ABC Family is taking advantage of one of tech’s hottest trends for the June 2 launch of its new sci-fi procedural “Stitchers.”
The network, a social media juggernaut, is expanding into the virtual-reality arena with a smartphone app to promote the new series. Titled “Hack the Case,” the app hits the web (at Stitchers.com and the Google Play and Apple App stores) on Tuesday, May 19, and promises a virtual-reality experience using 360-degree video.
“What’s great about the technology is that it opens up what’s possible creatively,” ABC Family’s Senior Vice President Marketing, Creative and Branding, Nigel Cox-Hagan tells TheWrap. “With augmented, you can bring your messaging in a very creative way into the actual tangible reality people are in everyday. With virtual, you can take them into an alternative world.”
“The combination of the two is a very ‘Minority Report’ world we’re headed toward where the creativity of messaging can literally leap off the screen and exist in the real, tangible world.”
Facebook famously paid $2 billion for VR pioneer Oculus last year with plans to launch a consumer product in 2016. And Hollywood has recently come on board. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, New Frontier offered a workshop to create virtual-reality headsets and “Saturday Night Live” teamed up with filmmaker Chris Milk to capture the show’s 40th anniversary using custom-built VR cameras.
Similarly, ABC Family hopes the new app will appeal to its tech-savvy audience while helping with the challenge of marketing the tricky premise of “Stitchers,” which involves a new methodology to solving crimes. On the show, genius hacker Kirsten Clark (played by newcomer Emma Ishta) is “stitched” into the memories of the recently murder victims in order to identify the culprits.
“Stitching into the brain is such a novel idea that we realized it would take a take a lot of explanation and elaboration to get it across to the consumer and then we realized we have the perfect mechanism in VR or augmented reality to place a person in an experience very much like a stitch,” explains Cox-Logan.
“Hack the Case” will challenge users to become “stitchers” themselves, in a new case created by one of the show’s writers. Players will gather clues guided by the cast telling them where to go. As an additional incentive, stitchers who solve the case will be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Los Angeles and an action figure of their own likeness created by 3D printer.
Part of ABC Family’s roll-out has included distributing headsets designed to enhance the game. The cardboard viewfinders, created by DODOcase, add an immersive 3-D element to the game while being cost effective to distribute at scale. “It’s amazing how such a simple looking device actually throws you into a different world,” says Cox-Hagan, who describes using the headset as a wrap around experience. “You have the feeling of being in the space.”
For those unable to get their hands on a headset, the app offers a simulated environment. Wannabe stitchers can explore the victim’s surroundings and solve the case minus the illusion that they’re operating in an alternate reality.
“The technology is here for a relatively rich experience without a lot of equipment,” says Cox-Hagan. “I’m sure we’ll see it proliferate as a marketing tool. And it’s fun to be in that world. We are already thinking of when can we do it again.”
“Stitchers” debuts June 2 at 9/8c on ABC Family