“You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.”
–Margaret Atwood, poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist.
Storytelling has existed long before recorded history. We have always been fascinated and captivated by a good old yarn.
What started with cave paintings has worked its way through our collective history in the form of novels, movies, drunk-guy-in-the-pub stories, songs and countless other ways of entertaining us in this giant, much less cohesive, but pretty well narrated story we call Life.
We had some lovely visitors to Bubbl HQ the other day. ANRK are visionaries in immersive technology, a field that we are keen to learn more about, as we plan for our future and the evolution of our product. In a hugely inspiring conversation, we found out about ANRK’s journey and more about the world of immersive technology. We are always so grateful to people who give their time to inform us. It’s so nice to know there are so many companies out there, who are aligned with our way of thinking. That’s essentially what the Bigger Bubbl is all about.
So, without further ado, over to the founder of ANRK, Anrick Bregman:
How did ANRK come about?
Studio ANRK was created to harness immersive storytelling, design a positive view of the future and ask questions about how immersive technology itself will change and transform our world in the coming decades. It is built on the work I have done as an Immersive Director over a span of 15 years, and will be focused on a clear mission.
I was a part of Snap Inc’s Yellow Accelerator in Los Angeles, and Studio ANRK received an investment as part of that program. So we’re now building our first unique IP experiences, as well as collaborating with a number of organisations and companies on commissioned projects.
Can you describe what ANRK does?
Studio ANRK is a spatial storytelling studio. In other words, we create stories made for wearable mixed reality devices – virtual and augmented or mixed reality – to bring stories to public spaces and into people’s homes all over the world.
We love to experiment with new story formats and capture tools, like volumetric capture, and Snap/Instagram filters. And sometimes we build the tools we need from the ground up.
Ultimately, the work we do should make people more curious about topics like the impact of new technologies, climate change and mental health. Our mission is to spark people’s curiosity by appealing to their imagination. If our work can help to untangle some of the complexity these issues have, they will dive deeper into those subjects through other forms of media.
Examples of work include a virtual reality experience about what it is like to be autistic and a Tilt Brush experience about crossing the Mediterranean as a refugee. Both made with the news organisation The Guardian, in collaboration with Cambridge University and UNHCR respectively. I’ve also been involved with many companies and organisations over the years, collaborating with UNIT9 to make a series of beautiful films for car company Toyota, and a 4D VR Experience for Seat. As well as collaborations with charity organisations such as Water.org and ChildFund, to name just a few.
More recently, with support from Snapchat, and due to a lot of demand from collaborators and partners, we are leaning into Augmented Reality more heavily, both in terms of content and products that are in development. We’re working with Magic Leap, and are very active with ARKit, ARCore, Spark AR and Snapchat Lens Studio.
What is it like to work at ANRK?
We are definitely very much a startup. We’re spread out and we have a central office space where we regularly meet, but we mainly work through remote contact, staying in touch with each other on a mixture of email, Whatsapp, and Slack.
We work with a wide range of very talented people, who are based all over the world, so our digital office environment is a very lively space, and there’s always someone somewhere making something, building a piece of a larger project.
Remote teams can be a real challenge, and it requires a very specific set of skills. We’re focused on making that kind of communication work effectively because it also allows for the greatest amount of freedom for everyone on the team, and for us to collaborate with the best talent world-wide.
How important is innovative tech like yours in the continuing evolution of creativity?
Surprising someone with a novel, new way of telling a story is a great way to get a message across. People pay more attention when the medium or approach is new and different. The stories we build at ANRK and technologies we work with every day are growing more powerful because they speak to audiences in unique new ways.
I think this is a fascinating time, as creativity is in a unique period of change. A range of tools, technologies and methodologies are coming together. It is a true evolution of what creativity is, the power it holds as a catalyst for storytelling, and what it means to be a creator.
We have a wide spread of tools and technologies, many of which used to cost money but became free to use, and the companies running them have switched business models to benefit creators. This includes both Unity and Unreal Engine, but also software like Lens Studio, Spark AR, and platforms like Runway for AI and machine learning, to name just a few examples.
Under the hood software is increasingly taking the pain points out of the creative process, or assisting the creator during the building process. This is lowering the barrier to entry for new creators to try their own ideas out – and means we’ll have a much greater range of ideas and diversity of perspectives represented within the creative industries. This is happening now and it’s so important.
The point here isn’t that creativity got easier. Or that the challenge of making went away. But I do think there’s a big shift in terms of what creators can focus their energy on – and a broadening of who contributes to the discussion we’re having through these technologies.
That will benefit everyone.
What challenges do you face? (in terms of competing in a pretty crowded marketplace, developing, growth etc)
Our challenge is about balancing the focus of commissioned work and building in-house work with a longer term focus. Our long term vision is to build a library of beautiful, powerful and meaningful work (that can be licensed) and generating a return on our own investment. Getting there requires an investment of energy and capital. But the rewards will ultimately be worth it.
What are your plans for the future?
Our plans are to continue head-first on this crazy, winding path towards finishing the in-house projects we currently have in the works. Follow the yellow brick road and make it to the Emerald City!!
But seriously, I think we are at a time when technologies like virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence are going to not only transform the creative process and the output of the creative industries, but also the world around us, and the types of relationships we have as humans.
Our goal is to be a part of the debate over how we can make that a change for good, and how we can anticipate the changes that are coming.
This is not only about the future, but also about looking at and exploring the past – so much knowledge came before us, and we’re excited about how immersive technologies can help us all learn from that; how they could spark our imagination about our collective future.
Huge thanks to Anrick Bregman and Anne Snel for coming in to see us and we look forward to more exciting news in the future!
If you’ve not seen their work, check them out here https://www.anrk.co/