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Virtual Reality

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OPINION: Augmented reality is going mainstream by stealth

We may have talked excitedly about Virtual Reality (VR) for the past five years, but it still feels like an emerging  technology.  I read the other day that 63% of Americans are not aware of VR or haven’t got a clear idea what it is, which means there is still a massive wow! factor opportunity.

We have tested VR a lot and have run a couple of campaigns for mobile operator DNA including a pop-up VR downhill ski experience that put the public in the boots of Olympic skiers via two 360-degree giant slalom and ski cross videos.  We used VR because it was cool and new – it hadn’t been attempted before in Finland.

VR is still quite stunt driven because there are limitations, especially with the equipment – good quality sets are still not mainstream.  But in the future it’s going to be huge.  The level of immersion is mindblowing and I can see some custom gaming uses emerging, but by summer 2018 VR will maximise its potential.

VR gives a sense of scale and distance, with its potential uses widespread. For example, I know that VR is used as an effective solution by organisations selling large-scale equipment.  It’s a lot easier to transport a VR setup to demo than it is to transport a military tank.

Because VR gives a really good perspective of being in a particular space, it is also being used to great effect alongside personalisation.  IKEA has used VR to allow shoppers to customise rooms and personally, I think it would be great see a car manufacturer like MINI use VR to produce one-off cars.

I’d love to do a VR walk-round of a MINI, sit inside and adjust it, add my own wishlist and see it brought to life.  It’s great for education too, in fact every time you have to show something new you should use VR.

Having said that, I am going to predict that Augmented Reality (AR) is going to be bigger than VR because of its widespread use on mobile platforms.

Interestingly, most people don’t think they have used AR until you ask them if they use Snapchat filters or play Pokemon Go.  It’s a fantastic sign of impending success when when people use something without knowing it. It’s nearly mainstream.

My ‘watch this space’ tip is to keep a close eye on Mixed Reality. Microsoft Hololens is definitely top of the list as the opportunities are amazing.

Ossi Honkanen is Senior Creative, Manager of Innovation, gadget hoarder and gaming enthusiast at hasan & partners, marketing communications agency with 111 people from 10 different countries, based in Helsinki and Stockholm.

GUEST BLOG: How healthcare firms are embracing Virtual Reality

Just a few years ago, the phrase ‘virtual reality’ would conjure up images of high tech gamers. Today, it’s a very different story. With billions of pounds of investment and half of Silicone Valley now focussed on rolling out VR/AR, it’s time to take the opportunities in this sector very seriously as a marketer.

Cost effective hardware

Over the next two years the industry will be driven by accessibility and affordability of the hardware itself. To date, consumers have been limited on choice, with early adopters splashing out thousands to be the first to jump on the wagon. But there are cost effective alternatives that the mass market is certainly warming to, namely utilising their mobile devices within a built for purpose headset – take Google Daydream and Samsung Gear for example.

Social media will drive VR

Facebook picked up Oculus for a reason. They predicted the VR trend and will play a huge part in making it a daily reality for many of us with the official launch of their Virtual World Project, which has all the signs of changing the way we communicate with each other.

How will brands get involved

We are already seeing big brands incorporate VR into their marketing campaigns, although arguably, right now it’s to drive publicity rather than generate any decent level of return, namely due to the lack of consumer education and accessibility to hardware.

Last Christmas we saw John Lewis give shoppers the chance to virtually bounce along with the animals from its Christmas advert, with the VR aspect being seen as the ‘cherry on the top’ of this huge integrated campaign. This was a great extension, but it’s where consumer experience is a key marketing tool for a brand that this technology comes into its own. The leisure and holiday industry for one is wising up to the power of virtually transporting consumers to its destinations. What better way to show off a beautiful beach resort in is full glory than to give consumers a fully immersive experience without them having to leave their home? Marriott has taken this one step further with telephone booths designed like teleportation devices fitted with heaters and wind jets for complete virtual immersion into a warm, breezy beach destination.

But these mainstream consumer industries are just playing with the technology right now. The consumer healthcare industry on the other hand has so many revenue generation possibilities opened up by VR and AR. In fact, Global Industry Analysts predict that the worldwide market for virtual reality in healthcare will reach $3.8 billion by 2020*.

Healthcare charities have been quick off the mark to recognise this opportunity to drive awareness and education. The UK National Autistic Society has created a VR film enabling people to experience what it’s like to live with the condition and, with the help of Samsung Gear, has taken this on tour around UK shopping centres. From the trade’s perspective, health care professionals can now step into the shoes of sufferers and therefore learn to be more empathetic towards patients.

Similarly, with the help of VR, healthcare and over the counter brands can now add a new dimension of value to their patients, with supportive (and branded) VR experiences that can help with depression and anxiety, SAD, manage pain plus many other ailments.

Furthermore, fully immersive experiences that educate on the correct administration of drugs and self-treatment products deliver a standard and consistency of education never seen before. Not only does this take the brand marketing to a new level but it has the potential to reduce the rising admittances to hospital emergency departments – and could even help prevent death.

Before marketers dismiss this technology due to the perception that it commands a high price tag, they only need to look at 360-degree video. Introduced by Facebook and YouTube in 2015, marketers have at their fingertips entirely immersive and highly interactive videos. Combine the cost of a basic 360-degree camera (£200) and the smartphone’s built-in gyroscope, and suddenly you have a ‘window’ into a virtual environment. Forget the frills and fancy extras of photo booths, a straight forward 360-degree video game alone can provide enhanced education on a product’s offering, benefits and usage.

We as marketers are only just at the beginning of an exciting journey into what it can bring to our wider marketing strategies. Where compelling and fully immersive experiences help to market a brand then these technologies are the future – and they don’t need to blow the budgets. It’s time to recognise the potential, get into the minds of your consumers and start to reap the rewards before other brands steal the show.

Hayden Allen-Vercoe is COO of Orbital Media, digital and social media specialists with experience in delivering virtual reality in consumer healthcare.

Chatbots and VR to take over brand interactions by 2020…

Research by Oracle suggests the relationship between customers and brands is set to undergo a “technological revolution” which will cause the number of human-to-human interactions to fall.

A total of 800 senior marketing and sales professionals across EMEA were polled for the ‘Can Virtual Experiences Replace Reality?’ report and found 78 per cent of brands expect to provide customer experiences through virtual reality in the next four years. Meanwhile, 80 per cent expect to serve customers through chatbots. 

Despite brands willing to embrace new technologies for the customer journey, many are struggling to make use of the valuable customer and prospect data, with 60 per cent not currently including social or CRM data in their customer analytics.

42 per cent already collect a great deal of data from multiple sources, but are unable to extract customer insights from it; and 41 per cent agree smarter analysis of customer data will have the biggest impact on the experience they deliver to their customers.

Daryn Mason, senior director, CX Applications at Oracle said: “While virtual reality may be seen as a passing craze by some, the commitment of some of the world’s biggest companies to develop VR products for consumers suggests otherwise.  Brands will always look to experiment with new technologies as they try to find ways of delivering innovative and memorable experiences for their customers.

“Brands are at a crossroads. There’s an early-mover advantage to experimenting and launching innovative services while others wait and see, but they need to walk before they can run.”

The report indicates brands are looking to implement innovative technologies that allow their customers to continue interacting with brands on their own terms. 80 per cent of brands will be using chatbots for customer interactions by 2020; 78 per cent of brands expect to be using VR for CX by the same year; and 48 per cent have implemented automation technologies in sales, marketing and customer service.

Mason adds: “The reality is that many brands are still unable to get a complete view of each individual customer so the immediate priority needs to be to organise and get value from the data they already have.  Customers will value a quick, helpful, personalised interaction regardless of how it’s delivered so there’s hope for us humans yet.”

Access the full report here