Transforming Space into Media: STYLY

by paradoxig

Walking through a City-Aquarium? Deploying in a few clicks an AR creation in the middle of Tokyo? And discussing about the Future of XR Creations and ways that can bring Value and Economic Development to Cities. Changing AR experiences just like you change TV channels? We’ve made a trip to Japan to find out more about STYLY and the future of CITY XR Entertainment!

City-Urban XR Entertainment refers to the use of XR technology in open space environments, in the middle of public spaces. Mixing the virtual and physical worlds, this form of new interaction allows users to explore dynamic content that seamlessly merges with their surroundings.

Whether it is exploring an alternate reality, interacting with virtual objects, or playing games that blur the lines between fantasy and reality, XR entertainment in open space settings has the potential to introduce a new way we experience and engage with our surroundings with our reality or realities.

And definitely, this is what the STYLY platform tries to facilitate, a new reality that opens up to new worlds of arts, games, entertainment, etc, where people interact in other ways, and businesses re-imagine their strategies. STYLY, a platform developed by Psychic VR Lab, is backed by investors, such as Animoca Brands, TV Asahi, KDDI, J Front Retailing, JR West Innovation, Nipon Steel Kowa Real Estate, Tokyo Land Corporation, Agya.

TechvangArt had the opportunity to look into the possibilities of City XR entertainment, being invited on a media tour organized by STYLY. The main attraction of the media tour was: The First XR Air Race in the middle of the city – a fantastic experience that has the potential to change the way how 1 – fans consume sports, 2- media managers engage with new tech and XR broadcasting, but also how 3- athletes will engage in the future with digital sports, and probably will need also to be aware and train more for the ‘digital rounds’ of competitions.  Read here about the entire experience:

But, TechvangArt also had the opportunity to have a glimpse into… How the visionaries of the company see the joint XR futures, and what possibilities XR urban entertainment gave. Here are our takeaways, favourite experience, and thoughts for the future: 

One of the most exciting experiences we saw through STYLY was the Ocean-City, where you basically can walk on the street and see in AR, the ‘wonders of water’ – small and bigger colored fishes in blue, green, or pink; the huge turtle swimming in the air/water, the splashing waves of the ocean, the jellyfishes in the sky, and in the end, you got to meet…. a huge whale that comes out of the pavement or ocean.. Definitely, it captures your attention, and somehow… indeed it is unexpected, to see ocean-creatures, while the streets are somehow more ‘watery’ – it adds a little bit of fantasy to your daily reality. We imaged that even a more science fiction storyline can be imagined with this topic as city-AR. 

The experience definitely caught your attention, and it was ‘out-of-the-box’, it plays with imagination, and the power to reimagine cities with another layer. It is also immersive enough for an AR through tablets  (we can only imagine what it would look like when hardware would be available). 

The choice of ocean topic is indeed exciting, especially because water unites us in unexpected ways, strangely enough, we communicate with the help of oceans (internet cables are deep-in-the-see), a new blue economy is booming and will rethink how we relate to oceans. And… ‘Ocean Year’ is coming in 2025, as the UN plans activities for that year. Well, it looks like Japanese authorities can only be happy, they already have their ocean-themes experience to show to the world… 🙂 

But, one question that raised our attention was one related to safety. During the demo, of course, there were more people with us, and safety was not a concern (and here is worth mentioning that also in AR, there were checkpoints and arrows to show the way, so users don’t get lost between cars). But, what if you watch this alone – yes, you could see the streets, and you are watching it through a tablet, but still… Stories, designs, and future interactive or gaming experiences can be captivating enough to forget that you are actually on the street. From this point of view, all future AR city experiences would need to be carefully planned in spaces that ensure maximum safety, and most probably will need local authorities on board so that cities with XR-layers wonderfully designed by creatives, will guarantee users’ safety. 

Besides the ocean-related topic, STYLY developed also other experiences related to interactive Avatars or presentations of museums in XR.  After seeing these experiences, one significant benefit of city-urban XR entertainment definitely lies in its ability to transform spaces (mundane or underutilized) into engaging and exciting experiences. By leveraging XR technology, artists, designers, and entertainment companies can inject new life into these environments, creating immersive narratives and interactive elements that captivate and engage individuals.

STYLY is also a great supporter of the next-gen creators and artists. It was one of the co-producers (alongside CinemaLeap and KDDI Corporation) of an outstanding XR experience, selected at the Venice Biennale 2023: SEN, directed by Keisuke Itoh.

A multiplayer VR animation, SEN is a different kind of Japanese tea ceremony served in high-tech teapots. With a distinct flavour, its savour is enhanced by remarkable visuals, that will lift your spirit in a playful, reviving, and meditative way. 

A must-see in festivals, it was also one of TechvangArt’s favorite experiences from the XR section in Venice, you can read our review here: 

Besides investing in high-quality XR experiences, the company has established two landmark projects for creators: New View School and New View Awards

Besides Japan, New View School is present also in London, New York, Taipei, and Toronto. It offers courses that focus not only on technical skills but also on how to think and experience in XR. Learn more about the school here:

New View Awards recognizes XR content awards in the field of fashion/culture/arts. Moreover, the company tries to leverage its access to different networks of galleries, and businesses in order to benefit the artist as well.

STYLY is a platform that facilitates creation in XR for any person, as such it aims to democratize art. It’s vision is that everyone can easily create and distribute XR content linked to real city space, explains CEO Masahiro Yamaguchi. As seen previously, STYLY can support both established artists who would like to try out a new medium, artists who would like to specialize in interactive new media, and also for hobby-artists or any person who would like to have creative exercises. Easy to use, and with a freemium version, the platform is ready… to be tried-out…. to ‘free your inner’ creativity.

But, there is so much more about STYLY, besides being a platform; with the entire vision, it defines itself as ‘more than a platform’, a place or space where culture and industry unite. For the creative medium, it will be a partner in creating new types of experiences, and for the business side, it opens up new ways of doing business in XR.

Businesses can enhance visibility, generate buzz, and create opportunities for consumers to engage with their products or services. Whether through interactive try-on experiences, location-based games, or branded immersive installations, XR technology can change traditional marketing strategies by cultivating unforgettable and shareable moments. 

It is a pioneer startup that showed up in a time when the notion of ‘What is reality’ is changing. As, it might be possible that in the near future, we are all wearing some kind of glasses or another device through which we will see new realities, and live and interact in these new realities, too.  

If you want to find out more about the start of the company, and the long-term vision, TechvangArt had an interview with the CEO and Founder Masahiro Yamaguchi. And, you can also find out, his favorite book, or what kind of exhibition he would like to see 🙂 

Psychic VR Lab envisions future cities having multiple layers. Compared with Virtual metaverses, where people can be attracted in the forms of Avatars in VR spaces, the  STYLY platform is all about the real metaverse, enriching the real space where people spend their time. And the real space can be enriched through different layers.

You can have the Aquarium layer – as shown above, but you can also have different Avatars, you can have the music layers, with different concerts, or gaming layers where people come and play together in real life, or just have huge curated Art iInterventions. 

In the future users would be able to switch between layers, and choose the layer they want to see, just like now we switch between different TV channels, explained COO Nobuhiko Watanabe. As such, we can also say, that STYLY aims to transform the space into another type of Media. Of course, we would need some more advanced hardware for that, to have a truly Immersive Experience. 

New creative content in the different layers of cities can be developed by bringing together locations (such as real estate developers or commercial Facilities), media (TV, publishing), and IP holders (Games, Cartoons, Music, etc), explained Watanabe. 

And already some experiences are around the city. For example in Shibuya, artists can expose their works, and people (once the STYLY app is downloaded) can watch them through their phones the works. In addition, they can choose from the STYLY gallery, the world you want to see. Once artists publish in AR, it will appear as a separate world, that does not intersect with works or worlds, otherwise aesthetically would be quite confusing to have different creators’ works mixed.

Moreover, we found it interesting the opportunity for different creatives to publish in AR and see their work in the city. Because besides, native AR works that can be viewed only in the metaverse – virtual avatars, or interactive experiences – other artists can also see if their future building, sculpture, or other city design would really fit in a certain space, and also measure, how people react, which can provide feedback to adjust small fragments to rebuild an entire work.

Overall, what STYLY envisions is that enriching the real space, might lead to an increase in the value of the city as a place where people interact, and create a flow of business, creations, and entertainment, that will stimulate both cultural and economic activities. 

OK, STYLY is more than a platform, but still… let’s try out the platform! 🙂

The platform is easy to use: Registration is quick, and it has a freemium version. After registration, users can see a basic library – both with primitives and other 3D assets. In addition, can make different aesthetic choices such as changing colors or adding different effects – animations, etc. In the case of more sophisticated art, the platform allows integration with other formats: users can easily import 3D assets in different formats, including for example from Tilt Brush. 

The deployment is also easy with a few clicks, users can basically deploy your art in the middle of the city; and if afterward, users want to change something, they can do it easily online. We played with some primitives and shapes and deployed them in Shibuya, and could see them on the phones.  Even if for a beginner in the field, navigating the platform is quite easy. But, anyhow, online STYLY has several workshops about the platform. 

How appealing is it to the public? The app has over 5 million downloads, and over 100,000 XR scenes were created. 

And this was our test for Halloween – Don’t get scared… 🙂 

We are just at the dawn of a new era for city XR content. But…as the technology will continue to mature, urban spaces will become appealing destinations for creators and artists to imagine new worlds, new stories, and new arts, for entertainment companies and brands to create unforgettable marketing campaigns and unique experiences. Urban XR entertainment will serve as a catalyst for community engagement and social interaction. By transforming urban spaces into interactive playgrounds, XR technology encourages people to come together, explore, and engage with one another and their surroundings. And Psychic VR Lab with the STYLY platform will be there, and we have the feeling that will hear more about them in the future.

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XR Broadcast Media: First Air Race X in Shibuya  - TechvangArt 2nd November 2023 - 7:47 pm

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