The Future Group, a technology company based in Oslo, Norway, wants to revolutionize television using a newly created platform called Frontier, which enables interactive mixed reality (IMR) content. In short, IMR overlays digital content onto real world objects, turning blank props into canons, green screens into scenic backdrops, and enabling Hollywood-quality special effects in real-time.
Frontier uses Unreal Engine 4 to let shows create virtual environments for contestants to play in as though they were in real world video games. Audiences can also participate in the show from home using mobile devices to win their own prizes, and the platform is already being put to the test with the Norwegian game show, Lost in Time—developed in partnership with FremantleMedia, which creates, produces and distributes shows such as American Gods, The Young Pope, and The X Factor.
“Simply stated, Frontier is a highly scalable 3D visual effects solution,” Bård Anders Kasin, CEO and co-founder of The Future Group, told AListDaily.
Kasin formerly worked as a technical director at Warner Bros. on movies such as The Matrix Trilogy and he has done advanced research and development in augmented reality and high-end digital cinematography. He goes in-depth about Frontier and how it could shape entertainment in the coming years, as The Future Group looks to incorporate IMR into game shows, worldwide sporting events, esports and more.
In practical terms, what is Frontier and how can it be used to create a unique television experience?
The Future Group has modified Epic Games’ Unreal game engine to create Frontier, a new platform for creating, managing and sharing interactive mixed reality content. Frontier is distributed and sold internationally by our partner, Ross Video.
With Frontier, any TV studio production can instantly create live photo-realistic effects and virtual sets that are seamlessly integrated with anything or anyone from the real world, creating true IMR content. This merging of the virtual world and the real world opens a new door that transitions the viewer from passive watching to active participation.
What is Lost in Time and what separates it from other game shows?
Lost in Time is the world’s first IMR game show, and it enables the viewers at home to compete on their mobile phone or tablet to complete the same challenges—and win the same prizes—as the contestants on TV. In each episode, three contestants travel to different time eras to solve challenges of logic, shooting, driving and obstacles. They collect money for the team and time for themselves—time that they can use to gain an advantage during the final, where the winner takes all! This show places real people in a virtual world and brings the audience along to compete there.
Where is Lost in Time being shown?
Lost in Time is currently being broadcast in Norway and will expand to multiple markets. We’ve learned so much from the release here in Norway, and it’s great to see that the interactivity really works. On average, 25 percent of the people who watch the show also play along on their phone. This shows us that people are looking for new ways to experience TV, and Lost in Time really offers them that possibility. “Playing TV” clearly has an appeal.
What is The Future Group’s long-term goal with Frontier?
Our goal is for The Future Group to create multiple IMR experiences, and to create tools that will allow others to do the same. With Frontier, there’s no longer any limit to what TV contestants can do or what setting the action can take place in. If you want them to race on Mars or ride on a dragon, you can do so! Lost in Time is obviously the first such format, and we have some other pioneering IMR projects in the pipeline.
Will Frontier be made available for YouTube content creators?
Yes, we’re exploring how to work with YouTube content creators and we’ve had some very interesting talks so far. Streaming will be very important for us and we can’t wait to bring the magic of IMR experiences to the web.
Can we look forward to IMR-enabled live shows?
The IMR platform is to be used for live shows in the future. The current game experience for the people at home allows them to play along with the broadcast.
What made you decide to base the technology on Unreal Engine 4?
Unreal Engine 4’s tremendous capabilities enable us to create spectacular visuals for large-scale TV screens, and all the way down to smartphones or tablets. It also allows us to create amazing experiences by directly connecting real people and objects to a virtual environment.
How do you hope Frontier will shape the way television is made?
We want to enable content providers to create the next generation of entertainment experiences. The way we see it, the future of TV—both linear and streaming—is interactive and will travel across a multitude of devices such as TV, tablets, VR goggles etc. Lost in Time is the first format that lets viewers at home truly take part in the same world as the contestants on TV and we can’t wait to push this much further in the years to come. We look forward to other content creators exploring a new world without limits on the imagination when they develop new formats to engage and excite people.