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MetaVRse CEO Featured in Book about Virtual Reality

MetaVRse CEO, Alan Smithson was recently featured in the new book, “What is Virtual Reality?: Everything you wanted to know featuring interviews with the leaders of the VR industry” By Yoni Binstock. Here’s the excerpt:

What excites you the most about virtual reality?

The thing that excites me most about virtual reality is the fact that it’s a new communication media. It’s a new way for humans to communicate with each other and the social implications of being able to communicate with people in a much more immersive way will be incredible. Just in the past few decades, we saw the introduction of communication mediums like text messaging and Skyping which changed how we communicated and I believe brought people together. But placing people together in the same place will be amazing. The other thing that excites me, and why I started MetaVRse, is the way that VR will revolutionize education.

What do you recommend for people who want to get in the VR field?

The first thing I always recommend is to listen to the Voices of VR podcast. There are a ton of episodes to listen to, but if you listen to the early episodes or the top ten, you’ll get a really good understanding of where the industries are going and who the players are. I would also say to start building something or writing about the technology. Because the technology and industry move so fast, everyone, including myself, will have to constantly be learning.

What are your predictions for the VR industry and technology in the next 5, 10, and 25 years?

In the next 5 years, my prediction is that consumer VR markets will be growing, but not take off as fast as we all hope. It’s absolutely amazing how many units the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the PSVR have sold, but it’s nowhere near the adoptions we need to get mass adoption. I would predict that we’re going to have businesses use this technology a lot more than individuals, especially with training, data visualization, and marketing. I also think when Steven Spielberg releases the Ready Player One movie, that will create a huge tidal wave of VR adoption. Lastly, I see houses and living rooms being designed to maximize VR experiences so that users will have great tracking and freedom of movement.

In 10 years, I think what’s going to happen is all the AR glasses will get smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper, and just generally better. I think the adoption is going to be a lot better especially in business because the business applications for AR are enormous. I can imagine any business using AR to increase the productivity of their workforce. Microsoft’s Hololens is an incredible technical achievement and I think that the technology will only get better. And so what we’ll see is the convergence of AR and VR where you’ll have one device being used for all types of mixed reality based on where you are and what application you’re using.

In 25 years, my best guess is that we will probably have our brains and computers connected so that experiences will be so immersive that it will be hard to separate it from reality. Today everybody’s working on how to make haptic suits and gloves, but if a machine has direct control of your brains, that we can make these 100% realistic experiences without the need for any external hardware.

In what ways do you think that virtual reality will be a positive force in our society and in what ways will it be a negative force?

I think the biggest way that virtual reality is going to be a positive force is by completely overhauling the education system. My purpose in life is to educate the next generation of young entrepreneurs to go on and create value in an environmentally, economically, socially sustainable way, and one of the reasons I got into VR is because VR is going to be the next way to teach people. It’s not enough to look at lectures or participate in an online course, but being able to experience and do something in a virtual space will finally make learning fun for everyone. The other day I learned how to fix a fridge using a VR application and it was so incredible. Before I would have had to call an electrician or spend hours reviewing the manual, but with this VR app, I was able to learn extremely quickly how my fridge worked and what to do to fix it.

I also see VR as an empathy machine, putting people in situations where they feel empathy for others, and I think that’s a really really big thing and that we’ve only scratched the surface on what we can do with this amazing technology.

Virtual reality can definitely be used for evil. Some of my friends made the Brookhaven Experiment where you are shooting zombies, and originally they made a simulator where you are shooting humans and they said it was so disturbing that they actually vowed never to make another shooter game where you shot humans. Like any technology, it can be used for good or for evil.

What needs to happen fairly quickly is we need to come together as an entire industry and we need to develop the ethical standards around VR. It is such a powerful media and if it is harnessed by the wrong people, you’re going to really mess with people and it’s going to go wrong real fast. I imagine that if someone violated the standards, they might be banned from ever using Unity or another game engine.

If there’s anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the future of VR, what would you like to say?

In the beginning, we had the printing press and the printing press brought people together and brought a new communication medium. Then we had the radio, the television, the internet, the smartphone, and now we have virtual reality which is going to change everything we do in the world. My suggestion to everybody is to get on it as early as possible and to build as fast as possible. By being one of the first in this industry, you’ll be able to be part of the story of how this technology and industry mature over the next several decades.

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!

VR/AR Association Interview with Alan Smithson and Dan Flatt

Want to learn more about the business of Virtual and Augmented Reality and how MetaVRse started? Check out the latest “Everything VR & AR” podcast with AlanDan, host Kevin Harvell, and the VR/AR Association.

 

Kids Learning Code in Virtual Reality

There is never an age to stop learning and in the technology industry, that is exactly what you do – constantly learn. Being a Woman in Tech since 2010 provided me with lessons only experience and personal immersion could prepare me for.  When I had kids, I was drawn to the opportunities in education and combining that with technology became my passion.  When I learned about coding myself I knew it was something everyone needed to know about, it only made sense.

My girls took coding after I told them they had to. My oldest daughter, Abi (Top 20 Under 20, Ryerson’s Youngest DMZ Inventor) took coding 3 years ago at age 9 and still remembers the basics and can move her way through coding programs helping her build media sites for school.  My youngest daughter was one of the first to code in HTML before learning to read.  They didn’t really enjoy coding, as some do, but they didn’t need to like it, they just needed to know what it was.  They needed to understand the platform we live on. We all have mobile phones, iPads, laptops, and computers.  We download, sideload, upload and launch applications, then we have a rhythm of swiping, scrolling and texting our hearts out … all in the name of code.  

A little bit about code… it lives in computers, applications, and programs. It can build a bridge, a fort or a sequence. You can code an item, a thing, a direction, a colour, a picture, an action or a response.  Coding is built out of numbers and letters in different combinations and takes direction from the digits surrounding it.  Coding is an engineered plan of building blocks that will provide a response to its commands.  Coding has always been a very 2-Dimensional pattern on the computer screen … until now when an amazing team of companies pulled together to build a world-first, coding in virtual reality, an immersive 360° experience.

Coding in VR uses JavaScript and a visualizer to connect the theme used in a virtual space.  Phase one theme used is mammals and the code that makes them what they are. Inside the HTC Vive, you will be able to connect further into the mammals’ sequence to see a whale, cat, and dog and to visually see the corresponding picture. For our next phase, we hope to integrate a guided tutorial to teach about the similarities and well as further development into themes as we engage the students into a world they have never seen and some may not understand yet.  

Every child learns through their own set of wiring, their own medium of taking in information.  Sometimes it is auditory and sometimes it is visual.  Sometimes it is slow and sometimes it needs to be fast.  Coding in VR provides a visual plan to the sequence of a theme and seeing it in virtual reality makes the sequence easier to understand.

In celebration of Canada’s coding week, Phase one of coding in VR  has launched together with Ladies Learning Code, Primitive, House of VR & MetaVRse. On Tuesday, June 6th, local Grade 7 & 8’s in Toronto arrived at the House of VR to experience coding in virtual reality for the first time in education. The day was full of learning from the kids and for us as developers understanding how the kids experienced the program.  We are excited about the possibilities in developments to come and look forward to expanding the lessons of an educational VR curriculum into classrooms around the world.

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 

Virtual & Augmented Reality for Pharmaceutical Companies

Our mission at MetaVRse is To use Virtual & Augmented Reality to improve the human experience so when I was approached by a major pharmaceutical company to present VR/AR and how it might be used in their business, I was really excited at the possibilities.  I have a Bachelor’s Degree (B.Sc.) in Molecular Biology, and I used to be a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company, Leo Pharma out of university so I could immediately see the potential for using virtual reality to educate sales reps, doctors and patients. The first question that came to mind was…

“What if we could make useful VR applications that would help patients understand their condition?”

With really strict regulations on how pharmaceutical companies can communicate with patients (at least in Canada), I saw a unique opportunity to use a concept called ‘Utilitarian Marketing’ or making products that serve a purpose and have a use in a person’s life.  Think of Google Maps, this is a vital tool that millions of people cannot live without that is free.  There is already a mounting case for using VR across all medical disciplines.  Dr. Ted Jones is already using VR in his pain clinic with the following results:

  • Pain reductions of 60-70% during the VR treatment
  • 30-50% pain reduction immediately after treatment
  • This effect lasted up to 48 hours after treatment
  • No patients reported any dizziness, headache or nausea

For many years, pharmaceutical companies have been struggling with how to best serve the needs of their customers (patients, doctors, nurses, hospital administration, insurance companies) in the digital age while maintaining stringent specifications on their marketing messages while increasing sales and bottom line for investors.  When you look at the entire spectrum of stakeholders are as a whole, you start to understand that Virtual and Augmented Reality is not just another digital marketing tool like social media, but rather a new communication medium for educating all stakeholders across the spectrum.

Below I outline a few ways that VR is being studied and used in the fields of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Hopefully this list serves to get your mind thinking about the possibilities and how you can begin using this incredible new technology in your company.  If you are interested in having our team at MetaVRse consult with you and create something, feel free to contact me: alan@metavrse.com

There are over 100 clinical research papers that are already published that show proven positive clinical outcomes using VR in managing chronic pain, anxiety and depression

Dr. Sonya Kim, CEO – One Caring Team

Virtual and Augmented Reality for Patients

  1. VR Guided Meditation
  2. Treatment of phobias
  3. Pain Management during hospital stays
  4. Pain Management
  5. Pre-Visualization of procedures to minimize stress
  6. Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  7. Addiction Treatment and Therapy

Virtual and Augmented Reality for Doctors

  1. Surgical Simulation Training
  2. Pre-Surgery Visualization
  3. 3D Virtual Reality MRI and CT Visualization
  4. Augmented Reality Detail Cards and promotional materials
  5. 360° Video Training
  6. Virtual & Augmented Reality Medical School training

Virtual and Augmented Reality for Nurses

  1. Augmented Reality Vein Viewer
  2. VR for patient distraction
  3. Empathy training

Many pharmaceutical companies know they need to create more value-added products and services that directly affect customer behaviour.   There is a huge opportunity to accomplish this by introducing beyond the pill innovations such as virtual and augmented reality.  Pharma companies are faced with the challenge of collecting, deciphering and utilizing mountains of big data and they have struggled with using social media effectively.  A new wave of consumerism in health is fueled by patients access to Google and VR/AR may be the best way for these companies to help physicians, nurses and hospital administrators treat patients more effectively, put big data into actionable insights, personalize training and communications with physicians and utilize digital tools to drive more efficient revenue while doing good for the world.

The Virtual Future of Retail

Virtual Reality immerses you in a different world, Augmented Reality changes and alters the world you are in. That is the easiest way I can describe the difference between these two technologies. Where things get even more interesting is when you bring Mixed Reality into the conversation. Imagine a slider of immersion. On the far left you have the complete immersion of virtual reality and on the far right you have augmented reality overlaid on the real world. In this article, I will attempt to highlight some of the ways these technologies will impact retail and how marketers can use VR/AR to connect with consumers and ultimately sell more products. I have coined the term vCommerce in this article to be an all-encompassing term that describes Virtual and Augmented Reality Commerce.

The reason I started this article with the above explanation is because I get this question nearly every time I speak with someone about the subject. Hopefully this clears things up a bit so we can move on with the discussion of how virtual and augmented reality are going to change retail, eCommerce and now vCommerce.

‘Users will start expecting brands to have mixed reality experiences in 2018. The big money will show up in 2020’
– Robert Scoble, Author – The Fourth Transformation

Here are my top 6 ways VR and AR can help retail:

  1. Improve conversion rates and reduce returns for clothing stores – Virtual fitting room
  2. Combine traditional retail experience and e-commerce
  3. Enhances brand recognition
  4. Let customers “try” before they buy with a 3D product preview
  5. Display additional information about products shown
  6. Visualize product catalogs

Let’s start by discussing how virtual and augmented reality is going to impact retail. I say ‘going to’ because the truth is, there are many people working in this, but so far no one has really completed something useful…yet! I have tried countless vCommerce demos from all over the world and they are all wonderful and engaging and all of them totally miss the point that with VR, you do not need to be in a store anymore.  There are so many possibilities and all anyone can do is put a physical store into virtual reality? Where is the creativity with this?

“Why would you sell products in a store when you can sell them on a ferris wheel or in the ocean or on the moon?”
– Alan Smithson, CEO – MetaVRse

Why shop in a store when you can shop in Italy?

What if we created an experience while shopping so when you pick up certain products, the whole world you are in vanishes and morphs into a whole new world. Imagine grabbing a box of pasta off the shelf and suddenly you are in Italy learning about the company and how they make their pasta so delicious? What if you were at a virtual car dealer and simply by touching the car, you are now in the driver’s seat on a drive through the Hollywood hills! There is literally no limits on what is possible.

Personally, I feel like VR and AR will revolutionize online and brick and mortar stores in the coming years by thinking outside the box (store) and really driving engagement with products that gives customers a sense of presence and agency (meaning they take ownership of their virtual body). Once you have customer engagement with a brand, you can let them lead the experience and that results in a much deeper, more personal relationship between the brand and consumer.

Emotion is one of the primary reasons why consumers prefer (and pay more for) brand name products. “fMRI neuro-imagery shows that consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).”1 Instead of seeing a brand or reading about a brand, Virtual Reality allows consumers to ‘experience’ the brand.

Think about it this way. If you are in a store and trying on hiking shoes and in that store are a bunch of shoes by brands you recognize, but one stands out because you have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while wearing that brand (in virtual reality). Chances are you will trust the brand that gave you such a thrill over a brand just sitting on a shelf. What if every product you picked up in VR had its own experience? What if everything you picked up took you on a magical journey?


Merrell VR Experience gives customers the experience of hiking across a rope bridge

“Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments which are based on a brand’s attributes.” – Psychology Today

Marketers now have a new tool in their arsenal to not only attract buyers, but to really connect consumers to their brands in a novel, exciting and stimulating way using VR and AR. The Gap recently announced at CES that they are working on a new augmented reality application that will allow consumers to see what their clothes will look like in any size right in front of them. Working with Google’s Tango AR phone, they are able to use spatial recognition to make things appear as if they are actually in the same room. I would expect to see more of this with furniture stores as well.


The Gap DressingRoom AR app 

What about Retail Analytics using VR?

Another major use case for virtual reality is to visualize and test new stores, packaging, signage and even lighting before a store is even built. It costs millions of dollars to build out a store and hundreds of thousands running testers through that store to gather valuable data on shopper habits and actions. What if you could create the store environment in VR and have unlimited shoppers go through from the comfort of their home or regional testing centres that cost a fraction of a build out?


ShelfZone Virtual Retail Environment

What if you could combine virtual shopping with super accurate eye tracking to know exactly what catches your customers eye, for how long and really understand shelf placement from a shoppers perspective. How valuable would this data be to you as a marketer, store designer, or packaging designer?


ShelfZone Eye Tracking Heat Map

The possibilities for virtual and augmented reality are real and they are here now. Here are some more exciting examples of how VR/AR are being used by forward thinking, technology driven brands focused on the future of retail.


Ikea is experimenting with VR by letting people design and interact with their kitchens. You can even cook their famous Swedish Meatballs in VR!

 


Virtual Reality Subway Store – Do you think they have the smell too?

 

Chinese Supermarket Yihaodian opens 1000 virtual stores using augmented reality in multiple locations:

Canadian online retail platform Shopify has introduced VR and has big plans to on-board their retailers in the coming months and years:

The future of retail is vCommerce

As you can see the future of retail is going online and virtual and augmented reality are going to play an ever increasing role in driving global sales. In my opinion, vCommerce is the next big thing and if you don’t believe me, Citi’s GPS report on VR estimates the market for VR/AR retail could go as high as $1 Trillion by 2025.

How to fit Virtual & Augmented Reality into your 2017 Marketing Budget

Now is the time when marketing teams from every industry, everywhere in the world are setting their 2017 budgets and deciding where they are going to get the best bang for their buck.  If you are like most who went to CES or read anything about it, you will know that Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) is going to be HUUUGE (spoken like Trump).  The real truth is that 2016 saw the launch of many of the major VR headsets (GearVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Playstation VR) and also two new AR headsets (Microsoft Hololens, Meta2) but very few companies actually used this technology to market their products.  The ones who did found an added benefit of generating a ton of media impressions simply by being there first.  2017 promises a new wave of practical VR/AR applications for training, entertainment, brand engagement and sales, but before you jump in head first, I want to show you how to dip your toes into the VR/AR pool so that you can begin to see benefits and metrics before committing a larger portion of your budget.  

At MetaVRse, we saw the opportunity to become the trusted VR/AR Agency of Record for brands advising them on their long term strategy on how to use this new communication medium across their entire business, but before we could even start, we had to show people what VR was and why it was important which is why we have deliberately taken a shotgun ‘spray and pray’ approach to using this new medium.  We started by introducing VR at events (Art of Marketing, Royal Ontario Museum Friday Night Live, PwC Partners Conference) then we did a bunch of 360° videos (Groove Cruise, Pride Toronto, Queen’s Plate, Niagara Falls Tourism) and we have learned by teaching using our white paper “Virtual Reality for Marketing, 2016” and most recently we are producing custom VR and AR apps for clients to drive customer engagement that will be released later this year.  

The most common questions

We saw the opportunity of VR and AR for business early on, but like many, we did not know how best to capitalize on it.  Questions like “What is the ROI?”  “Who else is doing this?”  “Can you show me examples of this?”  have left us stumped and that is why I have decided to write this series of articles to help answer some of the questions that we found so difficult to answer and honestly still struggle with because this technology is still on the bleeding edge.  

“What is the ROI?”  – This is impossible to define right now for a number of reasons; 1. There is no critical mass of headset adoption yet so most experiences are leveraging traditional media to amplify their VR strategy.  2. The systems for gaining metrics for VR/AR have not yet been developed (potential opportunity).  3.  There has not been enough people using this to get a real understanding of the metrics.

“Who else is doing this?”  This one gets me a lot.  Brands want to do something completely novel and outside of the box, but want to know who else has done something similar.  The very fact they ask this, makes me question if they just want something new and shiny or they truly want to be a pioneer in their industry.  It takes a certain leap of faith to earmark part of your marketing budget to pioneer something new, but look at the first companies to harness the power of the internet or mobile, they ended up WAY ahead of their competition and VR/AR is no different.  

“Can you show me examples of this?”  While we now have a list of case studies of our own and there are a few other business examples from other companies, the truth is that brands who are jumping on this are creating novel communications that will reward them in many ways; 1. Being seen as a leader in their industry, 2. Getting additional traditional media coverage, 3. Gaining experience to harness this technology so when VR/AR becomes mainstream they have a distinct advantage, 4. Winning awards together (my personal goal is to win a Cannes Lion Award) VR and AR are new, but already there are award categories for it.

I have compiled a list of projects you can start right away that won’t break the bank and will get you the experience that you are going to need to ask for bigger budgets moving forward.  If you get stuck or want some help, I am available, feel free to email me; alan@metavrse.com

Here are some options for getting into VR and AR in 2017 (lowest to highest)

 

Branded Google Cardboard

Branded Google Cardboard

One of the tools you are going to need in-house is a high quality, mobile VR headset.  This will give you a great resource when asking your CEO for more budget towards VR. Check out: GearVR or Google Daydream View VR Headsets ($1200 and up, including phone)

The question for you as a marketer in 2017 is will you be seen as a leader or a follower?  OK that is a little harsh and presumptive, but in all seriousness, VR and AR are coming and they are going to be as disruptive as the mobile phone so if you want to get ahead of the curve, I suggest you find some room in your 2017 budget to at least dip your toes in the water.  For more information, case studies and pricing, please reach out to me directly, alan@metavrse.com

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.

Top 10 Marketing uses of VR/AR & 360° Video in 2016

2016 was the launch year for VR and these marketers got it right before anyone else – this is how you do VR at the start of VR.

Star Wars – Trials on Tatooine

Star Wars - Trials on Tatooine

While not really an ad for Star Wars, giving people a chance to become a Jedi-Knight and use a lightsaber in VR has to be one of the most engaging ways to connect a brand to a real life experience. Download this mini game for free on Steam.

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Merrell Trailscape

Merrell Trailscape

Hiking across a ricketty bridge high on a mountain side is not something that many people would want to do in real life which is exactly why Merrell hit a homerun with this campaign.  By combining real elements of a rope bridge with virtual reality, they put guests into the action in the one place that they know their products shine through.  This is a prime example of how experienced based VR marketing is going to help sell products.

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Marriott Transporter

Marriott Transporter

In a trial of VR by Marriott Hotels, a 4D sensory experience was created to ‘teleport’ guests to different destinations including beaches in Hawaii and downtown London. The brand created the virtual travel experience delivered via a specially crafted ‘travelling teleporter’, which toured eight US cities last September. The phone booth-shaped structure featured the Oculus Rift DK2 virtual reality headset, wireless headphones and a suite on 4D sensory elements.

Marriott Hotels brand marketing VP, Michael Dail, said the exercise was about giving the next generation of travellers “the clear cut notion that more amazing travel experiences are coming and to encourage them to co-create the future of travel with us on TravelBrilliantly.com, where their best ideas enter Marriott’s innovation pipeline”, he said. “Together, we are pushing the limits of what is possible.”

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Lowes Holoroom

Lowes Holoroom

The Lowe’s Holoroom is a virtual reality home improvement design and visualization tool that empowers homeowners with an immersive, intuitive experience in the room of their dreams. Visualizing a home improvement project is hard – the Holoroom is here to help.

The Lowe’s Holoroom was introduced in 2014 as the first concept from Lowe’s Innovation Labs, and was available for six months in two Toronto stores. The next iteration of the Holoroom was available in 19 stores across the U.S. beginning in November 2015. Lowe’s Innovation Labs will continue to refine and evolve the experiences as technology continues to evolve and we gather real-time feedback from customers and employees.

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IKEA VR Experience

IKEA VR Experience

The IKEA VR experience lets you walk in an Ikea kitchen, where you can open doors, walk around and explore the space. IKEA even added the ability to cook their famous meatballs in the VR kitchen. Check it out on Steam.

Timeless 360° Time Machine

Sony Pictures and Corus Media partnered with Toronto-based Virtual & Augmented Reality Innovation Agency, MetaVRse to create a unique, one-of-a-kind launch activation that used 360° photography to transport guests back in time to an iconic scene from the new show Timeless where the Hindenburg is exploding above your head.  Once taken, guests were emailed their photos and could interact with the photo on a large touchscreen and also see themselves in virtual reality for the first time.

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Old Irish – Journey to Ireland

Old Irish - Journey to Ireland

Old Irish, a craft beer hailing from the Eastern European country of Georgia, decided to have some fun blurring the line between virtual and reality. Their video proves that sometimes it’s not what happens when you put on the virtual reality goggles that matters — it’s what happens when you take them off:  This mind altering activation put a VR headset on people and while they were taking a 360° Virtual Tour of Ireland, a complete irish bar was assembled around them so when they took off the headset they were in an irish bar without moving at all.

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Lexus VR

Lexus VR

Lexus partnered with VR company, Rewind.co to create at the world’s first VR Car Configurator and Simulator for the Oculus Rift DK2 headset in alignment with the new Lexus NX launch campaign.

The experience was created for Visualise and Amaze using the latest CGI virtual reality technology which immerses the user within a virtual world where they can fully configure an NX to their own specification and then take it on a test drive through an alternate dimension, which mirrors that of the campaign seen on all other media. The reaction of a first time user is all we need to see how successful the experience has been.

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Tom’s “Giving Trip” in 360°

 Tom’s “Giving Trip” in 360°

This story-based 360° video takes you on a journey to Peru where you see exactly how Tom’s one-for-one shoe program impacts the lives of school children in underprivileged countries.  This short video gives a great impact to how the brand is helping the world.

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Boursin Sensorium

Boursin Sensorium

Boursin Sensorium is a fantastical tour of a magical fridge filled with life-size celery, garlic and onions (the key ingredients in Boursin cheese).  This 360° video is best viewed on a Google Cardboard, GearVR or Google Daydream, but is just as impactful on a phone.

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Nissan Micra VR Tiltbrush: Savant Stephen Wiltshire Draws Nissan Micra in Tilt Brush from Memory

Nissan Micra VR Tiltbrush Video

Stephen Wiltshire, a British architectural artist who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, has garnered fame for his ability to draw detailed recreations from memory — oftentimes of complex cityscapes he’s only viewed briefly.

In a new ad for the 2017 Micra, Nissan puts his chops to the test. But instead of equipping him with his usual arsenal of pen and paper, in this case, Nissan tasks him with authoring his recreation in VR using Tilt Brush, which he’s never used before. Talk “Stephen is not able to filter anything,” says his sister in voice-over. “He absorbs everything. Detail is the highlight to his drawing.”  Stephen recreates the nuances of the car in stunning detail using VR as his artist tool.

Honorable Mentions

Jimmy Fallon’s Virtual Reality Pictionary

Jimmy Fallon’s Virtual Reality Pictionary

Using the popular VR title Tiltbrush via HTC Vive, featured guests Michael Che of SNL’s Weekend Update and Andrew Rannells of Girls went head-to-head in a game of futuristic Pictionary in VR.

After selecting a random number hung on a wooden board, the players were tasked with drawing their chosen subject in a 3D space via Tiltbrush. It was then up to their partners to guess the correct answer within the allotted time. For the sake of simplicity, the ‘artists’ held only the painting brush and not the palette controller that’s used to switch through different colors, textures, etc. The segment was a perfect example of how virtual reality can be as much a social experience as it can an isolated one.

Video here

White House 360° Tour with the Obamas

White House 360° Tour with the Obamas

Michelle and Barack Obama take you for a virtual reality 360° tour of the iconic White House.  Produced by the always amazing Felix & Paul, this 8:30 video gives some history and insight into what life is like in the most famous house in America.

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Augmented Reality Dollar Bill

This genius app idea can be used with any American one dollar bill and uses augmented reality to show the white house in 3D complete with Presidential helicopter.  Touch parts of the house to learn more about different presidents.

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Marketers, take note: this is the beginning, you can and will do better, and we would love to help.  Connect with me and let’s start working on your next project together:  alan@metavrse.com