Aaqib Usman '13 Changes the Game

Aaqib Usman hopes to make reality better with multimedia company Midwest Immersive.

A locker room with LED lighting. An audio visual hallway with wall-to-wall video displays, a light show, and a sound system. And a “boomerang” photo op for guests to capture their experience.

This may sound like a theme park attraction, but it’s actually a 2018 Adidas merchandise launch event in New York City, where consumers could check out the sportswear company’s latest threads and kicks in a vibrant “Immersive RV” trailer—all developed by the team of Aaqib Usman ’13, founder and producer of the multimedia company Midwest Immersive. The Adidas event is a prime example of what Midwest Immersive specializes in: “interactive experiential marketing,” a new form of product promotion that is equal parts technology, publicity, and art.

“What people of our generation are craving these days are unique, emotional connections with people, brands, products,” says Usman. “What we do, as a company, is create those connections for them.”

In order to fulfill that engagement, Usman always approaches his projects with the same question: How do you bridge the divide between the digital world and the physical world? “We’re constantly thinking about how we bring digital into reality,” says Usman, “and how we can make the real world better by augmenting it with digital assets and digital experiences.”

Midwest Immersive frequently utilizes augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Popularized by products such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift, AR adds digital overlays to the real world, like Snapchat lenses and camera filters, while VR immerses a viewer in a completely digital world.

Usman graduated with a degree in Film at Columbia College Chicago and went on to work on film and advertising projects, where he discovered he had a knack for technology. He began to explore tech fields such as production development, design, and management. Usman was eventually hired as an interactive producer for the Chicago startup QualSights, based in 1871, a digital startup community. There, he was able to combine his filmmaking skills with his gift for technology.

In 2016, he founded Midwest Immersive with a five-person team at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Usman’s company is on the forefront of building the tech community in Chicago, and has been commissioned by a number of high-profile companies such as Adidas, Cadbury, and Nike to create interactive brand experiences for their products.

As the company keeps growing, Usman wants to continue to develop products, services, and experiences that bridge the divide between physical reality and digital reality.

“My mission is to create experiences that improve the quality of people’s lives,” says Usman. “That’s where I see [Midwest Immersive] going. Essentially it all boils down to, ‘Let’s make reality better.’”