An Augmented Reality Interview With Trigger CEO, Jason Yim

We had a chance to connect with Jason Yim, CEO of Trigger, to discuss the future of AR and some exciting new projects he’s working on.

While VR has seen a recent spike in popularity – thanks to Oculus Quest 2 – AR continues to outpace it in the mobile marketplace. We’ve seen a few developers dabble with their own AR headsets (remember Google Glass?), but the bulk of augmented reality is currently happening on your smartphone. It’s a field undergoing rapid growth, and with that comes a lot of change.

Driving that change is Trigger, a studio dedicated to AR technology, and one that collaborates with popular franchises such as Star Wars, Spider-Man, and even Lego. Its portfolio is extensive, and it’s clear Trigger is the premier studio for literally everyone’s AR needs. From casual games and AR effects to entertainment marketing and fan engagement, Trigger develops cutting edge augmented reality products that push the boundaries of the field.

We had a chance to connect with Jason Yim, CEO of Trigger, to discuss how AR has developed over the years, where he sees it going in the future, and some of the coolest projects he’s currently working on.

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TheGamer: Trigger has an impressive portfolio of work – what have been your favorite projects to work on and why?

Jason Yim: We’ve been very lucky to work with so many high profile projects and well known clients. Though my personal favorites are:

  • Anything from the Spider-Man or Star Wars franchises. The core team and I led the digital campaign for the first Spider-Man movie in 2000 at my previous agency. Since then, we’ve worked on every Spidey theatrical campaign, as they evolved from web, through mobile and now to XR. Most recently, we developed the Web AR experience for Into the Spider-Verse and the official app, featuring AR for Spider-Man: Far From Home.
  • We have a similar long-running relationship with Lucasfilm, where we started with web/flash-based games before moving onto mobile and AR work. We’re extremely proud to be entrusted with the AR work for all of the recent trilogy: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, Rise of Skywalker. It is nerve-wracking at times to have to deliver for film-maker approval, but as a fan, I can’t imagine better worlds or set of characters to bring to life in AR. My dog’s name is Peter Parker and my son’s middle name is Lucan - just so I get to say “Lucan, I am your father,” for the rest of my life.
  • Besides Star Wars, the other biggest creative influence on me since childhood is LEGO. We started working with LEGO on AR projects in 2012 and I even moved my family to Denmark for a winter to embed with their XR team. So every project with them is a labor of love for us, but more importantly they taught us the discipline and the process needed to create quality products. Even as LEGO, time and effort needs to be invested into “finding the fun” and your assumptions have to be confirmed through rigorous play testing.

How has AR changed over the past few years?

  • User adoption and therefore familiarity with AR has grown tremendously so that most consumers are at least somewhat familiar with the basic technology. First through Niantic and Pokemon GO, then Snap and other social AR effects and lenses and now through e-commerce as the most widely adopted use cases.
  • We’re moving from gimmicks to utility. We’ve known from the beginning that AR can grab someone’s attention, but we can now prove that the technology can beat other media in criteria like: engagement times, training retention, increasing conversion and purchases.
  • AR is being applied to many more industries and use cases. We started predominantly in entertainment and toys, but now sports and e-commerce and enterprise sectors are equally important for us.

What do you think the future holds for AR?

I see a great future for AR. It truly feels like a rising tide lifting all boats - from hardware improvements like Apple adding depth sensors to their phones, to wide deployment of 5G networks that enable more elaborate and powerful AR content, to advancements in AI and machine learning, that will help the camera better understand the world and people around it.

AR will become ubiquitous, as we literally envelop the physical world with a digital layer of content, experienced first through smart phones and then through AR glasses.

Companies seem to be investing heavily in VR headsets (Oculus Quest, PSVR) – do you think we’ll see headsets dedicated to AR in the near future?

There are AR dedicated headsets now, like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 on the enterprise side and NReal on the consumer side. However, there are still some big technical issues that need to be solved before we see AR headsets become as popular as VR headsets.

Will AR always be more popular on mobile than on consoles and PC?

“Mobile” will always be key for AR, either on a smart phone or through AR glasses, because the physical world around you provides the changing context for the digital experience.

Any big projects you can discuss?

Verizon’s AR PRO is a 5G enhanced app featuring super-star athletes teaching you their signature moves through AR. Each athlete is volumetrically captured, in full motion with 106 cameras from 360 degrees. Each move is broken down step by step through detailed interviews and supporting slow motion footage and 3D data visualization. Fans can learn how to shoot a 3-pointer from Ray Allen or take a free kick from Megan Rapinoe, to name a few of the incredible athletes, with many more to come. Fans can then capture their move side by side with the AR athlete to compare their skills. Or they can strike some light-hearted poses with each athlete to share on social.

I’m proud and amazed that this “napkin sketch” concept, which was then expanded upon with Niko Chauls at Verizon’s Innovation group would ultimately grow into the largest project our team has ever tackled.

Anything else you want to tell our readers?

XR in sports is another area of great innovation. COVID has spurred all the leagues and teams to find new ways to bring fans “into the game” now that they can no longer attend in person. With AR, watching a live game can now start to mirror a video game experience - players and balls can be tracked and then recreated in AR on your coffee table. Tapping any player can bring up real time stats or replays can be captured and viewed in full 3D and life size in a fan’s living room. Fans can even play against opposing fans using real-time stats and events from the physical game itself as they happen.

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