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December 29th, 2021 | by Mathieu Gayet

A Global XR Content Telco Alliance (LG Uplus, Orange, Qualcomm Technologies…) for a new generation of premium XR content

How to better support creative studios involved in the XR and metaverse landscape? For telecom companies (Telcos), the challenge is to help innovative creation without forgetting the general public. One of the answers envisaged for XR is not to act alone for financial reasons but also to ensure a real distribution circuit for the selected works.

We discussed with Chris Reznicek (LG Uplus), Kathy Braegger (Qualcomm Technologies) and Morgan Bouchet (Orange) about the work of the Global XR Content Telco Alliance, a content board which was founded just before the Covid-19 pandemic and has been fully active since 2020.

Members of the Alliance include LG Uplus, Qualcomm Technologies, Bell Canada, KDDI, China Telecom, Mobile Business Group Chunghwa Telecom, Orange, and Verizon.

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Global XR Content Telco Alliance – A content committee

Chris Reznicek (LG Uplus) – I’m the Head of XR Partnerships at LG Uplus in South Korea, and our team is responsible for any immersive contents distributed via our LG Uplus services. I’m also supporting the Global XR Content Telco Alliance, a committee gathering most of the leading telecom companies in the world, including LG Uplus, Orange, Bell Canada, KDDI, China Telecom, Mobile Business Group Chunghwa Telecom, Verizon and technology provider Qualcomm Technologies. Together we discuss and select premium original XR contents from worldwide high-profile studios. We all have the same objective to take everyone to the next level of quality XR contents.

Kathy Braegger (Qualcomm Technologies) – I have been at Qualcomm for 27 years, primarily working with developers. We launched the first-ever App Store (Brew MP) in 2010. Since then, I focused on business development, leading me to be interested in the immersive, XR field. Qualcomm Technologies’ bread and butter is building chips, software and hardware solutions, which includes purpose-built processer that power XR headsets. We help massive companies like Microsoft, Google and Meta with their Oculus Quest which uses our Snapdragon XR2 Platform.

Morgan Bouchet (Orange) – I met Chris in 2019 in Cannes. Our visions about XR and Metaverses were similar, and so were our issues: few premium content, a domination of American platforms that retain exclusivity of works, little or no price regulation on the stores, etc. We came up with this committee between companies to solve these issues, and revive the ecosystem with higher quality content.

C. R. (LG Uplus) – When 5G arrived, we (at LG Uplus) saw a growing number of Telco companies heading toward XR, for many reasons – creative or content strategy, services, marketing, in retail stores… And we noticed that premium-quality contents were lacking. Yes, there were a lot of VR films and independent projects, but most of them were still in research and development mode. We wanted to help and support studios to produce premium contents with a sustainable financing model. Via the Global XR Content Telco Alliance, we are looking at high-quality content with a reasonable cost – compared with co-producing alone. We know how expensive budgets are for XR projects, so why not gather more people together to level up the quality?

K. B. (Qualcomm) – Qualcomm is one of the founding members of the Alliance since September 2020. Our role is based on technology input mostly, paving the way to imagine the next generation of devices depending on the premium content submitted. We are here as advisor on the software/hardware questions, as the Telcos are the one with the customers. Altogether, it’s a match-making process to help premium content come to life.

Global XR Content Telco Alliance – How does it work?

C. R. (LG Uplus) – We want to present to the Alliance only top-quality projects. That’s why we work with only 3 content partners - for now: Felix & Paul Studios (Canada), Trigger Global (USA) and Atlas V (France). They’re great at bringing innovative ideas to us and discussing at a very early stage their next productions. We are looking at everything and anything that can interest our members. Every Telco is slightly different: some already have XR services, others not. Depending on the project submitted, we work with the members interested. And that’s the goal of the Alliance!

K. B. (Qualcomm) – Of course there were pre-existing relationships between creative studios and distributors (Telcos). Qualcomm helped bring Trigger Global onboard which had compelling contents in April 2021, and we all hope to bring more studios into the Alliance.

M. B. (Orange) – The common denominator is above all the desire to feed our respective platforms (in France the Immersive Now app) with better content & experiences - VR or AR depending on the service concerned. For Orange, it's a great opportunity to support creators. On our own, we wouldn't have as many resources, nor the vocation to co-produce directly. It's all together that we can help on a few well-selected works - and that with great discussions, and very rich exchanges around different cultures.

C. R. (LG Uplus) – We help the creative studios present to the Alliance during one of our regular meetings, with documentation and training, advanced questions, etc. It’s very important for them, but also a good way for us to identify the financing point on every project, the potential of it. We’ve received pitches from 10 to 40 minutes, depending on the complexity of the it. Then every member of the Alliance reports internally and comes back with feedback. Or sometimes more questions!

M. B. (Orange) – We receive very ambitious projects, sometimes with brands involved and a real marketing approach – We keep the audience in mind. We have a role to play in maintaining an XR art scene with great experiences that is not only video games and not just governed by OTT platforms.

C. R. (LG Uplus) – As we have members coming from different countries and cultures, we can easily enlarge the scope of our selection – and for the best! It improves our production, marketing or distribution to share our knowledge and learnings. Even for the next steps in XR, we discuss things and put together our studies. The industry needs standards, common rules to grow. With existing platforms or even 5G, we set up things for everyone (and cross platforms hopefully).

M. B. (Orange) – There is a common need, too, to evangelize, to demonstrate all the possibilities of XR experiences. It's usage that will drive the industry forward. On our side, we are implementing ever more powerful broadcasting technologies, including today's 5G.

5G: how to feed new needs

C. R. (LG Uplus) – In South Korea, 30% to 35% of the entire population are already using 5G on a daily basis. We have some of the fastest networks in the world – and that’s incredible. It’s powering the next generation of video content, and expectations are high among our customers. Mobile video, streaming, immersive contents, interactions and social, real time… and things not even imagined yet in the future!

K. B. (Qualcomm) – As for metaverse, we’re interested to see what kind of technology will help people to navigate freely between the physical and virtual worlds. Depending on smartglasses, headsets, smartphones or others devices of course. At Qualcomm Technologies, we see this as the next generation of “spatial internet”.

M. B. (Orange) – The announcements of (ex-Facebook) Meta were already anticipated on our side, with research development and innovation services development, and the Alliance already receives projects that deal with metaverse. Until now, we have been discussing only XR content, with identified distribution processes. For virtual worlds, we need to consider the creative aspect, the interoperability but also the audience involved: when XR experiences will be fully social and collaborative, their adoption will accelerate. Now we are following the same cycle as other art forms (films, video games…). At some points, we are also exploring LBE VR experiences (VR venues) for specific topics, able to give access to the power of immersion to a large audience.

C. R. (LG Uplus) – Virtual worlds (metaverse) is already today’s work at LG Uplus. We’re focused on entertainment category obviously, and not enterprise solutions. For metaverse, it’s all about how to fill in these virtual worlds with contents. See what our friends at Verizon did with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, THE MET UNFRAMED (link), where they recreated a virtual museum! We did something like that here in Korea with the opening of the XR Gallery, an online exhibition hall dedicated to the K-pop idol group EXO (link), in our U+DIVE service. It had its own rooms and galleries. It’s a world where you can showcase everything: 3D or 2D contents, interactive… And we let people discover this on their own. One of our most popular campaigns ever! We have a lot of support from marketing agencies, or even artists themselves. Since, we have expanded with popular Korean characters for kids and more.

C. R. (LG Uplus) – We expanded this with an XR website, uplusdive.com (link). We want to meet the demand from viewers that don’t have headsets or the app itself (which can be more complicated to install): we offer the experiences directly online. We see the same things on VR and AR: online availability is going to help everyone. People are tired of adding apps on their phones: WebVR and WebAR contents are the next step. Even if it’s just a preview!

An XR ecosystem evolving fast

C. R. (LG Uplus) – XR improved a lot throughout the years – Even during Covid! Technology is evolving fast, and the current wave of contents are as strong as ever. And new players are coming in from the tech industry! VR at the beginning was like the “rollercoaster use case”, and we’re heading now to premium content and an improvement in quality due to interactions, 6DOF… From this, we can build more strategy to distribute them. The first project the Alliance helped was SPACE EXPLORERS – THE ISS EXPERIENCE (link) by Felix & Paul Studios, and it’s amazing to see where they are now with new episodes coming, an Emmy Award and an exhibition touring (welcoming 70,000 people in Montreal during the last months, and now heading to Houston). I can’t wait to see their spacewalk in VR! And stay tuned for the next amazing Alliance project to be announced soon!

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C. R. (LG Uplus) – If I go back in time, one of my favorite VR experiences is still “OId Irish,” which takes the viewer into a physical installation (LBE outdoor - link) where he/she meets a real pub atmosphere. It’s very compelling to everyone. You get VR directly, and it’s fun! Great things are coming from XR entertainment, such as sport and live music events.

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