 3,700.
The second thought involved the experience. Imagine trick-or-treating at Dracula's Castle in Transylvania, Romania, or in a forest in Sleepy Hollow, New York. What if you not only got to dress up as Iron Man (this costume is fantastic), but you could BE Iron Man, flying from house to house to gather your candy.
How Might We
Considering those thoughts, we posed the question: How might we improve the safety and overall experience of Halloween within a year? With a time limitation, we needed to consider how to leverage existing technology within a novel concept that improved the safety and immersion of Halloween. One potential approach is virtual reality (VR).
Gartner defines VR as "provides a computer-generated 3D environment (including both computer graphics and 360-degree video) that surrounds a user and responds to an individual's actions in a natural way, usually through immersive head-mounted displays. Gesture recognition or handheld controllers provide hand and body tracking, and haptic (or touch-sensitive) feedback may be incorporated. Room-based systems provide a 3D experience while moving around large areas, or they can be used with multiple participants."
VR has seen a surge in growth and usage, both by consumers and enterprises. For example, in retail, Gartner estimates that "By 2020, 46 percent of retailers planned to deploy either AR or VR solutions to meet customer service experience requirements." Walmart has filed patents for a system it calls "Virtual Retail Showroom System," and companies like Adidas have leveraged VR in their retail roadshows.
VR is reshaping industries like fitness, with companies like Black Box providing "a fully immersive virtual reality gym experience"
Concerning Halloween, trick-or-treating in virtual reality isn't merely a fantasy. In this incredible showcase, VR is used to allow children in hospice care to experience trick-or-treating, a holiday tradition that many could not participate in because of their medical conditions.
Today, VR isn't merely about wearing a headset. I had the privilege of trying out the haptic gloves created by a company named HaptX in Seattle. It was impressive how the gloves provided an immediate sense of realism to the various objects I was picking up (and throwing around) in the VR experience.
Combining all this technology into a single, cohesive experience is an exciting idea by itself. The entire experience could be self-contained, providing a far greater level of safety for young trick-or-treaters. However, there was still one major component of Halloween that hadn't yet been addressed: the physical accumulation of candy gathered within a virtual environment. A solution to this challenge lies in our concept.
The Concept: A Preview
The Internet of Things (IoT) is another market that has seen a tremendous surge in growth and adoption. In its most basic form, IoT turns physical events from electronic and mechanical devices into data. This data can then be used for everything from predictive maintenance and asset tracking to power grid optimization and smart farms. Considering IoT, we opted to reverse the flow in our concept: trigger physical events from virtual ones.
Our concept would overlay a digital fabric of targeted interactions within a virtual reality experience, then translate those interactions into real-world actions. To put it more succinctly, if you acquire candy in virtual reality, it would be waiting for you in the real world. We call this concept Targeted Real-world Events Analysis & Tracking or T.R.E.A.T. for short.
In Part 2 of this series, we will share how we designed the experiment, which includes everything from the technology choices to the architecture. In Part 3, we will share how the experiment was built and tested. Finally, in the last part of the series, we share the results of the analysis and what the next steps could be to bring Halloween 2020 to life.