This past weekend, I had the honor to attend AT&T’s SHAPE event that explores the convergence of technology and entertainment. Held at Warner Bros. Studios – on a sound stage, no less – the event brought together a wide variety of exhibits and speakers to discuss and demonstrate how new technologies like mixed reality, interactive storytelling, emerging tech in networking, and blockchain (yes, blockchain) are transforming digital media, film, television, and gaming. This event is the evolution of the AT&T Developer’s Conference which had previously been held prior to CES.
The event – attended by 14,000 attendees – and open to the public, was a mix of panel sessions and presentations, interactive demos of new devices and entertainment experiences (think AI and Augmented/Mixed/Virtual Reality) as well as the AT&T Film awards and Entertainment App Challenge.
On a side note – the short film “Are We Good Parents?” may have been one of the funniest 8 minutes I have ever seen. (Here’s the link to the trailer)
A key take away from this event was that it was not primarily focused on AT&T. In fact, its products and technology were truly ancillary to the event. In light of its pending merger with Time Warner, the event was more of a showcase to illustrate the continued blending of entertainment and technology and how AT&T was pivoting its own position as a provider of Telecommunications products and services towards a global media, entertainment and technology company.
Intel and AT&T did share a session on Immersive Media & 5G – which provided examples of how technology would allow developers to think differently about data – opening up an endless opportunity to create “experiences” for the end-user. Leveraging the quantum leaps in speed and reduced latency, combined with AI, data analytics and edge computing – the 5G network will offer a platform for a variety of new and unimaginable services such as volumetric video to offer consumers an experience beyond their expectations.
For AT&T, the SHAPE event was an opportunity to showcase its activity beyond just the connectivity, but as a provider of the tools and technology that will enable the next wave of entertainment experiences.
There was an extensive demo/exhibit aspect to the SHAPE event which allowed users to fully explore how technology is revolutionizing entertainment, with much of it interactive.
While the 5G demo focused on AR/VR and showcased the benefits of low latency, other demos included a visual effects studio, full body and facial motion capture (people were having A LOT of fun with this one) and well as new filming technology such as cinematic robotics and 360 degree cameras.
In addition, a first look at the RED Hydrogen One smart phone was offered. RED is known for its high-end cameras used by filmmakers. Now it is offering a consumer facing product (well, maybe not your average consumer with its $1300+ price), that features a holographic display with the ability to switch between 2D and 3D without the need of glasses. And lets not forget its A3D surround sound.
The event also brought together a number of entertainment innovators – Issa Rae and Sean Combs (yes Diddy, himself) who both talked about using technology and social media to grow and expand their careers – in Sean Combs case way beyond just entertainment. I personally, had no idea the extent of his business holdings. But he left the audience with some pretty sage advice:
Know your craft and Master it
Be fearless with your ideas. Especially the crazy ones
Understand the power of controlling your narrative
I would say that AT&T is following his advice on all three points and making it quite clear that they are no longer just your Father’s telephone company. With their carefully curated acquisitions and investments in technology, AT&T is leading the industry in innovation that blends technology and entertainment to create new experiences for the end-user and defining the SHAPE of things to come.