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September 10, 2021

Unveiling the Secrets Behind Our Magical Mixed Reality Demo at TED 2018

The Challenge:

We were invited by TED to showcase an innovative experience to TED attendees in alignment of the theme, “Age of Amazement”. We partnered with Steampunk Digital and unveiled the world’s most spatially accurate mixed reality experience at TED 2018 in Vancouver, BC.

The Solution:

When we watch a movie with amazing visual effects, we tend to immerse ourselves in that world and willingly accept fiction as reality. This willingness is called suspension of disbelief.

By using Occipital’s depth-sensing camera and their mixed reality framework, we were able to make our audience believe that the virtual objects are real and are, in fact, interacting with real-world objects.

First we made a real-world model of the Grand Canyon with 33 layers of 3/8 sanded plywood cut on a CNC router. Then we made a digital replica by using a satellite geological map of the actual site. Next we built a “virtual stage” that contained the digital model and placed the virtual objects (UFO, aliens, monster, trees, bridge rocks etc) on top of it.

Things like the casting of virtual shadows, hiding virtual objects behind the physical set piece, and aligning the virtual experience to the physical model with less than 1mm spatial accuracy all made the TED attendees feel like they were looking through a magical lens into another world.

The Results:

As TED attendees and VIP’s came to check out the experience, they were able to enjoy a god-like perspective and watch the story unfold from all angles. Many were impressed by the variety of virtual objects such as trees, rocks, bridges and animals and how they were able to occlude or stay aligned with the physical model. Experts in the AR space were also impressed by our demonstration of hiding virtual objects behind physical one (occlusion), casting of shadows onto real-world objects, and tracking of the experience.

From Storytelling to Storyliving

Using augmented reality for storytelling unlocks a whole new way of interacting with content. When we read books or watch movies, we typically follow a linear storyline dictated by the creator. With AR, the audience is given the freedom to explore the story spatially and perhaps uncover different subplots or characters that can profoundly change the overall experience.

Immersive technologies have a huge potential to deliver more power messages and stories to audiences. Humans are spatial beings and when all of our senses are activated, we create a deeper emotional connection to the narrative presented to us. In the near future, traditional storytelling through text, 2D still images, videos will shift into storyliving with 3D content, haptics feedback, olfactory technology, making our virtual experiences even closer to reality.

At Shape Immersive, we believe augmented reality would be the next fundamental platform shift, supplanting the multi-touch interfaces of today. This idea of blending virtual worlds with physical ones opens up an entirely new frontier in which stories will be told in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

Are you ready to push the boundaries of immersive technology? Drop us a line at

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