“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein
Virtual Reality is not a new concept. In fact, the term was coined back in the ‘80s by a guy named Jaron Lanier. But we have come to a turning point where we are moving away from the early adopters usage in 2016 to, many predict, mass scale usage (based on products and users) by 2020 (figure 1 and 2).
Figure 1 – Anticipated WW Hardware shipments
“We’re making a long-term bet that immersive, virtual, and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Figure 2 – Anticipated WW Users
While we are seeing some snippets of what IR/VR/AR/MR can do and how they can impact society (think Pokemon Go), predicting where they will go is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that IR/AR/VR/MR have left the station and are well on their way to transforming our business—beyond just gaming.
However, before we go jumping in and recommending this technology because they are the new shiny toy in our box of marketing tools, we need to find where they fit in our marketing mix and do they meet our goals.
The Technology and Product Landscape
IR/VR/AR/MR is a spectrum of interactive experiences. Some of this spectrum is more developed than others. Here is a simple matrix that defines the technologies, along with the products that are associated with them.
Source: Digi-Capital 7/15
The Reality Matrix uses a few basic definitions:
- Virtual: Not based in the real world. We are talking total fantasy land; artificially created sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell
- Augmented: The real world is part of the user experience, but virtual visuals are sprinkled in
- Immersive: The perception of being physically present in a non-physical world
- Ambient: Can provide a 360º view of the world, but it does not provide the same level of experience as the others
The Reality Matrix is made up of four sectors, with some players operating across them to meet different user needs:
- Immersive Virtual Reality makes users react when something virtual interacts with them (e.g., HTC Vive, Oculus)
- Virtual Reality provides a very good interactive experience, but isn’t as immersive because of key drivers like positional tracking (e.g., Samsung Gear VR)
- Augmented Reality is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics (e.g., Meta)
- Mixed Reality or Hybrid Reality merges real and virtual worlds to produce new environments (e.g., Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap), or switches easily between AR and VR (e.g., ODG)
This matrix floats along a virtuality continuum. This is a continuous scale ranging between completely virtual to completely real. The area between the two extremes, where both real and virtual are mixed, is called mixed reality.
Here are some examples of “Realities” used for marketing purposes.
Augmented Reality – IKEA
Virtual Reality – New York Times
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecavbpCuvkI – sample content
Immersive Reality – Google
Mixed Reality – Windows
So are the “Realities” there yet? We still have a ways to go, but the industry is gearing up and there are some things that need to be considered before you move forward.
- Provide the equipment. Do not assume everyone will have an Oculus Rift or the computer hardware to play with.
- Invest in state-of-the-art content. Having the tools and the content necessary is key to a productive interactive experience. Give viewers an experience they couldn’t have otherwise. In other words, use the medium the way it should be used with experiences that are a delight for the senses. Offer a rich recording of an environment with things to see, keeping the experience fun and entertaining.
- Keep it simple. Don’t assume everyone knows how this technology works. Offer detailed instructions. If users do not understand what they are using, then all your work is for naught.
Offer an experience that is useful or desired. Do not do this for the sake of doing it. If there is no customer benefit, other than a cool experience, you are wasting your time. Create scenarios where shoppers can experience the product outside the retail storefront. Think about test driving cars, remodeling a kitchen, trying on clothes. Additionally, give viewers an experience that will make them want to continue watching beyond the initial “that’s cool” moment. Make sure you have a compelling hook to keep folks engaged and eager to return.