By Piya Sinha-Roy
PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Attendees at the Sundance Film Festival can use augmented reality (AR) to hang out with "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm or assemble a human brain, as makers of the new immersive technology seek to engage independent filmmakers.
The Sundance premiere of "Marjorie Prime," a film starring Hamm as a hologram character, gave virtual reality (VR) startup 8i the chance create the 'HoloHamm,' an AR hologram of Hamm to drum up buzz for the movie.
Viewers pan a mobile device across a room and Hamm will appear on their screens as if he is in that location, and interact using pre-recorded phrases.
"This really opens up lots of promotional opportunities in entertainment," said Linc Gasking, 8i co-founder.
Niantic Inc's Pokemon Go mobile game became the first mass market adoption of AR last July. Players used their mobile phones to capture animated characters that appeared in real locations.
Unlike VR, where headset users can watch a 360-degree story, AR renders virtual images over real life settings and can be viewed on a smartphone other device.
Tech advisers Digi-Capital issued a forecast this month that the AR market would be $83 billion by 2021.
The Hamm hologram was created in a few hours using cameras to capture the actor in 360 degrees, Gasking said. It is more cost-effective to create than VR because it layers digital images over a real life set, as opposed to creating an entire virtual 3D world.
The 10-day annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, has featured VR for the past five years at its New Frontier showcase, where independent filmmakers have created 360-degree stories viewed using a headset, like Google Cardboard or Oculus Rift.
When Pokemon Go became an instant hit, New Frontier programmer Shari Frilot, who spent two years putting the AR showcase together, said "I thought this is definitely the year to do this because people will be looking for AR."
"Pleasant Places" digitally layers images of Vincent Van Gogh's legendary Provence paintings over landscape videos. "Full Turn" sees two tablet screens spinning together to create a 360-degree animated sequence.
"Journey to the Center of the Natural Machine," by AR headset company Meta, allows two people wearing headsets to view and interact with the same experience through the human brain. The headsets feature transparent visors which become the screen.
The company wants to create education entertainment pieces, said Daniella Segal, Meta's head of experiences.
The Meta 2 headset is priced at $949, a third of the cost of Microsoft Corp's $3,000 Hololens headset, and is aimed at developers to create applications.
"You can take something that may feel very cutting edge and very technological and make it something that every person can find the value in," Segal said.
(This version of the story corrects Gasking's title to "co-founder" from "founder and president" in paragraph 4. Corrects hologram time to "a few hours" from "five days" in paragraph 8 and changes process to "cameras to capture the actor in 360 degrees" from "360-degree photographic technology.")
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by David Gregorio)