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How do I get into the Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR) Industry?

I started learning about VR 3 years ago and these are some of the things I did to hyper-accelerate my understanding of the virtual and augmented reality industry. Here is what I would do if I were starting out in VR now to put myself at the forefront of the industry.

  1. Start listening to the Voices of VR Podcast with Kent Bye (hint: listen on 1.5x speed or you will never get through them…there is over 500 now)
  2. Add Robert Scoble on Facebook and LinkedIn
  3. Learn Unity and watch talks from Tony Parisi
  4. Watch keynote talks about the gaming industry by HTC leader Rikard Steiber
  1. Once you learn Unity do the Microsoft HoloLens Mixed Reality Academy
  2. Subscribe to UploadVR, Road to VR, and VRScout
  3. Setup Google alerts for “Virtual Reality” and “Augmented Reality”
  4. Read VR news 2-4 hours a day
  5. Speak with EVERY person you know working in VR about the potential of it and ask “where do you see this going?”
  6. Do every VR experience that comes out (even though they make you sick)
  7. Buy a Samsung GearVR and Gear360 camera and start shooting and editing your own 360° videos (even just for fun!)
  8. Go to ALL VR/AR meetups and conferences and meet as many people as possible in the space.
  9. Come see us at VRTO in Toronto, June 24-26.

Work your ass off and find what excites you most and do that! I hope this was helpful and I sincerely hope that if you take this advice and build something amazing, you will let us invest in your company and bring it to the next level!

Feel free to add me on LinkedIn and if you are already working in VR, you have a working demo and you are interested in working with us, you can submit your info to our MetaVRse Partner Portal.

Cheers!

Why You Need a Specialized Virtual Reality Agency Now

Four years ago, I got the unique opportunity to try VR for the first time, long before most people. The demo was given to me by none other than Chris Milk (With.in, Here Be Dragons).  The experience was shown on an Oculus DK1 and when I put the headset on, I was magically transported to a concert where I was standing right next to Beck on stage.  This was the moment when I said “I am ALL in on VR” and from there I formulated my plan to sell my previous company (Emulator) and get into VR full time.  I studied the landscape of VR for a little over a year before deciding what to focus on and it lead me to fully understand the massive scope of VR.

Because there is an unlimited number of things you can do with this technology, I did not want to be tied down to any one technology or project and I wanted the flexibility to do multiple projects simultaneously.  After much deliberation, I realized that creating a VR/AR focused agency was the best possible idea and thus began the foundations for MetaVRse.  Now after two years working full time in VR and one full year with MetaVRse, I can tell you with 100% certainty that our business model of being a highly specialized VR/AR Agency was the best decision we could have ever made.

Over the past year, we have shot a ton of 360° videos, created VR retail solutions, AR menus, built and developed a 360° Photo Booth™, and spoken at a plethora of conferences on VR/AR and Enterprise.  We’ve worked with amazing companies like Microsoft, HTC, Samsung, Corus, HBO and more. In essence, we have built the demand for VR/AR with corporate clients from zero to now…in Toronto, Canada at least. Here’s our highlight reel:

This experience of being an agency in VR has given us a unique perspective on an industry that is growing faster than anyone can keep up with.  Below I am going to go through just a few of the different technologies that fall under Virtual and Augmented Reality and a couple ways they can be used.  You will soon realize that brands who use their traditional agency for VR/AR will be missing a ton of opportunities that this incredible communication medium allows for.  

NOTE:  If you are interested in learning more about VR/AR and how it can revolutionize your business, feel free to contact me directly and I will have one of our team work with you to devise a plan on how best to leverage the power of VR & AR with both short and long term objectives.  

From social media to experiential marketing, to brand and digital, most large companies understand the need for specialized agencies and VR/AR is no exception.  Here are just a few ways this technology can be used.  

360° Video (3D/Stereoscopic, 4K, 8K, Livestream)

The easiest way for brands to get into VR is by using 360° video.  This can be filmed in-house using consumer-grade or professional cameras for social media posts and really cool things like Tiny Planet shots and Facebook 360° posts (both of which get really great engagement).  Once you start putting these videos into VR, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT to make sure you use 100% stable shots.  This can be accomplished using gimbals and/or post production software tools such as Mettle, Kolor Pano and others. Adobe Suite is introducing new tools for 360° every day.  

SIDE NOTE:  OG 360° videographers will remember the headaches that you had to go through with stitching each frame by hand and 3D printing the camera mounts from plans released on Reddit.

Example of Tiny Planet Image (taken in the MetaVRse 360° Photo Booth™)

Cameras

Professional 360° Camera Rigs

Eye 360, GoPro Omni, Jaunt One

360° Camera rigs vary in price from thousands to hundreds of thousands.  It is important not only to know which camera to use for each application, but more importantly, to know who are the best in the world at exactly what you need.  Our global database of approved partners gives you the ability to leverage existing technologies while exploring new ones with limited risk.

Professional cameras are not always necessary.  When doing 360° content for social media, consumer cameras may suffice.  We teach all of our clients how to harness this technology internally to conserve resources.

Consumer 360° Cameras

Samsung Gear 360, Insta360 Air, Nikon Keymission 360

Brands and agencies can use these simple point and shoot cameras to get 360° photos and videos for social media (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram). The price for these cameras are all under $1000 now and most photos can be edited directly on your phone.

Light Field Captured 3D VR Video

360° Light Field Capture (Lytro) – This camera was just used to produce the musical piece “Hallelujah”

While still in its infancy, light field capture for 360° videos you can actually move around in.  This is the dream of many a Hollywood Director (filming and having agency is the ultimate storytelling experience)  This technology requires massive server racks and a ton of post processing, but the results are stunning.

Virtual Tours (Real Estate, Recruiting, Pre-Construction, Office Tours)

Virtual office tour we did for Symbility Intersect

Virtual Tours for real estate, pre-construction, virtual office or facility tours are all amazing ways to leverage this technology.  Google, Matterport and YouVisit all offer ways to do these tours and each has its own unique pros and cons.  Knowing which technology to deploy and when is the tricky part.  VR/AR strategy is important so that you not only provide value to your organization in terms of direct ROI but also provide value to your customers and employees.

vCommerce

Virtual Reality Retail Analytics Platform

Virtual and Augmented Reality commerce are heating up and according to CITI Financial, this industry will be worth $1.3T by 2035.  There are a ton of startups working on everything from VR shopping to Web-based VR and AR shopping.  

  • vRetail & vCommerce 
  • WebVR
  • Indoor AR Mapping

3D Products (Rendered vs. Photogrammetry)

3D Product imaging for vCommerce is going to be a very big part of the VR revolution.  Brands will have to find easy ways to scale their products into 3D format for both 2D and VR viewing.  Products can be scanned by either photogrammetry (hundreds of single images mapped onto a final wireframe) or Rendered (made only using computer graphics without taking a single photo)

Guess whether this shoe was shot in photogrammetry or computer render?

 

Communications & Meetings in VR/AR

Facial Scanning for Security & Emotion

Communications in VR/AR are going to be a very competitive and exciting market.  I recently heard that a large company we work with does over 1 million minutes of video conferencing per month!  Having a full presence in VR to communicate with others in different parts of the world is really incredible.  The biggest challenges right now lie in the fact that the avatars for these worlds consist of orcs, robots and Minecraft characters.  What is required is a fast, easy and scalable way for companies to onboard their teams into VR and then secure their personal avatar using biometrics like retinal scanning to make sure someone isn’t pretending to be you.  There is a lot of work being done in this space and while it is still nascent, progress is happening very quickly.  Here are some of the parts required to make this happen.

  • Avatars
  • Volumetric Capture
  • Social VR
  • Security
  • Eye Tracking
  • Data Analytics

VR/AR Content Delivery

Once you have a great VR/AR product or service ready, how do you get this out to the public or your team?  What platform(s) are right for your needs?  How do you scale your offering?  These are not simple questions to answer.  By knowing all the platforms and how they work, you will have a much better uptake of your project.

  • VR/AR Platforms
  • HTML5 360° website players 

VR/AR Education & Training

One of the most incredible applications of VR/AR is education and training.  Giving completely immersive training scenarios to new employees saves money and increases information retention dramatically.  

  • VR/AR Education Companies and Platforms

VR/AR Creation Tools

There are many tools used to create virtual and augmented reality and knowing which tool to use when is very important.  Unity boasts that 70% of ALL VR projects are made using Unity, but more than 70% of all the revenue is made using their competitor, Unreal Engine.  This section could be a book all unto itself, so let’s just say there are a LOT of VR tools and it gets confusing.  I recommend learning Unity until you figure out what other tools are right for you.  The three big companies in the space are Unity, Unreal Engine and Adobe.

  • VR/AR Tools 

Depth Sensing Augmented Reality (Mixed Reality)

The difference between VR & AR is easy, VR puts viewers into a completely different world, blocked out from the real world and AR augments the world you are in using some sort of screen or projection.  Where things get really interesting is when you use AR in a specific context to the world you are in (ie. putting a Pokemon Go character on your table, or face recognition).  This next level technology uses a number of cameras (infrared and regular cameras) to literally map out the world you are in so things can be placed in context around you.  Imagine having an artificial intelligence robot that follows you around giving you the answers to any questions you have (like a holographic Alexa/Siri/Bixby).  Google has already introduced this in the form of their Tango phones and tablets and Microsoft is using the technology from their Hololens in the next generation of VR headsets to give what is known as “inside-out tracking”.  Trust me, this is REALLY cool stuff.  While no one knows what is going on with Apple, it is only a matter of time before they introduce their version of this technology.

  • Depth Sensing Cameras

As you see there is A LOT to learn and understand and hopefully I have given you a better understanding of why you will need a specialized company like MetaVRse to help you not only navigate the world of VR/AR, but to dominate your competition, by harnessing this technology faster and more efficiently.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions, alan@metavrse.com 

Technology and Tenacity Dominate the Haste & Hustle Conference

On February 9-10, hundreds of entrepreneurs and marketers braved a blizzard to make their way to Ontario’s Niagara region for the first annual Haste & Hustle conference. An impressive and eclectic speaker line-up shared their expertise and the stories of their success including Gary Vaynerchuk, Casey Neistat and MetaVRse’s own Alan Smithson.  

A last minute relocation of the event to the Bethany Community Church ended up being a fitting venue for the inspirational presenters who shared wisdom that could only be accumulated through true entrepreneurial sacrifice. New communication technologies such Virtual and Augmented Reality and Chatbots were also a consistent theme throughout the show with many speakers highlighting how tech can help aspiring entrepreneurs reach their business goals – but how there is no substitute for good old fashioned hustle.

Outside of the “chapel”, attendees were invited to try the latest in Virtual and Augmented technology in MetaVRse’s Mixed Reality Experience Zone (generously sponsored by HTC Vive) and try the latest consumer gadgets in a Tech Hub curated by gadget guru Marc Saltzman. Haste & Hustle was host to activities that highlighted the Niagara Region, featuring a marketing crawl of local businesses and an evening gala at the world famous Jackson Triggs winery.

The real highlight was the collected wisdom being shared from the stage. Here are a few of our favourite moments:

Alan Smithson’s Presentation on how VR & AR Will Be Used by Businesses

MetaVRse CEO Alan Smithson opened his talk with a personal story about the toll his previous business took on him and his family and the lessons he learned from the experiences that have carried over into the success of MetaVRse.  The talk turned to his current passion for Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies and the way they’re already being used by innovative businesses. Among the most amazing predictions for the technology, Smithson predicted that in five years from now we’ll be viewing the world through a pair of glasses rather than looking at our phones!

Gary Vaynerchuk – Vayner Media

The main event for many of Haste & Hustle’s attendees, Gary Vaynerchuk almost didn’t make it to the event because of a severe snowstorm. His DailyVee Youtube video for that day actually focused on the story of getting to the event and how the journey is the most important part of any accomplishment.  

Vaynerchuk has built his brand around entrepreneurial hustle and his talk didn’t sugar coat the amount of personal sacrifice needed in order to achieve the kind of success that he aspires to. Gary will join Gwyneth Paltrow and will.i.am on Apple TV’s new reality show “Planet of the Apps” about app developers.

 

Casey Neistat – YouTube Star

Casey Neistat is one of the most popular creators on Youtube and it seemed like as many Haste & Hustle attendees were there to see him.  Casey shared his hustle story of what made him strive for more: He was scrubbing a clam chowder pot 50 hours a week to support his family when he started making his popular videos. Neistat mused that the path to success is undefined and you get the tools you need from different places. On being an influencer he shared the memorable analogy: “I hate the word influencer. It talks about the effect, not the cause; like calling a musician an ear-pleaser.”

 

Erin Bury – Eighty Eight Creative

Erin Bury is the managing partner of Eighty Eight Creative, a leading Toronto based communications agency. Bury blew minds with her talk about Chat Bots and how these simulated conversations get smarter and more human the more we use them. The talk included surprising insights like how chatbots live inside the platforms customers already use like Facebook messenger and Whatsapp and will automate things that we’re currently paying humans to do: analysts predict that 85% of customer service interactions will be handled by chatbots by 2020!

Greg Murray – Pfizer

Greg Murray is a product manager at Pfizer and an advocate for creativity within the biggest corporate settings. His talk focused on how creativity shouldn’t be reserved for artists or a so-called “creative class” and how it can be incorporated into all roles. Keeping with the technology theme that ran throughout the event, Murray reminded us that as AI replaces more routine functions we’ll be entering a more creative economy as the remaining jobs require human creativity.

Giovanni Marsico – Archangel Academy

Giovanni Marsico, the founder of Archangel Academy shared an inspirational talk about his own entrepreneurial challenges to found his organization and used an effective superhero metaphor to share his approach to how entrepreneurs reach their full potential and make an exponential impact on the world.

Marsico shared a memorable analogy of how we use four currencies over the course of our careers: Our Time, Our Gift, Our Relationships and Our Reputation. When we start out, Time is our only asset. We then trade our time to develop our Gift which we use to form relationships with other people when we use it to add value for them. Finally we exchange our social capital for Brand capital to develop our reputation as the most valuable asset of all.

Manjit Minhas – Minhas Breweries and Dragon’s Den

Best known as one of the new generation of Dragons on Dragon’s Den, Manjit shared her story of the tenacity required to secure her first big deal for her company Minhas Breweries. The story involved Minhas getting her client to sign an agreement on a napkin after negotiating terms in a restaurant! She offered the audience the advice: “Do not have a “Plan B”, it will only distract you from “Plan A”.

Paul Copcutt – You, Inc.

Paul Copcutt is a master of personal branding on LinkedIn  and offered some pro-tips for the Haste & Hustle audience to  help them use the professional network to better market themselves. One of his most effective pieces of advice was to identify the the one word you’d use to describe your personal essence and build your profile around it.

 

How to use Virtual + Augmented Reality for Marketing, a tiered approach

2016 was the year virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) hit the world stage in a big way. With the commercial launch of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony Playstation and Microsoft Hololens, brands began dipping their toes in the waters testing to see how best to use this revolutionary new medium. From the invention of the printing press through radio, television, internet and mobile, brand managers and CMO’s have always entered new technology slowly sometimes taking years to adopt, but it feels like now the world of technology is moving at such a pace that if you blink you might miss out on some incredible opportunities that your competition is certainly thinking about.

So the question is simple, ‘how can I use VR/AR right now without compromising my budget while proving that it is an effective communication medium’?

After working with over 50 different brands and organizations using only VR/AR, we have noticed a pattern of acceptance and experimentation that will both mitigate the risk while keeping your organization ahead of the technology curve to be seen as an industry leader. The natural progression thus far has unfolded like this.

Showcasing Virtual Reality at an internal meeting or event

By using off the shelf content, brands can get their employees excited about VR/AR without breaking the bank and without investing in custom content which is still pretty expensive. This also gives brand managers the opportunity to get buy-in from senior management and this goes a long way when developing a new VR/AR concept for external use. (ex. PwC Partners Conference, Telus Sales meeting)

Using VR at a trade show or event

VR is so new that brands still have the ability to wow consumers and customers simply by having the technology available for people to try. Finding content that is engaging and relevant is an interesting challenge since most brands at this stage are not ready to spend $100K on a custom experience yet. Knowing what games and experiences are available and then knowing how to use the technology to maximize throughput is the key here. (ex. Art of Marketing conference). VR was the number one on the 10 top industry trends to implement in 2017. Here is a brief interview about how VR/AR will be used in events.

Producing a 360° video

One of the easiest ways for brands to start using this new immersive technology is to create some simple 360° videos for use on social platforms. Facebook, YouTube and now Twitter (Periscope) support the format. There are even companies that offer pre-recorded footage for purchase (Blend.Media). Using 360° video to promote your brand is a really great way to prove to the C-suite that VR can generate measurable results. One example of a computer generated 360° video/VR experience that is completely on brand is the Boursin Sensorium VR experience.

Filming lion cubs with the Samsung Gear 360 camera
Samsung Gear 360 camera with 7 week old lion cub, Samira at Jungle Cat World.

Using AR for packaging

A simple way for brands to begin embracing augmented reality is to use their existing packaging in a more digital way. Without having to change the packaging, this becomes an elegant, low-cost solution that can have a big impact on consumer engagement. Something that we are working on now is an AR scavenger hunt that allows users to collect points simply by scanning their favourite products and interacting with them. This is a marketers dream as the data collected by these interactions can give great insight into the people who buy your products. One downside is that you still have to download an app to do this. There are three main platforms for AR marketing; Blippar, Vuforia, Augment and Marxent Labs.

Virtual Office Tour

One of the best ways brands can begin to use VR technology is to do a 360°, VR, Google Tour of their space. This has the added value of making their office searchable from Google Maps and eventually Google Earth VR will allow you to enter spaces. The best available system for doing these types of tours is called Matterport, a combination of hardware (camera) and software platform that allows users to visit inside your building and also create hotspots where people can learn more about your office, company and team. We did one of these tours for a very forward thinking digital marketing agency in Toronto, Symbility Intersect just did this with great results. A company that has done an excellent job at creating virtual tours for Colleges and Universities is YouVisit.

Matterport “dollhouse” view of Symbility Intersect 360° office tour.
Matterport “dollhouse” view of Symbility Intersect 360° office tour.

Fully Immersive VR experience

The pinnacle of virtual reality at this point is a fully immersive game or activation. Brands have a unique opportunity to give attendees at trade shows a look into the matrix or down the rabbit hole where the laws of physics and reality no longer apply. Car companies like Volvo, Audi and Lexus have all jumped on the ability to put people into a fully rendered car and drive it anywhere (even on the moon!). Another great use of fully immersive VR for brand marketing is the Merrell Trailscape VR in-store experience where consumers were given the task of walking across a rope bridge while rocks are falling all around them. This is perfectly on brand and well executed.

As you can guess, the possibilities of VR and AR for marketing are literally endless, but taking a pragmatic and tiered approach is how brands will keep pace with technology while staying within budget and also see the best ROI. My recommendation is to take a slow, tiered and sustainable approach or go feet first, all in and make something world shattering. Whatever you decide to do, understand that it is no longer a matter of whether you will do VR/AR, it’s simply when.