I have closely monitored the state of virtual reality for the past few years. From product announcements, beta tests and insider access to hardware and experiences. VR can be a powerful, emotion evoking medium and one that has captured the interest of mainstream media.
I wanted to test the experience beyond short stylized sessions and review the potential for enhancing live event experiences as well as the integration of commerce, context and the opportunity for content distribution and brand impact.
I recently live streamed the University of Oklahoma vs. Ohio State CFB game via Fox Sports VR app. It was a good experience and one that really pushed the limits of comfort due to length of the session and the hardwares capacity.
Having the ability to control various camera angles and a pervasive stats bar was a good enhancement to the experience and provided additional context to the on-field action.
Digital overlays of commentators and in-game recaps also gave the feel that this was an enhanced experience and highlights the potential to create points of distribution/engagement within a virtual session.
The most impressive aspect was the use of contextual hotspots in the VR experience to control the various commands to shift the camera. By simply focusing my gaze I was able to shift through menu options in a very frictionless way.
Stare at the orange circles to change the camera view
It’s this in-session capability that has me incredibly excited about the potential of the medium to transcend simple entertainment and have implications on brand impact & conversion potential by connecting commerce in addition to evoking emotion and presence.
There were a few hiccups as the experience would occasionally freeze, the device overheated numerous times and also requires wi-fi, but overall it was a very positive experience and one I would gladly engage with again.
While this experience was app based, I was incredibly excited about the recent announcement from the Oculus team announcing the ReactVR framework that will allow our team to create Web VR experiences in a virtual browser codenamed “Carmel”
This will reduce the dependency on app based experiences and opens up possibilities for creating experiences that don’t require a traditional download.
Having a web type user experience within VR where the transition from topic to topic is seamless vs. stopping, launching an app, navigating to the right content and initiating the experience can open up new opportunities to increase dwell time and create a better UX.
This framework will enable rapid and portable deployment of experiences combined with the consumer benefit of shifting from various content types across device types such as VR, mobile, traditional web .
This combined with the data created across browsing sessions provides a key foundational element to create connections with consumers within immersive virtual reality experiences.
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I was recently asked by Digiday about my thoughts about Virtual Reality. The pending shift towards immersive experiences is one that is exciting and presents new opportunities to connect with consumers.
During my 30 minute call with the Digiday team we discussed many Virtual Reality (VR) related topics. We discussed how experiences are shifting from passive to fully interactive.
Had fun testing the HTC Vive fully immersive McDonald’s experience at SXSW 2016
We talked about the potential rise of VR commerce through solutions such as Marxent Labs approach to virtual commerce.
We discussed the growing 3rd party ecosystem of providers such as VRtify, Voke and more and the role that they can potentially play with brands.
We talked about Facebook’s approach to social VR and how they are currently building a team and aligning around the idea of aligning technology & presence.
We also discussed the key factors that will drive consumer adoption of the technology. My opinion is that the key driver for mass adoption will be once consumers are empowered to create & share their own immersive experiences easily.
The primary commentary that made it into the article is discussing the fact that brand marketers that explore Virtual Reality need to consider and validate why a consumer should engage with the experience beyond the “cool” factor of the initial engagement.
I am very bullish on the potential of Virtual & Mixed Reality solutions and look forward to assisting and enabling clients to create compelling and relevant immersive experiences.
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I was recently asked by Venture Beat to provide insight into 5 marketing trends that I saw surfacing while on the ground at SXSW Interactive this year.
This is a repost of the article:
SXSW Interactive 2016 kicked off this week with thousands of marketers descending upon Austin, Texas for food, fun, and a glimpse at new and emerging technologies that will impact how brands connect with consumers. Even in its 23rd year, SXSW Interactive’s influence and role in innovation is not waning.
Several trends surfacing this year will greatly impact how brands and consumers interact. Here are 5 to keep an eye on:
1. Virtual reality is everywhere
Virtual reality (VR) has been a key part of the SXSW experience for the past few years, with the Game of Thrones VR experience and Samsung’s Gear VR both standing out in past years. This year, virtual reality is at the forefront.
Panels are on tap to discuss everything from Cinematic VR, virtual football, and VR storytelling to city planning using social VR. And the event features various branded installations such as the Samsung Gear VR Lounge and the McDonald’s Loft.
The McDonald’s Loft is showcasing a V-Artist virtual reality experience that transports attendees into a Happy Meal Box and inspires creativity. This installation is a lot of fun and one to check out for a fully immersive virtual reality experience.
Samsung has also pushed to bring VR to conference goers wherever they are via its #VRonDemand campaign and provide portable VR experiences. Gear VR is a great example of making virtual reality accessible to the average consumer.
If you tweet at #VRonDemand and respond to their invite via DM, the Samsung Mobile US team will bring a Samsung Gear VR experience to your location.
Within an hour, I had the Gear VR headset on at the corner of Trinity and 3rd for a portable VR experience. Marketers must pay attention to Gear VR as it will quickly become one of the most accessible forms of VR for consumers.
2. Social media to social messaging
Twitter made its micro-messaging app debut at SXSW in 2007. In 2016, the focus of many panels is discussing the shift that’s happening with consumers moving from social media to social messaging. This includes the rise of the conversational user experience as well as the next multibillion-dollar opportunity: marketing in messaging.
Leading up to SXSW 2016, there has been a seismic shift in consumer behavior towards intimate sharing and the rise of narrowcast networks. Platforms such as Twitter are integrating features normally associated with the more private Snapchat platform. Facebook views Messenger as a primary commerce driver moving forward.
This shift is redefining how brand marketers approach connecting with consumers. It’s becoming less about the hallmarks of social media marketing, which included personification of the brand in a witty way and more about enabling conversation. Marketers need to find the key moments to passively enable a conversation through visual language or by creating compelling customer experiences via messaging channels.
With this macro shift in consumer behavior combined with the signals given by the platforms in response to where they are placing their bets for the near future, there could be a new platform unveiled at SXSW that meets the needs of today’s consumers who want a more intimate way to share and connect.
3. Artificial intelligence and emotive robotics
Over the past year, robotics and artificial intelligence have seized media and consumer interest. Now we’re hearing many robotic and AI topics being discussed at SXSW 2016 – think living with robots, the role of autonomous cars, and how emotive robotics can enhance our lives.
One of the best robotic panels from SXSW 2015 came from MIT social roboticist Cynthia Breazeal. Breazeal talked about emotive computing, which is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. She also introduced an emotive AI called Jibo. Jibo is back this year, and the discussion is focused on how it has evolved and how it can enhance our lives.
Jibo is one of the most advanced robots on display at SXSW this year, offering a two-way interactive and expressive experience that is helpful and thought provoking to the user, making it feel like a human-to-human interaction.
For digital marketers, emotive robotics opens up new possibilities for delivering highly contextual content and could serve as an access point into IoT-based behavioral data. The key to the concept of emotive robotics is its ability to take a consumer’s emotional response into consideration, making consumer interactions with these devices more positive and personal.
4. Dark social
No, this is not the name of a new Indy spy drama; it’s a real trend surfacing during the interactive conference. Dark social is the sharing activity that is somewhat invisible to traditional analytics. It’s becoming more important as the shift towards social messaging takes place.
It’s the culmination of referrals and sharing of content that originates from instant messages, emails containing links, and, most recently, the rise of ephemeral social communication platforms such as Snapchat, WeChat, and WhatsApp.
A recent study by Radium One found that 59% of all online sharing is via dark social and 91% of Americans regularly share information via these methods. 72% of sharing is simply users copying and pasting long URLs and either emailing or texting the information.
What makes cracking the code with dark social even more important is the sharp rise in adoption of ephemeral social communication apps. The convergence of social and mobile is here, and the percentage of content shared will continue to rise at an exponential rate in 2016.
Marketers need to start thinking about dark social and its role as part of their customer experience.
5. Connected everything
From panels discussing connected hardware to events showcasing the car as a new marketplace and the countless wearables and IOT-based devices to be showcased on the conference floor, connectivity and streamlining a consumer’s ability to interact with technology is on full display.
One key experience is Sony’s Future Lab Program, which showcases the latest innovations from Sony as it launches the N wearable at SXSW.
This device acts like a wearable Amazon Echo, shaped like a neck collar so as to not hinder movement. It responds to pre-programmed audio commands and takes hands-free pictures.
Sony is looking to solicit live feedback and refine the prototype based on conference-goers’ user testing. This transparent approach to testing gives attendees a sense of ownership and demonstrates a great approach to testing innovation at SXSW.
The brand experiences that are on full display at SXSW are a strong indicator of what brand-to-consumer interactions will look like in the very near future. Marketers must leverage technology and digital innovation to create more convenient, more engaging, and more enticing customer experiences.
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I recently attended the 2016 Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain. With over 100,000 attendees and 2,200 participating companies there was a lot of breaking news and tech on display that has the potential to reshape industries.
With mobile representing a primary access point for consumers this event is becoming increasingly important for brand marketers.
At the end of this post is a slideshow providing a comprehensive recap and analysis of key trends identified during the event. Here is a preview of the territories analyzed.
Key Industry Topics discussed at MWC such as ad blocking, digital transformation, sponsored data and the role of 5G for connectivity in the future.
Overviews of Technology that will empower consumers such as modular form factors, virtual reality cameras, connected devices and new features that can influence consumer behavior.
Immersive Experiences were at the center of MWC. The recap reviews new entrants into the VR arms race, how Facebook is looking to provide VR for the masses, the role augmented reality can play for brand marketers and the potential for mixed reality.
Evolution of the Connected Car dives into how connectivity is shifting from internal to external, the rise of autonomous cars, cars as the next mobile platform and the creation of immersive in-car experiences.
Here is the full slideshare deck:
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