In her May 2020 hit ‘Daisies’, pop susperstar Katy Perry asked: “When did we all stop believing in magic?”
For anyone who saw her memorable performance at the American Idol 2020 finale they would have been in no doubt that magic is actually real as they experienced the first major application of visual storytelling company disguise’s extended reality (xR) technology, delivered by production specialists XR Studios.
And when they managed to pick their jaws up from the floor they knew that the future had arrived and that the metaverse is on its way.
Since that seismic technological moment, the demand and potential for disguise’s xR product has gone through the roof. disguise has helped to imagine, create and deliver more than 600 spectacular xR productions in more than 50 countries and the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime have now come knocking.
Fernando Kufer has been the London-headquartered company’s CEO since 2015. He said: “The Katy Perry performance is what kicked everything off for us. It really proved to people what was possible with this technology.”
Born in 2000 out of a pioneering new technology, disguise was first developed to deliver show-stopping visuals at concerts for the likes of U2 and Massive Attack. This led to the company first being formed in 2012 by Ash Nehru, disguise’s Chief Innovation Officer.
xR delivers live digital environments through computer generated graphics displayed on LED panels. This is captured in-camera where advanced camera tracking allows for graphics to change as the camera moves – creating a fully immersive virtual environment. The underlying technology that enables this through distributed computing is patent protected. Live backgrounds enable presenters, actors, musicians to react appropriately to their environment without having to imagine what will appear in post-production.
Adoption has been rapid and since been accelerated by demand from artists, brands, and organisations to engage remote audiences following the halt in live events when the pandemic hit in spring 2020.
Sometimes timing is everything in business and as the media and entertainment industry stalled in that year, disguise’s xR solution provided ground-breaking technology that allowed disguise users and partners to continue delivering spectacular productions in a virtual setting.
Fernando said: “When the pandemic hit, we felt that xR was something different that would propel us into different markets and since we launched in June 2020 we haven’t looked back. Now we are definitely the market leader in xR, it has made the business truly global.”
The numbers tell the story. disguise has opened offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Los Angeles, New York, Barcelona and Dubai, with staff numbers rising from 90 to more than 300. Meanwhile more than 350 LED stages powered by disguise xR have been built in 35 countries to service regional demand.
In this time the company has also sold a majority shareholding to The Carlyle Group while Epic Games has taken a minority stake. disguise is actively collaborating with the Epic Games team to better integrate disguise with Epic’s Unreal Engine graphics enabling users to deliver truly spectacular real-time visual experiences in xR.
And it doesn’t stop there. disguise is in the process of opening six experimentation hotspots or ‘Labs’ beginning with Auckland, New Zealand where creatives and technologists will be exploring disguise xR’s possibilities and where their new technologies will also be used and learned by customers and community users.
Fernando said: “Each of our labs is going to be an experimentation lab for the metaverse and have a specific topic, so in LA it will be film and TV, in New York it will be broadcast, in Montreal it will be live music, in London a bit of everything and so on. We are constantly testing and experimenting with technology on how to continue on this journey to take this to the next level.”
Innovation is constant at disguise and one of the three pillars of the company, alongside its communities of users and customers and platform building partnerships. It’s what’s driven the company and landed it a prestigious Queen’s Award for innovation.
Fernando said: “This is huge recognition for the business. We’ve had other awards, but this is the most coveted of all and our customers are delighted for us, especially in America. It’s great recognition and validation for the team. Long term we want to grow our technology company and this will grow our profile and propel our brand just at the time we are launching our labs.”
They say that those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. disguise is on a mission to make sure everyone will.