Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are snapping up the people and technology behind some of Hollywood’s blockbusters in an effort to improve their augmented- and virtual-reality offerings.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. are among the tech giants that in recent years have been both luring visual artists away from Hollywood and acquiring technology first used to create digital effects for blockbusters like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Avatar.”
While VR is almost completely immersive, AR superimposes images onto the real world. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft Corp. and others are developing special glasses or headsets for these applications, also called extended reality.
Silicon Valley’s recruitment of artists and engineers who built some of Hollywood’s most memorable digital effects reflects the view that mass-user adoption of AR and VR platforms depends on creating lifelike experiences. Populating the platforms with realistic computer-generated characters and scenery, similar to what is found in movies or videogames, is central to that effort.
In recent years, former visual effects professionals have traded careers working for top Hollywood firms like Industrial Light & Magic (whose credits include the Star Wars films), Digital Domain (Marvel) and Weta Digital (“Lord of the Rings,” “Jumanji: The Next Level”) in favor of often higher-paying gigs at tech companies developing AR and VR applications and hardware.