In recent years, the phrase ‘virtual reality’ (VR) has come back into fashion, and now augmented reality (AR) is a hot topic for many experts. This is a particularly exciting development for the marketing industry. VR and AR have some things in common, but are different in many ways. In both VR and AR, computer-generated content plays a key role, but whereas virtual reality fully immerses you in this artificial world, with augmented reality the digital elements form part of our real world.
For virtual reality, you need a headset such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, plus a fairly powerful PC. Less powerful but a good deal cheaper, your smartphone can alternatively be used as the headset’s ‘brain’. This is the case with Samsung’s Galaxy VR for instance, or the Daydream platform for Android devices. By 2018 we will see standalone headsets that need neither a PC nor a smartphone.
For augmented reality, on the other hand, you need a smartphone or a tablet. The future for AR, however, will take the form of headsets or glasses that superimpose digital content over our field of vision. Microsoft’s HoloLens is one prototype that is already available to try out. Secretive start-up Magic Leap is also working on a headset, and Apple is rumoured to be doing the same.
What makes AR and VR so attractive for marketing right now? Since video’s triumphant takeover of the web, it has been very apparent just how well visual content can work. In the case of virtual reality, the user is plunged into the heart of the content and immersed in a computer-generated world. In the case of augmented reality, the user can view products and get a personal impression of them before making any decisions. Below, we give a few examples of AR and VR use in practice.
Ikea: Trying out furniture the AR way
The Swedish furniture store is using its AR app to help customers choose the right item of furniture. Customers view the products not just as photographs in the catalogue, but can also check out how armchairs, tables and bookcases fit into their own homes at the swipe of a finger. This not only facilitates decision-making, but is also good fun!
Franke Kitchens: Kitchen purchase as a virtual customer experience
With Virtual Showroom, customers of kitchen manufacturer Franke can not only view their future dream kitchens, they can also experience them virtually. In the three-dimensional kitchen world, you can push around cupboards, large appliances and kitchen sinks to your heart’s content, as well as change colours and try different materials. The entire environment, created using Adobe Experience Manager, runs in your web browser and is scaled to the end device used thanks to its responsive design.
Gap: Virtual changing rooms
Like Ikea, fashion specialist Gap uses AR to make shopping simpler and more entertaining. In their virtual changing rooms you can view garments from all sides in your own size, check details and much more. In future, similar actions will be possible without the need for complex technology: after all, pretty soon almost everybody will be equipped with an AR screen on their smartphones.
“Wild – The Experience”: an interactive film
This VR short film was part of the advertising campaign for the Reese Witherspoon movie “Wild”. If you look in one particular direction whilst watching the film, an additional scene is triggered. Naturally, this kind of 360º production is very complex and expensive, and largely for this reason YouTube has since launched a format that it calls VR180. This does not offer a complete all-round view, but makes fewer demands on supporting hardware and software.
Marriott: virtual travelling
The Marriott hotel chain calls its VR installation “Transporters”, in homage to Star Trek. It enables users to experience many of its hotel locations all around the world, which can be a highly emotive experience.
AR and VR can conjure up completely new experiences. They can surprise, excite and provoke every possible emotion. Or they can be entirely practical, helping people make everyday decisions on furniture or a new outfit! And although both augmented reality and virtual reality may be familiar subjects for experts, this is not the case for many users, for whom the novelty of these technologies is still strong. It is therefore well worthwhile considering the possible areas of future application right now.