augmented reality marketing

Augmented reality glasses are coming

We may all be glassholes soon, which is great news for augmented reality marketing agencies.

The augmented reality revolution is well underway: over the past couple years, tech and social media giants like Snapchat, Facebook, Apple, and Google have slowly made AR a part of everyday life. Augmented reality marketing campaigns are becoming more common and millions of iOS users now have access to AR features.

Yet, despite the public’s voracious appetite for facial filters, Animojis, and furniture placement apps, the prospect of ubiquitous AR glasses still sounds like science fiction. After all, the first incarnation of Google Glass – which has admittedly experienced a renaissance in business and manufacturing settings – launched less than five years ago to cynical jeers from the public. The term glasshole, inspired by the dual evils of pretention and creepiness that Glass-users exuded, is perhaps the gadget’s most enduring legacy.

However, if rumblings from the tech and augmented reality marketing worlds are to be believed, that’s all about to change. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), hosted in Vegas as always, provided a showcase for a number of augmented reality glasses. The Verge called Vuzix’s Blade AR “the real deal.”

“The Blade provides all the benefits Google Glass provided, but better,” wrote Nick Statt. “The display is larger, clearer, and in full color. It can be moved around your vision by toggling a slider up and down in the setting of the device itself. The glasses themselves are prescription ready and weigh less than three ounces.”

The Blade isn’t physically tethered to a smartphone or computer, but can connect to the internet via Wi-Fi and pair with Android or Apple devices to display notifications, videos, and pictures. A developer version of the headset is expected in the coming months, and Vuzix is targeting the second quarter of this year for a consumer launch. The Blade costs $1,000 US today, but the company wants to cut that price by more than 50 per cent

To be sure, the Blade isn’t the perfect AR headset: it can’t touch Microsoft’s HoloLens in terms of sophistication, and it still looks a little goofy. But the HoloLens isn’t intended for mass consumption, and the Blade remains a significant improvement on Google Glass in terms functionality and style.

Reviews suggest the Blade was the cream of the crop of AR headsets at CES. In a separate article, Statt notes that the majority of headset developers at the event appeared to be “waiting for one of the really big players to take all of these disparate hardware and software ideas and marry them together into a breakthrough product.”

It’s possible that Intel may already have done just that. In early February, the company introduced its Vaunt smart glasses, which look stunningly similar to prescription frames. Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge, elaborates:

“There is no camera to creep people out, no button to push, no gesture area to swipe, no glowing LCD screen, no weird arm floating in front of the lens, no speaker, and no microphone (for now).

From the outside, the Vaunt glasses look just like eyeglasses. When you’re wearing them, you see a stream of information on what looks like a screen, but it’s actually being projected onto your retina.”

Now that’s science fiction! With Vaunt, Intel is aiming to create a pair of smart glasses that everyday users can wear without negative social consequences.

“We wanted to make sure somebody puts this on and gets value without any of the negative impact of technology on their head,” NHD head of products Itai Vonshak told Bohn. “Everything from the ground up is designed to make the technology disappear.”

Intel will allow some developers early access to Vaunt, but no consumer release date has been revealed. Bloomberg reported on February 1 that the company plans to sell a majority stake in the glasses to a business with stronger sales channels and design expertise.

Apple, too, is rumoured to be hard at work on a consumer-facing AR headset. Tim Cook’s company made its augmented reality ambitions clear when it launched ARKit last year, and Cook has been hyping the technology for months. An official announcement could be made as early as this year, and some analysts believe the product could be in stores by 2020.

“Apple’s in need of a new product category,” wrote TechRadar’s Gerald Lynch. “The last time Apple launched an inarguably successful new product line was the iPad – and even that has proved difficult to maintain momentum in. AR is an exciting new area, and one in which Apple (at least in hardware terms) wouldn’t have huge competition in, at least in the present.”

Will AR glasses from Apple be accepted where Google Glass was not? If Apple were to introduce its headset today, it seems unlikely that consumers would flock to such an alien product. On the other hand, Apple has a reputation for waiting until the iron is hot before striking. A 2020 launch may give the public enough time with other augmented reality products to overcome its glasshole-inspired bias against AR wearables. Augmented reality marketing agencies certainly hope that’s the case.

Read More


0 Comments7 Minutes

VR agency

A brief look at the year in virtual and augmented reality

‘Tis the season for everyone’s favourite form of writing: end-of-year retrospectives. From the ubiquitous ‘Best Of’ lists to woeful reminiscences of a year uniquely marked by political upheaval, violence, and natural disasters, your reading schedule is undoubtedly packed with must-see content. Now, allow us to add our two cents: here is a look back at the year in virtual and augmented reality, from the perspective of a VR agency.

The year of AR

If 2016 was the year of virtual reality, as some have suggested, then 2017 was the year of AR. Augmented reality earned the full-fledged backing of tech titans Apple and Google, which released their respective ARKit and ARCore development platforms almost simultaneously. (Learn more about the competing SDKs here).

Augmented reality also featured heavily at Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X announcement, and the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, aggressively promoted the technology in interviews all year. Now, in the dying days of 2017, the immersive technology industry is abuzz with rumours that Apple will launch a consumer AR headset as early as 2019. By any measure, this was a banner year for augmented reality.

Marketers get on board

Retailers and businesses of all sorts adopted virtual and augmented reality marketing tactics in 2017, as we discussed in the following blog posts: https://www.vusionvr.com/virtual-reality-marketing-agencies-ota; https://www.vusionvr.com/will-virtual-reality-fundamentally-change-marketing-industry.

We at VusionVR were proud to contribute to this trend. Throughout 2017, our VR agency partnered with companies in a variety of sectors – from education to hospitality to manufacturing – to develop 360° video and virtual reality marketing experiences. (You can check out the fruits of some of these partnerships here: https://www.vusionvr.com/360-vr-videos/.) Towards the end of the year, we also embarked on some augmented reality projects, including an application for Hakim Optical that you can experience on the web or through apps available at the App Store and Google Play.

Virtual and augmented reality have the potential to revolutionize marketing. While each has different benefits and presents different opportunities, both can deliver unique and immersive marketing experiences that customers are unlikely to forget.

The realities find their niches

Augmented reality and virtual reality, once inseparable in articles about new frontier technology, diverged and established their own identities in 2017.

Even for those outside of a VR agency, virtual reality is the better-known quantity of the two: hardware sales have stabilized; virtual reality arcades are now a familiar sight in big cities; and Google Cardboard-compatible experiences are common at trade shows, industry events, and sports venues. Though the technology has plenty of room to mature, VR is for now comfortably established as a cutting-edge gaming, marketing, and storytelling tool.

Augmented reality’s future is less clear but brimming with potential. Thanks to ARKit, tens of thousands of Apple users now have functional AR tools in their pockets, and Android users aren’t far behind. The ubiquity of AR-compatible devices is sure to make augmented reality a popular – perhaps even essential – feature of everyday life.

Even while the much of the world suffered through a turbulent year, 2017 treated the VR and AR industries well. At VusionVR, we look forward to an even more prosperous 2018 – if you’re interested in incorporating immersive digital technologies in your marketing strategy contact VusionVR today to learn how we can help.

 

Image credit: Xosema/Wikimedia Commons

Read More


0 Comments4 Minutes

virtual reality production

Arcades and virtual reality are a natural fit

Whether industry leaders and virtual reality production agencies like it or not, VR appears to have found a home in arcades. The VR/AR Association, a global community of leading minds in the immersive technology sector, estimates that there are more than 400 virtual reality arcades in cities around the world. Arcades are now considered a vital and practical access point to VR.

But are arcades virtual reality’s final destination? Are they too niche, too likely to be a passing fancy? Does VR’s presence in arcades set the industry up for long-term failure?

The original ‘golden era’ of arcade video games spanned roughly 1979 to 1983. During that period, arcades were an international phenomenon. People of all ages flocked to arcades to socialize, compete, and while away the hours.

Virtual reality shares several characteristics with the arcade games that dominated the early 80s. In particular, the technology is cutting edge and the price of individual units is too high for most gamers to afford their own. That combination makes VR a natural fit for arcade-style settings that let consumers enjoy top-end experiences without paying an arm and a leg for an HTC Vive, for example.

The Void, a Utah-based company that combines physical mazes with free-roaming virtual reality, proves that destination VR gaming can work, and work well. It now has locations in New York and Toronto, in addition to its home state.

Recently, The Verge’s Bryan Bishop tried out Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a collaboration between The Void and Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division, ILMxLAB.  Via VR headset, the game takes you to the molten planet Mustafar, where you must blast, puzzle, and fight your way to recovering Imperial intelligence vital to the rebellion’s survival.

Bishop loved it.

“For mainstream audiences,” he wrote, “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire may be the first time virtual reality actually delivers on the Holodeck-esque potential it’s been promising all along.”

With companies like The Void leading the way, destination VR gaming has introduced consumers to virtual reality and exposed them to the best experiences on the market. If boosting awareness and demonstrating VR’s potential are arcades’ purpose, then they are succeeding, and virtual reality production agencies can give thanks.

Golden era arcades did the same thing for video games. Today, the global video game market is worth well over $90-billion dollars; arcades, at least in North America, are all but dead.

It’s unclear whether VR gaming can emulate the success of the wider video game industry, though. The fundamental components of arcade games – a screen and a controller – were fairly easily reproduced on a wide scale and distributed at a reasonable price. The costs associated with personal VR gaming are sure to come down, but can home virtual reality gaming platforms ever replicate an experience like Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire? Or has VR gaming already reached a premature peak?

While virtual reality production in marketing continues to thrive and VR headset sales creep upwards, VR arcades will continue to help bring the technology to the masses. Whether VR gaming follows the path forged by the wider video game industry, though, remains to be seen.

Read More


0 Comments4 Minutes

VR video production agency

Will the film industry welcome virtual reality?

In a recent interview with WIRED Magazine, legendary filmmaker Steven Soderbergh addressed a number of hot-button film industry topics, including virtual reality. If you’re part of a VR video production agency and hoping for a glowing assessment of virtual reality in film, prepare to be disappointed, at least temporarily.

Pessimism

“There are several things working against it,” Soderbergh said. “When you can’t see your protagonist, it’s virtually impossible to hook into the story. This is how we engage, looking into the eyes of the protagonist.”

Soderbergh wasn’t done: he listed such diverse issues as headset discomfort, isolated viewing experiences, and the inability for directors to incorporate montage as significant barriers to successful VR filmmaking. All-in-all, Mr. Soderbergh is skeptical of virtual reality’s potential as a long-form narrative format.

Optimism

Opinions like Soderbergh’s haven’t dampened the film industry’s enthusiasm for virtual reality, though. At the Busan International Film Festival this October, a standing room only crowd listened intently as VR evangelists sang the medium’s praises.

“To me, VR is like a dream, you can walk, you can fly, you can do anything,” said Jerome Blanquet, creator of Alteration, a VR experience starring Bill Skarsgard, Pom Klementieff, Lizzie Broscheré and Amira Casar.

“We think the impact of this medium is going to be incredibly powerful,” added Eugene Chung, whose project Arden’s Wake won Best Virtual Reality at the Venice Film Festival. “There’s a spaceship factor. When video games came out I think we as a society underestimated their impact so there are definitely things we need to look out for in VR in the coming years.”

The Cannes and Tribeca film festivals have also introduced special virtual reality categories, and IMAX has invested heavily in the technology, opening its first IMAX VR centre in Los Angeles earlier this year. In November, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences signaled their support for VR by awarding Alejandro G. Inarritu, director of Birdman and The Revenant, a special Oscar for his virtual reality project Carne y Arena, which portrays the experience of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. All of these are good signs for any VR video production agency with plans for the future.

Reality

So which is it? Is virtual reality the next big thing in film? Or are the challenges it presents too many and too imposing to overcome?

The reality, as is so often the case, likely lies somewhere in between. In fact, a recent incident at Australia’s Adelaide Film Festival is a useful metaphor for the current state of VR in film.

This year, in lieu of a feature film, attendees of the festival’s opening night gala took in a virtual reality experience called The Summation of Force, by Trent Parke, Narelle Autio, and Matthew Bate.

Here’s how The Guardian’s Luke Buckmaster described the events: “After excitable speeches and a countdown – huge descending numbers displayed on a cinema-sized screen behind the stage – the VR film we’re there to watch doesn’t actually work. My screen says “video loading”; on every table, confused guests lift their headsets off their faces and ask each other what is going on.”

After roughly 40 minutes of speeches and troubleshooting, attendees were able to view the film, which Buckmaster describes as “visually striking” and “both voyeuristic and highly stylised.”

This rollercoaster experience – overwhelming hype leading to technical difficulties and, eventually, a satisfying, memorable payoff – mirrors virtual reality’s ongoing journey within the film industry. The technology has been endorsed by influential industry figures and now must struggle through technical conundrums, monetization issues, and the skepticism of a conservative public. If imaginative filmmakers and the odd VR video production agency are able to resolve these issues, virtual reality could have a bright future in Hollywood and beyond.

Read More


0 Comments5 Minutes

virtual reality marketing

Advertising and marketing in augmented reality

Our last post examined China’s competitive advantage in both augmented and virtual reality, touching briefly on the adoption of immersive marketing by some of the nation’s largest tech companies. We’ve already discussed the many existing and potential applications of virtual reality marketing – now, let’s take a look at how companies are using augmented reality to attract new customers and improve user experiences.

Augmented reality as an element of digital marketing

Augmented and virtual reality marketing is a form of digital marketing, in that it relies on digital channels to deliver promotional media, more often than not via the internet. Over the past several years, digital marketing’s reputation has been tarnished by obtrusive, non-consensual messaging through tactics like interstitials and prevideos. Young customers, particularly those in the Millennial and Generation Z cohorts, aren’t fans of these approaches, preferring something more organic and experiential.

“They want it to be a conversation, they want to engage,” Lithium Technologies CEO Rob Tarkoff said in an interview with SFGate. “It has to be a two-way interaction if brands want to succeed. It can’t be one way any longer.”

Enter augmented and virtual reality marketing.

VR and AR play two different roles in the digital marketing realm: VR is used to create detailed, immersive messaging that help brands connect with their target audience and sells a unique culture or experience; AR is more flexible, scalable, and portable, and is ideally suited to the mobile world.

“AR represents the most addressable audience of any emerging platform that’s started out of the gate,” Julie Shumaker, Unity Technologies’ VP of advertiser solutions told Quartz. “It’s really a game-changer in the consumer’s opportunity to engage in their real environment with the product or service.”

Smartphones are augmented reality’s native platform, meaning just about every customer of every major brand in North America spends a substantial chunk of their day interacting with the one tool they need to experience AR. That makes adoption on a massive scale an almost foregone conclusion; after all, millions of users are already comfortable with AR on social media.

Applying Instagram- or Snapchat-style facial filter technology to the surrounding world is the next logical step for AR developers. Indeed, Snapchat introduced World Lenses that let you add AR elements to any scene in April. Now, innovative organizations are experimenting with similar technology. Some airports, for example, are experimenting with AR wayfinding tools and informational overlays, and malls are mapping products to help shoppers easily find what they’re looking for.

Technology en vogue

The fashion industry, already a global leader in virtual reality marketing (check out paragraph nine: https://www.vusionvr.com/will-virtual-reality-fundamentally-change-marketing-industry/) has added AR to its portfolio. Take Burberry as an example: using Apple’s ARKit, the high-end British fashion house developed an augmented reality feature for its existing mobile app that “interacts with users’ camera feeds to digitally redecorate their surroundings with Burberry-inspired drawing by the artist Danny Sangra,” Bloomberg reports. Users can share the enhanced images to social media with a swanky Burberry frame.

French cosmetics giant L’Oréal owns several AR apps that let users digitally experiment with thousands of hair and makeup products via their smartphone cameras. The apps, including Makeup Genius and Style My Hair, not only put users in full control of the marketing experience, but also generate mountains of data for the company.

“It’s an immense source of data in terms of understanding what consumers like, what they like less in terms of colors, looks, textures,” L’Oréal’s chief digital officer, Lubomira Rochet, told AdWeek. “For our marketing and our labs, it’s a great source of insight in terms of trends and it helps us deliver makeup collections.”

As if to emphasize AR’s utility to the fashion world, Vogue UK scored an exclusive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss augmented reality’s impending impact on fashion and shopping. Check that out here: http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/exclusive-apple-ceo-tim-cook-future-of-fashion-augmented-reality.

Making marketing fun

virtual reality marketing
Image courtesy Johnamarie Macias (Twitter: @BlueJaigEyes)

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an article about the commercial viability of augmented reality that doesn’t name-drop Pokemon Go, and this one is no exception. Pokemon Go, created by San Francisco-based software development company Niantic, thrust AR into the international spotlight when it became a worldwide phenomenon in late 2016.

Brands have naturally tried to capitalize on the obvious popularity of location-based augmented reality games. Star Wars’ “Find the Force” campaign, for example, directed fans to international landmarks (including Niagara Falls and the CN Tower, pictured to the right!) to witness characters from its upcoming film in their hometown skies. The Walking Dead debuted an experience that let users find and collect AR zombies.

Just weeks after filing for bankruptcy, Toys R Us announced an AR experience intended to drive shoppers offline and into physical locations. Visitors are greeted by the company’s mascot, Geoffrey the giraffe, and ushered around the store by icons and stickers. Kids can scan certain items, which come to life through their mobile device.

“It’s going to transform the experience of coming into a Toys R Us bricks and mortar store and turn it into something that’s quite different and a lot more fun,” CEO Dave Brandon told USA Today. “We believe that’s going to drive a lot more traffic into our stores which will ultimately put us in a position where we can be more successful at growing our sales and our company.”

Augmented and virtual reality marketing is here to stay

Despite their differences, augmented and virtual reality marketing is part of a new wave of digital marketing that puts power back in customers hands. Users are no longer content to be bombarded with unwelcome online advertising; they want carefully curated messaging that provides something of value, be it information, an experience, or an opportunity to share with their friends.

Read More


0 Comments8 Minutes

virtual reality production agency

China’s augmented and virtual reality advantage

With the release of ARKit and ARCore, every developer, early adopting consumer, and virtual reality production agency is atwitter at the prospect of encountering augmented reality experiences in day-to-day digital life. The hype around AR today is perhaps even more feverish than that which surrounded virtual reality at the beginning of 2016, the fabled “year of VR.”

Despite countless gaming, communication, education, marketing, and healthcare applications for both technologies, though, the year of VR didn’t usher in far-reaching mainstream adoption, and popular AR apps have yet to regularly push the technology beyond facial filters and Pokemon Go-style amusements. We know that augmented and virtual reality have the potential to alter every part of our lives, but when will it happen? How can we expedite the emergence of these revolutionary technologies?

The answer might be found in China, where augmented and virtual reality are unmitigated successes –ninety-five per cent of Chinese respondents to a recent Worldpay survey reported using AR or VR technology in the past three months. Several factors have contributed to VR and AR’s consumer viability in China, including lower costs, wider accessibility (especially for VR), government buy-in, and fierce competition between the nation’s technology leaders.

Lower prices; wider adoption

In late 2016, Xiaomi, the world’s fifth-largest smartphone manufacturer, released the Mi VR headset. It is essentially the Chinese equivalent to the Samsung Gear: wireless, powered by a compatible smartphone, and extremely affordable.

“This device is particularly promising for the democratization of VR hardware,” wrote Medium’s Yoni Dayan in February. The Mi, he continued, goes “far beyond the brand’s first inroad at the market, the Xiaomi VR, a simili-Cardboard remarked for its quality and its great affordability.”

Devices like the Mi have made virtual reality accessible to just about everyone in China: virtual reality kiosks are a common sight at malls and the country is home to upwards of 3000 VR arcades.

Tech and marketing buy-in; competition between companies

The easy availability of VR headsets combined with China’s massive smartphone user base makes both virtual and augmented reality attractive marketing platforms, and the country’s technology leaders have seized the opportunity. Baidu, China’s largest search provider; Alibaba, an international e-commerce leader; and Tencent, whose WeChat messaging app boasts nearly a billion active users, have all invested in VR and AR projects that would make any North America virtual reality production agency proud.

These include:

  • A virtual reality shopping technology, launched by Alibaba on Single’s Day 2016, that allows users to browse, shop, and watch models on a catwalk in a virtual environment.
  • Alibaba also collaborated with Tencent on augmented reality games for China’s New Year holiday, wherein users would scan physical objects with their smartphones in order to access financial rewards. According to Venture Beat, Tencent reported attracting 200-million new WeChat users based on a similar campaign in 2014.
  • Baidu launched an AR platform called DuSee AR, which allows users to interact with 3D overlays and view various AR effects corresponding to different search keywords. It has also teamed with the provincial government of Hubei to create augmented reality wayfinding tools for the Shennongjia travel site.
  • Even KFC is in on the fun, teaming with Baidu and Yum! Brands to create an AR smartphone game for the fried chicken chain’s 300 Beijing locations.

Big government

Behind all this success lies China’s controlling, unitary government. The People’s Republic has pushed for the digitalization of traditional businesses and rapid adoption of new technologies through its “Internet Plus” initiative, which now includes virtual and augmented reality. Indeed, President Xi Jinping stated in his address at the 2016 B20 Summit that “the combination of the virtual economy and the real economy will bring revolutionary changes to our way of work and way of life.”

For all its many faults, the Chinese government’s seemingly contradictory embrace of state control and inter-company competition has made the country a global leader in augmented and virtual reality technology. Every savvy virtual reality production agency should take note.

Read More


1 Comment5 Minutes

virtual reality production

Google and Apple are engaged in a fight for AR developers’ hearts

Towards the beginning of the summer, Apple released its augmented reality development platform, ARKit, to enthusiastic acclaim from the developer community. For those not in the know, augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-generated images on a user’s view of the real world. Think Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go, for example.

“The most impressive aspect of ARKit is that it tends to just work,” Cody Brown of virtual reality production studio IRL told Motherboard, echoing praise of Apple’s other elegant products.

In the weeks following its release, developers used ARKit to create some pretty stunning augmented reality demos and experiences. You can find a few standouts in this article from Wired, including a furniture-sampling effort from IKEA, a Pokemon Go-style first person shooter, and an app to help you locate friends in a crowd.

A few months after ARKit’s release, Google launched ARCore in response to Apple’s already popular software development kit (SDK). According to Medium’s Matt Miesnieks, ARCore borrows heavily from Google’s prior augmented reality development program, Project Tango, meaning it has “at least 2 years more development inside Google than ARKit had inside Apple.”

With the launch of ARKit and ARCore, two of the world’s largest and most-successful companies have committed to the long term success of augmented reality, and opened up a new front in a war that has already pitted Macs versus PCs and iPhones versus Androids.

(Incidentally, Facebook also has an augmented reality development platform, AR Studio, but it hasn’t matched ARKit or ARCore in terms of hype and publicity.)

So, which company is better positioned to dominate the augmented reality market: Apple or Google? According to Beck Besecker, CEO and co-founder of Marxent, neither SDK is sufficiently superior to constitute a knockout punch.

“[ARKit and ARCore] both have great functionality without appreciable differences,” he told Mashable. “Combined, they lend significant momentum to mass market augmented reality experiences. It’s a big wake up call to both investors and developers that the technology to support AR experiences is here, and that now is the time to take advantage.”

Apple appears much closer to distributing AR content on a large scale, however. While Facebook and Google dedicated significant resources to virtual reality production in 2015 and 2016, Apple’s focus remained on AR. With the company now ready to launch iOS 11 and introduce the new iPhone 8, many millions of Apple users will soon have instant access to a rich augmented reality app environment.

There are more Android than iOS users out there, but ARCore is currently only available on the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8, so Apple looks primed to dominate the AR space in the near future – and we all know how tough it is to lure Apple users away from the comforts of the iOS ecosystem.

For more information on augmented reality development, virtual reality production, and other issues in the AR/VR/360° space, feel free to contact VusionVR today, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

 

Image credit: Oral Ofori/Vimeo

Read More


1 Comment4 Minutes

VR production agencies

The budding present and cloudy future of virtual and augmented reality art

In July, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) launched ReBlink, an augmented reality exhibit created by local artist Alex Mayhew that transforms static, two-dimensional artworks into something fresh and exciting. News of an AR exhibit in one of North America’s largest and best-respected galleries got us thinking: where is the virtual, augmented, and mixed reality art world going, what challenges does it face, and how can VR production agencies leverage this new form of creative expression?

Virtual reality art

Though Mayhew’s AR exhibit inspired this article, virtual reality has been the primary vehicle for artists looking to produce immersive pieces. Montreal’s Phi Centre, for instance, is currently hosting a VR exhibition entitled Lucid Realities. The show features a collection of pieces that “blur the lines between art, film, video games and … reality itself,” wrote the Montreal Gazette’s Christopher Curtis last month. Judging from his review of the exhibit, Curtis particularly enjoyed “Life of Us,” a piece that traces the history of Earth. Users don a VR headset and begin their voyage as “floating matter” before being propelled forward in time to become tadpoles, reptiles, dinosaurs, gorillas, and other spectators to the planet’s slow evolution.

“At its best,” writes Curtis, “the medium immerses you into a perspective you otherwise couldn’t begin to imagine.”

Other artists are choosing to forego Life of Us’s narrative qualities in favour of singular immersive experiences. German-Danish artist Christian Lemmerz created a piece entitled “La Apparizione,” which is presented in a small room containing nothing but a headset. Patrons put on the headset and find themselves in outer space, confronted by a massive golden depiction of crucified Jesus Christ. Viewers are able to circle the figure to examine the fabled lash scars on its back and wreath of thorns on its head.

Pricing

Lemmerz’s La Apparizione leads us into an area of uncertainty in the virtual reality art world: pricing. Thanks to an influx in virtual reality and 360° marketing experiences, VR production agencies are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their work. The nascent virtual reality art world, on the other hand, is generally void of precedents.

“At the moment, video art works are the only comparison,” Khora Contemporary’s Sandra Nedvetskaia told CNN. “But (some collectors) have likened (virtual reality artworks) to sculptures because, of course, you find yourself in the middle of that particular artist’s moving sculpture.”

This lawless pricing environment allows artists to be as generous or rapacious as they choose. Lemmerz produced five editions of La Apparizione, and attached a rather ambitious price tag of $100,000 to each. A virtual reality work by contemporary artist Paul McCarthy is reportedly available for $300,000, while lesser-known artists may choose to distribute their pieces free-of-charge to anyone with a headset.

Other Questions

How will independent artists cope with the development costs that accompany ambitious virtual reality and augmented reality artworks? Will the production of VR and AR art be restricted to talented coders and engineers, can it ever be democratized, and can VR production agencies help fulfill artists’ visions? How will virtual artists protect their work when it is, as CNN puts it, “infinitely replicable”? Will VR video game designers, who are already creating breathtakingly lush and immersive virtual environments, earn the artistic recognition they deserve in this frontier medium? The answers to these questions will slowly materialize when – and if – VR and AR art mature.

The growth of virtual and augmented reality today is being driven by some of the world’s largest and most profitable companies. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are all aggressively developing applications for these emerging mediums. These companies will be responsible for the technological evolution of VR and AR.

Everyday consumers, though, won’t adopt innovative technologies simply because they are innovative; they need to be able to connect with products in a more fundamental, instinctual way. VR production agencies and VR/AR artists both have a role to play here by creating meaningful content that users can form connections with. Like all great art, VR and AR art should evoke strong emotions and create lasting bonds. When virtual and augmented reality art can impact human beings on a deep, emotional level, we’ll know the medium is ready for mainstream acceptance.

If you’re in Montreal, check out Lucid Realities at the Phi Centre until December 16, 2017. ReBlink is ongoing at the AGO until December 3.

Read More


0 Comments6 Minutes

virtual reality marketing agencies

Can virtual reality and 360° technology help hotel chains compete with online travel agencies?

Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Priceline and Expedia are facing a backlash from large hotel chains over their growing market share and steep commission fees. In a battle waged primarily online, traditional hospitality companies like Hyatt Hotels, Marriot International, and Hilton Worldwide are trying to reclaim business from the OTAs through wide-reaching marketing campaigns promoting loyalty programs, exclusive discount rates and deals, free Wi-Fi, and other perks and bonuses. Now, virtual reality marketing agencies think they can help.

OTAs have become a go-to resource for young travellers in particular: more than half of 18- to 34-year-old Americans prefer search engines to branded hotel websites, and they are generally less likely to participate in a rewards program. Millennials are also drawn to third-party sites’ range of date and location options, as well as the ability to package hotel stays with car rentals and air travel.

Led by Expedia and Priceline, OTAs drove almost $100-billion in global hotel bookings in 2016, the first year OTA bookings surpassed gross bookings through hotel websites. According to estimates from Kalibri Labs, OTA commission fees cost the American hotel industry roughly $4.5-billion between June 2015 and June 2016.

“The tension between OTAs and hotels is increasing because the OTAs have been growing market share,” Cowen analyst Kevin Kopelman told the New York Post. “Over the past 18 months, the OTAs have increased their market share significantly.”

Will the hotel chains’ marketing emphasis on value and service be enough to effectively ward off the OTAs’ challenge? Or will a new, innovative approach to attracting customers be necessary? Virtual reality marketing agencies believe they have the answer…

Digital marketing professionals live by the mantra “Content is King.” This basically means that great content – written, video, or otherwise – should be central to businesses’ online marketing efforts. If you produce content that is useful, engaging, and relevant, the thinking goes, users will be more likely to visit, return to, and convert on your website.

Forward thinking hoteliers, with the help of virtual reality marketing agencies, have already begun to leverage 360° and virtual reality technology to offer unique marketing experiences that OTAs aren’t able to reproduce. In particular, 360° videos and 360° three-dimensional virtual reality (360°/3D/VR) tours give customers a chance to explore, get comfortable with, and gain an intimate understanding of hotels’ lodgings and amenities.

360° videos have a significant advantage over traditional marketing campaigns: they allow audiences to experience and form lasting emotional connections with places, products and services. In the hospitality context, hoteliers can offer travelers a brief, immersive look at the atmosphere and facilities that make their location unique.

A 360°/3D/VR tour, meanwhile, is a complete, three-dimensional representation of a real world space in a digital environment. These experiences are generally produced with the help of a 3D camera that maps and reproduces spaces in astonishing detail. Users can explore the space by navigating from hot-spot to hot-spot on desktop or mobile devices, or in a virtual reality headset. There is no better way for a potential customer to explore a space and make an informed decision than with the help of a 360°/3D/VR tour.

These immersive experiences require a level of familiarity with and access to hotels that OTAs simply don’t have. For all the filters and search options that Expedia or Priceline may provide, they can’t offer the intimate knowledge that brand websites inherently possess.

Immersive experiences are also fun! Young people, the very same group that has taken to OTAs above brand websites, are among the web’s most discerning content consumers. Immersive, 360° experiences are fresh, forward-thinking, and memorable – which is exactly why virtual reality marketing agencies believe they can draw traffic away from well-established online travel agencies.

 

 

Photo credit: Vimeo

 

 

Read More


0 Comments5 Minutes

virtual reality tours

Matterport, virtual reality tours, and real estate marketing

Many casual observers of the virtual reality industry have noted the sluggish rate at which consumers are purchasing personal VR systems. Several obstacles stand in the way of virtual reality’s becoming a leading personal entertainment platform, with the admittedly alienating experience of donning a bulky headset chief among them. In fact, the development of truly social virtual reality experiences – like Facebook’s Spaces – may precede widespread adoption among average consumers

If this reality has you believing “VR ain’t happening,” think again. A virtual reality headset in every home has always been a long-term goal for developers, but a VR experience for every business is becoming increasingly attainable. Virtual reality marketing is taking off, as we’ve discussed before, and no industry has adopted the technology as enthusiastically and effectively as real estate. VR is tailor-made for this hyper-competitive sector, and 3D/360°/virtual reality tours are a big reason why.

Matterport is leading the ‘virtual reality for real estate push.’ The California-based immersive media technology company offers an end-to-end system for creating, modifying, distributing, and navigating immersive 3D and virtual reality tours of real-world spaces. VusionVR is a proud early adopter of Matterport’s technology, and our clients have responded enthusiastically to the detailed, intuitive tours we’ve been able to produce.

“While traditional forms of marketing real estate fizzle out, a new era of digital marketing has dawned,” wrote R.L. Adams in a colourful March 9 article for Forbes.com. He’s right: as of March 2017, Matterport had captured more than 400,000 spaces, including homes and condos, commercial real estate and retail shops, restaurants and hotels, and historical locations and landmarks in more dozens of countries. Together, these experiences have attracted over 100-million views.

There are a number of factors that make 3D and virtual reality tours attractive to realtors. Most importantly, they offer the best alternative to an in-person visit: prospective homebuyers can tour full properties step-by-step, or zoom out to a “Dollhouse” view and pick and choose the rooms they want to experience. The technology provides a level of detail that can’t be captured by renders, floor plans, photographs or video tours. Users are fully in control of their experience: they can devise furniture placements, make decisions about what room will serve what purpose, and visualize themselves in the home.

In other words, 3D and virtual reality real estate tours allow potential customers to form an emotional relationship with the spaces they tour. “Pictures are just pictures,” homebuyer Cathy Lawton told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in an article about VR’s impact on the real estate industry. “But when you can spin around inside those rooms, you can really get a good feel for what that house is like.”

3D and virtual reality real estate tours are also emblematic of the industry’s increasingly global scope. As travel between countries becomes more and more accessible, and as globalization continues to tighten its grip on economies around the world, expect to see a growing number of realtors market homes to foreign buyers using 3D/VR tours as an indispensible tool.

To get a better idea of the impact 3D and virtual reality tours can have on marketing a real estate development, check out some of the experiences we’ve put together for clients, or feel free to contact our team directly.

 

Photo via matterport.com

Read More


0 Comments4 Minutes