FanPort at AWE – A Decade In The Making

At AWE (Augmented World Expo) 2024, we revealed our breakthrough product – FanPort. Draw & Code Co-Founder and Technology Wizard John Keefe talks about how the concept behind FanPort was proven at the Californian XR gathering some years earlier…


Draw & Code and 302 Interactive with FanPort at AWE 2024

It’s ten years since Draw & Code first exhibited at AWE – the Augmented World Expo. It is the most vital dedicated XR technology event in the world and has provided us with several pivotal moments in our history. At AWE 2024 we revealed FanPort – a product that builds on mixed reality and brings it to new audiences. As fresh as FanPort may be, it started life at AWE several years earlier…

During a decade of attending (and usually exhibiting) the event, our presence there has shaped us and led to us developing FanPort. After rocking up in Santa Clara in 2014 with a smorgasbord of creative AR demos, we went very ambitious the following year.

Our second time exhibiting was 2015 when we showed a tech demo called Companion. The reaction from our peers at the show convinced us that this cross-play mash-up of various immersive and interactive technologies had potential. Here’s my co-founder and the Draw to my Code, Andy Cooper, talking about it with AWE at the time:

Companion brought together a projected display, a headset, AR and, most importantly, the concept of a shared virtual and physical space that was ideally set up for social play. Draw & Code, in the early days, was purely about experimentation and play. We harnessed this spirit of constant curiosity to bring immersive to brands and enterprise, enabling us to learn about how these emerging technologies may be used in the real world. This spirit of pioneering, innovating and staying playful never left us. It’s the same spirit that has powered the development of FanPort and the same spirit that drives AWE.

Fast forward nine years from Companion’s debut and we finally have the product that grew from this tech demo. FanPort is a mixed reality platform that combines immersive worlds and AR glasses to create something unique. A virtual world is seen on a large display while the headset gives you a personal and expanded view. Some clever networking and tracking magic means that content can emerge from the screen into the FanPort Pod – the physical experience space shared by the guests.

FanPort experience at AWE USA 2024
FanPort content travels from the screen into the room thanks to mixed reality

We built Companion to be very social, and very participatory. This was in contrast to how XR was commonly used a decade ago. Then it was a tech sector often focused on utility or creating solitary experiences. While consumer and out-of-home VR has changed that, generally for mixed reality the story is the same now as in 2015. We wanted to build a platform that encouraged shared experiences and enabled new ways to interact with augmented worlds.

For this special event, we invited our partners 302 Interactive to join us in the AWE booth for the week. The Orlando studio is celebrating a decade in the game this week and has been behind some incredible mixed and virtual reality projects that we have admired from afar. They stepped in at crucial moments during FanPort’s gestation to help us to create our vision and it was so satisfying to share this reveal with them.

It’s fair to say that FanPort felt just as fresh in 2024 as Companion had in 2015. Every year at AWE, the event’s co-founder Ori Inbar hosts an opening talk that takes stock of the XR world and looks at how we got here and where we are heading next. A lot happens in a short time in this industry, seeing Ori highlight all the trends that have waxed and waned since our first time at AWE shows that we’ve been riding the crest of a wave.

While many different technologies, philosophies, companies and products have been coming, going, changing, being hyped up, and being talked down, we were delighted to find that the reaction to FanPort this week felt familiar. It made people smile. It made people get up and move. It made people talk. It got people thinking about the possibilities that technology mash-ups and convergences can bring.

John Keefe and Ori Inbar at FanPort stand at AWE
John Keefe with Ori Inbar from AWE inside FanPort

To have Ori and other luminaries of the scene inside FanPort with us was a surreal and satisfying moment. AWE brings together the XR world. It is a coming-together of interrelated technologies. It is inherently social. It is playful. All these are facets of FanPort too. In a way, FanPort felt like a microcosm of the AWE itself and that is a very, very good thing.

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