Enhanced virtual viewing was a leading topic at CES this year in the wake of unprecedented disruption to the entertainment industry. “2020 had a massive impact on the way people live, work and play. But very few industries have been impacted as profoundly as entertainment,” Medialink chairman and CEO Michael Kassan said in “Entertainment transformed,” a CES spotlight session about the current and future state of entertainment featuring Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios. “New platforms and shifting consumer behaviors have dramatically shifted the entertainment landscape, requiring innovation and fresh thinking from every player in the ecosystem,” Kassan continued. This was immediately evident at the global tech trade show, where industry leaders introduced next-level virtual viewing experiences—setting the groundwork for the future of entertainment.

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Verizon keynote
WEB Verizon CES Keynote The Met 2

In his CES keynote address, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg outlined new augmented reality (AR) entertainment capabilities built on 5G that offer viewers a VIP experience. With the suite of new initiatives announced in his keynote, Vestberg predicts a 5G-enabled future where audiences design their own viewing experience. Partnerships with the NFL and Live Nation will let viewers choose their preferred camera angles and engage more closely with the players and performers. And The Met Unframed, an interactive and immersive virtual art and gaming experience, lets virtual visitors get closer to the artwork with AR renderings of iconic masterpieces.

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Madison Beer's virtual reality concert. Courtesy of Sony

Sony is turning its attention to immersive listening for a multisensory entertainment experience. The company unveiled its newest division, Sony Immersive Music Studios, at CES this year. As part of the launch, they introduced 360 VME technology, which reproduces large scale soundstages in a pair of headphones, making the listener feel as if they’re onstage with the performer. And the company’s “immersive reality” concert experience, which premiered at CES with a concert by Madison Beer, will debut on PlayStation VR and Oculus VR later this year.

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Wild. Courtesy of Panasonic and Illuminarium Experiences

While most companies were focused on at-home entertainment, Panasonic is anticipating how digitally enhanced viewing formats will translate to in-person experiences. The company announced at CES that it will partner with Illuminarium Experiences to create 360-degree immersive entertainment centers. The first location, a 30,000 square foot space encased with floor to ceiling screens, is set to open in Atlanta this year and will premiere with Wild, a virtual safari.

Technology is no longer simply a means to an end for the entertainment industry. With the recent elevation of virtual and at-home viewing, tech-enhanced spectatorship is increasingly central to the entertainment experience. Expect to see more innovation that melds the best of virtual and in-person viewership for the next generation of entertainment.

For more CES 2021 coverage, see Automotive sanctuaries and Home health havens.

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