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  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Changing Marketers’ Trend

In the present days, we experience the launch of new and shiny marketing objects very often and all the associated hype that comes along with it stating about their power of changing the world. This phenomenon became so typical that it made Gartner develop a methodology to represent where each new promising technology came in the “hype cycle”.

There is a buzz among the marketers where they are discussing how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) would be changing the marketing scenario. It is therefore needed that a practical approach should be adopted to understand the difference between what potentially could take place and what is nothing but hype.

Augmented Reality

The superimposition of digital data and “objects” into a real-time camera view of a live surrounding is known as Augmented Reality (AR). Though the presence of technology extends for a longer period of time its significant application into the field of marketing is relatively new. Overlay AR and 3D AR are the two basic versions of this technology.

The digital data or objects are not connected to the scale or exact layout of the physical world in the Overlay AR environment. The digital object is just triggered by some data or event, like a GPS coordinate. A good example of Overlay AR environment is the popular Pokémon Go app from Niantic Inc. where users are able to search imaginary Pokemon characters and after finding them the character appears superimposed on the video stream from their smartphone camera. The digital objects can range from being images or other data like video; audio; numbers, outside temperatures, and coordinates; or text data like names of buildings. In many instances, an object’s placement is done through GPS coordinates like already discussed in Pokémon Go example or it might be triggered suing some visual cue like a QR code or a special image placed on a card.

3D AR is an invention of Kaon Interactive, where a digital 3D product model is placed into the camera view of the physical space with some vital characteristics:

  1. The object is scaled to fit, with the suitable dimensions, relative to the physical space surrounding it.
  2. The object is placed in a position without the visual cues or special cards usage. It is done in such a way that allows the object to "remain" in its position even when the camera (the phone or tablet) is shifted and brought back to where the object was placed. It suggests something called object permanence in a digital sense.
  3. The object is interactive letting the user open doors, remove parts, spin, turn etc. while it is being viewed as if in the physical environment.

Virtual Reality

In VR, users after putting ether goggles or headsets, are “placed” into a digital/virtual representation of a physical environment allowing them to explore and look it as they would have if present in the real world. With their head movement, they view the space in the same way as they would have looked in that direction when present in the real world and this effect is called “immersion”.

The headsets used in VR has either with a built-in vision system and dedicated computer or a headpiece, which simply encapsulates the user's smartphone to use as the display and computer system. For e.g. In Google Cardboard the users are allowed to use their smartphones in a headset experience and in Oculus Rift, which is high-definition headset connected to an external computer. In most of the VR games where the users are able to either can "drive" a car or "fire" a weapon, the reaction of the application is appropriate and is in sync with the user’s action in an interactive manner, allowing the player to have a sense of action and presence.

360 Videos

The 360-degree video, which is one more type of application is many times confused with AR or VR. In 360 video, there is a video of a real scene shot with multiple cameras/lenses being pointed in all directions simultaneously. The main aim is to allow the viewer the option to "turn" in any direction and see the action reveal from that viewpoint, in real-time.

The user, using the mouse or touching the screen on a tablet or phone can pan across the video with continuing action. Interactivity in this kind of videos is absent, other than the user's altering viewing perspective. Though the storyline follows the same linear path, it can be experienced differently, depending on the direction that the viewer chooses to view at any point in time.

These 360 video experiences can be seen within an immersive headset on a screen or in a specially designed room surrounded by large screens.

Marketing Applications

These new emerging platforms paves the path for inventive ways for engaging customers in an experiential manner. As with all new solutions, the key to being successful is to blend the subject matter of the experience with the suitable technical approach.

If a customer is shown something in VP just to satisfy the need of VR experience, then it goes without having any inherent marketing value apart from just the "cool factor." After the cool-factor effect fades out, it is most likely that the company won’t continue to attain the planned marketing objective.

When it is really meaningful to overlap marketing information on a real-world scene like showing an exclusive internal product feature, which can't be seen from outside then there is a notable and significant association of the technology to the marketing message. Customers value these experiences as they have both emotional connection and advantage of learning something applicable and valuable.

For products and solutions that are considered to be complex, showing something in a digital immersive setting can bring in immense effect because the same experience is difficult to deliver with real-world products or surroundings. At the same time, the customer is also seen to use the immersive platform for learning the applicable value of the product or solution.

When it comes on to decision of usage procedure of VR and AR in the marketing mix, it is suggested that thought should be dedicated to practical application given the customer's environment, and how the three key elements of engagement (sensory, intellectual, and emotional connections) would be implemented for delivering an effective marketing understanding.

Below mentioned examples can demonstrate the innovative impact of AR and VR in marketing:

  1. 3D AR presenting how a new product would fit into a customer's environment: Wayfair is a good example to be considered for a consumer application. It has a 3D AR app showing its furniture in customer's home. In case of B2B application, applications can illustrate how big industrial equipment can fit into a manufacturing assembly line, or how lab equipment can be located efficiently into an automatic clinical diagnostics lab.
  2. VR for complex B2B solutions: this can be explained with an example of a VR experience in which an IT manager can sightsee a virtual data center to perceive the way the software-defined network (SDN) digital data reconfigures physical data center hardware in real-time. This is unimaginable in a real-world data center as because the data is invisible with the configuration of the equipment happening inside the servers and switches.

These complex hardware and software products can be showed in an immersive environment that offers the user with the sense that they are in the real data center, but reveals the working pattern of the software, providing a clarified understanding.

 

Immersive AR and VR applications have the power to change the connection between customers and companies because of the chance to deliver the most engaging, personalized, and useful experiences. Thoughtful selection of the suitable tools and venues will offer inventive marketers with effective and valued solutions.

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