These days, it’s hard to tell where technology ends and marketing begins as each new technology seems to have applications for marketers. The tricky part is keeping up with the ever-changing technology trends and knowing when there’s value and ROI in the opportunity. This is especially true in the virtual reality (VR) arena, which has several components and counterparts. There’s VR itself, as well as augmented reality (AR) and their simpler counterpart 360-degree videos/photos. Before you consider jumping in and implementing some of these newest technologies into your marketing plan, it’s important to understand the variances between each and then determine which one is best (and most logical) for you to use.
The most distinguishable feature of Virtual Reality (VR) is that it is made up entirely of computer generated images (CGI) and the experience involves wearing a head mounted display (HMD). The visuals that you are seeing were created digitally by someone and then rendered through a program. When wearing the headset, you’re able to move around and interact with the environment.
360-degree videos/photos are likely all over your Facebook feed. The experience is just like VR; however, it involves no CGI. The visuals are created from multiple photos or a 360-degree camera (i.e. GoPro rig). You can view these photos or videos through an HMD. Alternatively, you can view them on a computer by manually moving around the area with a mouse or keyboard.
Augmented Reality may sound similar to Virtual Reality, but it provides a completely different user experience. AR projects images onto a space that the user is physically occupying. The most common way of executing AR is through a tablet or a computer with an attached camera. An important element to remember about AR is that real-world objects and virtual objects are not able to interact with each other. The virtual objects don’t become part of the real-world objects – they are only projected.
For example, AR could project clothes or jewelry in digital form onto a buyer so he or she could try them on. Or, it could project a couch into your living room so you could visualize what a possible purchase will look like in your home.
But, wait! There’s more. Mixed Reality is often used interchangeably with AR, but there’s a significant difference between the two. The visual experience of MR is similar to AR, however, there is interaction between virtual content and real-world content (not just a projection).
Imagine sitting at your desk with your inbox projected on the table in front of you. A messaging app like Slack or Yammer appears on the wall to your right. And just by touching the table, you can actually type and send a new email message. MR allows virtual and physical objects to function as one.
Explore the most popular MR HMD, Microsoft’s Hololens.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Even further on the horizon is a very secretive company based in Southern Florida, Magic Leap. They use a photonics chip to bounce photons into your eye. They haven’t showed much of what it can do besides a few demo reels. But those alone are amazing! Check it out here.
TECHNOLOGY & MARKETING
Before you make big plans to create your own AR, VR, MR or 360-degree experiences for your company, make sure you understand the investment. Equipment and software for each of these technologies is expensive and there are additional skillsets required (such as video and photo editing). Ensure that you have a proper budget and team in place to allow for a successful exploration of the tool.
We would also recommend starting small and growing into bigger projects as you get more comfortable. For example, try creating a few 360-degree experiences with your smartphone and sharing them on Facebook before buying a GoPro rig to shoot footage for an app.
Remember that technology will continue to advance. Be patient and stay curious as you explore the world of virtual reality and beyond!