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Demystifying AR & VR: The game-changer revolutionising content mktg

Statistics show that VR and AR technology will have a projected economic impact by 2020 of USD 15.6 billion annually, and over the next few years, AR and VR experiences will be found in many more places. Consumer, business-to-business, and educational/training experiences are all being enhanced with VR and AR technology. But a real opportunity lies in the marketing industry.

‘Content is king.’ When Bill Gates first wrote these words in 1996, he little imagined just how true his prophecy would be. In fact, twenty years on, they still ring true – perhaps even more so. After all, we now live in a world where there is so much content constantly being generated, it is difficult for consumers not to feel slightly overwhelmed. Not to mention their shortening attention spans. Truly, the pressure to create engaging content has never been higher. Enter Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

Now, any marketer worth his or her salt would definitely have heard of these terms. You’ve probably also heard about all the amazing things other people have been doing with this technology. But you may have always thought that this was far off in the future, or something ‘other people’ were doing. Think again.

Before you jump the gun, however, ask yourself – do you know exactly what these terms mean? What is the difference between the two? How exactly can marketers harness these tools to enhance their marketing strategies? These are things that any content marketer looking to create content for a great VR or AR experience need to know.

Virtual Reality

To sum up VR in a few words, it is a completely immersive experience, and commonly achieved by wearing a headset and using special equipment that provide a visual, auditory, and sometimes, even a tactile experience. An example of this form of deployment can be seen at the new aquarium experience in Dubai, which uses VR headsets to enhance the visitor’s experience

Another means through which Virtual reality can also be experienced is by viewing presentations designed by sophisticated, holographic projection systems, such as the 7D presentation of animals and sea creatures that debuted at a trade show in Dubai. This example of VR is a sure-fire way to create content people can’t just walk past – it’s a little hard to ignore the elephant in the room, so to speak, especially when it’s life-sized and right in front of your eyes.

And it doesn’t stop there. Other holographic systems are able to create stunningly realistic 3D images, which are visible even under regular lighting conditions. Gone are the days where we had to resort to old theatrical tricks, such as spraying water vapour or smoke into the air, just to make something visible. You don’t even need a projection screen. This amazing technology is demonstrated in a YouTube video from a company called Magic Leap.

These examples speak for themselves; the possibilities with VR are truly endless. For marketing executives and brand managers scouring for new ways to attract consumer attention amidst all the competition, look no further. From the countless opportunities for product placements in VR experiences like video games, to increased visibility through sponsorship of VR presentations at large public venues, this might very well be the next big thing…

What, then, is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality

If the word ‘augment’ wasn’t clue enough, AR basically builds upon user inputs, mixing these with elements generated by the technology, and therefore “enhancing” the user’s reality. This culminates in a unique, one-of-a-kind experience that is partly the user’s own reality, such as an office space, home, or a neighborhood, and partly created by the software application.

One of the most practical applications of AR is the “try before you buy” experience. Want to see how a couch fits in a living room or how a piece of artwork looks on a wall? An AR experience allows you to do just that. With AR, we can place objects virtually in a personal space, so that consumers really get to see what something is going to look like before purchase…In the age of customisation, and faced with increasingly demanding customers, this has never been more important.

This makes AR an extremely useful technique for marketing absolutely anything, from interior designs and artwork, to floor layouts, and paint jobs. It also works in any scenario where you have a physical space, such as an empty room, which needs to be completed by the addition of other elements, say carpeting and furnishing.

And just how does this work?

When the physical space already exists, all the consumer has to do is to take photos with a smartphone from various angles, as well as take note of the room measurements. This data is uploaded to the AR software, which then recreates a 3D version of the room, allowing the consumer to add whatever items he pleases. It’s as simple as that, but so powerful. After all, being able to visualise something other than in the mind’s eye adds so much to the consumer’s experience, ultimately making that much more of an impact.

An example of a clever use of an AR software application is the iPhone app for the iazzu project. This app shows artwork that the iazzu gallery sells, as well as what it would look like on the walls of your home or office. The gallery is already getting a tremendous amount of user-submitted examples of how they used the app to virtually place artwork in their homes or offices. Evidently, to say that people are really appreciating the wonders of AR is a gross understatement.

Content marketing for VR and AR experiences

Of course, to create these VR and AR experiences, both VR and AR require creative content. Besides the images, there is frequently the need for a narration to help guide the viewer through the presentation. Moreover, many of these experiences are interactive and the content needs to be created in bite-sized pieces that can be called upon by the software as needed, such as when the viewer makes an interactive selection.

For example, a viewer choosing paint colors may have a question about warranty, and may want to access that information easily while thinking about the colors. Some resorts use the technology to provide guests with a virtual walk-through experience as a guide to the resort, while golf clubs are using such experiences as training tools, along with “in-person” practice with golf pros. Indeed, the possibilities for using this technology are endless.

Content created for VR and AR is usually based on a storyboard model, with interactive pieces available for selection. This interactive element makes for a much more user-driven experience that is infinitely more satisfying.

There is no denying it – VR and AR experiences are not just the future, but are quickly becoming the reality of consumer engagement. After all, today’s consumer expects brands to continually up the ante before he or she even chooses to engage with your content. The applications of these game-changing tools are endless; all it requires is a little imagination. And anyway, what better way to show consumers that your brand puts consumers first, than by demonstrating that you’re willing to go above and beyond, doing it all on their behalf – including the imagining?

RP Singh

RP Singh, Regional Head of Media, VML SEA & India.