Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) – and now even Mixed Reality (MR) – are ways content-marketing solopreneurs can gain a huge competitive edge, by giving their users more absorbing and engaging content. As technology advances, users will expect brands online to give them something new to enjoy and interact with. From the point of view of brands and marketers, immersive, real-world experiences will become part of the new ways through which they can distinguish themselves.
Of course, despite any evolution of Content Technologies & Trends, the heart of content marketing will always still be great, relevant content; that will not change. While adopting new ideas from VR, AR or MR, it’s key to see that they should be supplemental to great content and not a way to mask bad content with “gimmickery”. To raise your game, offer the right combination of valuable content and innovative technology to enhances experience.
What’s the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – and Mixed Reality?
In the world of the online content marketing business, where we solopreneurs are anyway wondering about what is reality and what is not, we have to contend with two things on the threshold of becoming big concepts. Augmented reality and virtual reality are related ideas, but slightly different. For one thing, they both have the remarkable ability to alter (or cheat) our perception of the world.
The two names often surface in the same conversations, so it’s but natural that many people get confused. But the difference is fairly major, so it’s worth explaining. Where they differ, is in the type of “altered perception” we experience.
Virtual reality is able to relocate the user into another world. For example, it may give you the unreal feeling of being in some other city, or in an alien world, or whatever “space” the designer has created.
Through closed visors or goggles, VR blocks out the room you really are in, and instead puts your presence elsewhere, either in some other artificially created space or in a real landscape thousands of miles away from where you are. You may be in your bedroom till you wear the googles, and suddenly find yourself amidst the Himalayan mountain ranges, standing atop Mount Everest.
There are now many types of eyewear-devices to get that VR experience through – most notably the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard. If you haven’t tried virtual reality yet, you should be warned. We have come so far in the technology now, that many people need to get re-oriented to the genuine world around them when they take off their eyewear … and, believe you me, it takes quite a bit of time to “come back home”. The immersion is quite dramatic.
Augmented reality takes your current reality, but adds something to it. Augmented Reality (AR) doesn’t shift you to some other place entirely. It just “augments” your current presence. If you wear the clear AR visors and look down a street, for example, you will see the street – but you may also see a couple of things on the street that are not really there. If you were a businessman wondering how your store would look on that street, you may want to check, through AR, a juxtaposed image of your proposed store as if it was standing on that street.
Among the much talked-about devices suitable for AR are the near-ready Samsung Monitorless AR glasses, and Apple’s AR glasses which are expected to accompany the new AR features being built into a next gen iPhone.
Mixed Reality is the third element in this whole game, where you can manipulate both physical and virtual items. You could think of MR as the next-generation sensing and imaging technologies. Mixed Reality allows you to not just see and immerse yourself in the surreal world around you, but it even lets you interact with that space you’re in, by using your own hands when you have that headset on. In a sense you would have both the real world and the imaginary world, and you’d be able to act in that mixed space.
The nearest example I can think of is like being in a real lush garden that extends on one side into an artificial space that looks like a desert, and being able to move sand with your hands from the unreal desert to the real garden. Marketers, I’m, told, are excited by this kind of possibility being a feature on their websites. I’m just wondering if after giving prospects and leads an experience like this, whether they may still be able to use their addled brains to buy our products!
For those who want an even better description of how VR and AR differ, Cramer.com spells it out …
What is the real difference? Think scuba diving vs. going to the aquarium. With virtual reality, you can swim with sharks. And with augmented reality, you can watch a shark pop out of your business card.” To that I’ll add my idea of MR … it should let you grab the shark with your hands and eat it, before it eats you!”
Here’s the fun part of this article … some terrific examples of VR, AR and MR
#1: Here’s my pick of the best example of VR … it’s the “Try Before You Fly” campaign by Thomas Cook.
Thomas Cook is a British global travel company. In some ten of their UK stores, they ingeniously installed VR headsets (the Samsung Gear VR). The headsets allowed store-visitors to experience 360-degree “realistic visits” of New York, Singapore, Egypt, Greece, and many other countries. If you wore those glasses you’d feel like you’re already in those far-off places, amidst skyscrapers in New York or the ancient monuments of Greece.
Thomas Cook claims that over a period of three months, the revenue for their New York excursions went up by 190 percent, and corresponding flight and hotel bookings went up by £12,000 ($17,500), directly relatable to VR.
#2: This one’s my pick of the best example of AR … yes, you guessed it, Pokémon Go!
With virtual reality, you can swim with sharks. And with augmented reality, you can watch a#2: This one’s my pick of the best example of AR … yes, you guessed it, Pokémon Go! This must surely be the first major example of AR finding mass market adoption, and changing our daily lives.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality (AR) game. What Pokémon Go does is to use a mobile device’s GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in the player’s real-world location.
I know it sounds like “child’s play” but you won’t believe the number of adults of rather mature age who got caught in ghastly road accidents when chasing Pokemon’s artificial appearances in real places! shark pop out of your business card.”
#3: And now my pick of the best example of MR … it’s SmartHotel360!
Amanda Carlson is a designer who was involved with the creation of SmartHotel360 … a fictitious smart hospitality company that showcases the future of connected travel through their mobile and desktop applications. On her blog she writes: “I had the pleasure of creating the branding, look and feel, logo, and web campaign page for this project. It was presented at Microsoft Connect, where Scott Guthrie and many others speak about new apps that will have profound impacts on the world.” The whole idea behind SmartHotel360 was to show how Mixed Reality could work beautifully for a hospitality brand.
Here’s the video that explains how SmartHotel360 works …
What the best research shows up as the most interesting VR/AR trends for solopreneurs to watch!
Some of the key research findings in the last couple of years suggest the way VR and AR may change content marketing. From research it may be possible for us, solopreneurs, to decide which segments may respond better to “unreal experiences” as an attractant on our sites. I have studied two research reports in good detail – the Perkins Cole 2018 VR/AR Report and the Goldman Sachs VR/AR Report. Both seems to suggest certain trends in the same direction …
1. It seems AR is going to be more widely adopted by business than VR will be. This is because VR is much more costly to produce apps for, and the hardware needed for users is also price-prohibitive. On the contrary AR seems to be smartphone-friendly and therefore it’s development may outstrip that of VR, although a lot of production and trials with VR are actually helping with AR development.
The Perkins Cole Report states:
Our respondents identified the user experience as the top obstacle for mass adoption of both VR (41%) and AR (39%), reflecting ongoing concerns with technical limitations and performance issues, as well as bulky hardware in the case of VR. Cost was viewed as a greater concern for VR (22%) than AR (14%), whereas respondents expressed more concern about content offerings for AR (25%) than VR (17%).
Two-thirds of respondents expect the AR market to surpass VR in revenue. However, 51% now expect it to happen within three years, whereas only 18% selected that timeframe in 2016. Even taking into account the 18 months between surveys, it appears that respondents believe the timeframe in which AR will surpass VR is shorter than previously anticipated.
Content was a greater concern for AR than for VR. That is likely so because cost is perceived to be less of an obstacle for AR, given that the technology is directly tied to smartphones, which are essentially ubiquitous. Beyond the fact that AR can reach users through smartphones, there have been some major developments in AR headsets.
Magic Leap One, an AR setup consisting of goggles tethered to a pocket-sized computer, was unveiled in December 2017. Then, in February 2018, Intel launched its new Vaunt smart glasses, in a strategy that The Verge12 described this way: “Instead of trying to convince us we could change our lives for a head-worn display, Intel is trying to change the head-worn display to fit our lives.”
The Goldman Sachs Report echoes this idea by saying:
At this stage, we have greater conviction in the relative success of VR versus AR given VR’s technological progress and momentum, and the early formation of an ecosystem of vendors and partners. Our base case software scenario is driven 75% by VR use cases vs 25% for AR use cases. While we believe both VR and AR need to advance technologically, we see AR as having more significant hurdles to overcome, including challenges in display technology and the real-time processing and calibration of the real-world physical environment.”
That said, as AR technology matures, we see stronger enterprise use cases emerging, especially considering AR enables you to see your physical environment whereas VR completely blocks it. Where could this go? We see qualities in VR/AR technology that can take this from niche use cases to a device as ubiquitous as the smartphone. Part of the mass appeal of smartphones is their ease of use with a touch screen interface; VR/AR technology has the potential to take this level Of intuition to the next stage as the controls are driven by gestures and the interface is in 3D. Technology can often start with narrow use cases and evolve into broader platforms.
For example, the iPod dominated in the music industry, cellular technology was added to it, and the device evolved into the iPhone. Soon after, third-party applications began to run on smartphones, creating a new market for business and consumer applications. In the long run, if VR/AR technology becomes as lightweight as a set of glasses, we see the potential for the evolution to be similar where multiple devices are combined into one, potentially replacing phones and PC environments.
2. Certain businesses may use VR/AR more and probably use the subscriptions model to generate revenue. For both AR and VR, the ability to charge for subscriptions hinges on the creation of compelling content. It is also possible that AR and VR features will be part of other subscription products.
On this issue the Perkins Cole Report states:
The NBA is broadcasting 27 games in VR this season as part of its League Pass subscription package. As for monetizing AR, Snapchat launched its Custom Lenses program. By combining augmented reality with your customizable captions, Snapchat hopes you’ll share more from birthdays and weddings while earning it a little money. The vast majority of respondents expect developers to focus their efforts over the next year on creating AR tools and applications for smartphones (82%) and on creating more collaborative and social experiences in AR/VR (81%).”
The Goldman Sachs Report suggests:
We’ve outlined 9 use cases for VR/AR which we see as the most meaningful drivers of the market in the near-term: videogames, live events, video entertainment, healthcare, real estate, retail, education, engineering, and military. We conducted a bottom-up analysis to arrive at estimates for the potential market in each use case, assessing the number of users and the existing and potential revenue pools. While the videogame use case will likely take center stage, we see use cases in areas like healthcare and education evolving to help drive VR/AR awareness.”
What’s the best way to create a content marketing strategy that incorporates VR, AR or MR experiences?
As solopreneurs, we all know that our customers are more inclined to engage with or purchase from brands they feel the strongest connection with. What is new, after the advent of VR, AR and MR, is the definition of the word “engagement”.
So long as other brands have not yet fully adopted these strategies to “richly-engage” customers, VR, AR and MR may still lie in the realm of outlier brand experiences. But the moment the technology becomes affordable, and many apps and smartphone-friendly devices surface offering alternate-reality-based-engagement, these things like VR, AR and MR will become part of mainstream content-marketing tactics.
Customers will begin to expect such surreal experiences as a norm. If, indeed, the day is not far off when all this may explode into everyday life, solopreneurs had better be prepared. At the very least, solopreneurs need to understand what they may have to provide their neo-customers.
Here are some tips to get you mentally ready for the future of brand experience …
Tip #1: Don’t just create content, meld content to create an experience. The idea is not to make content separate from virtual reality offerings on your site, but to make it all a coherent whole.
For example, I am now working on a hospital website where we have the task of making young mothers-to-be feel comfortable with the hospital’s maternity services – and to be ready to sign up to have their deliveries at the hospital.
What we are doing here is to try and let an expectant mom “view via AR” what stage of growth her baby may be at, each month before birth … by juxtaposing in the mother’s eye-view the best medical 3D videos of a baby’s growth in the womb.
Since the hospital can offer this rare “almost-real” sense of the baby’s growth to the mother, and give her suggestions on how best to care for herself and the growing baby at each monthly stage, the bond between the mothers and the maternity hospital will start growing along with the baby’s growth.
Tip #2: Get inside your customer’s heads and see how a 3D visualization of a product or service may affect buying. There are lots of opportunities to create store walkthroughs, or home-buyer walkthroughs. The important point is to see if by offering such walkthroughs the cost of production justifies the increase in sales.
One example I have personally worked on was for an SUV vehicle in India which was just a vanilla model rugged all-terrain vehicle. Knowing that most SUV buyers love accessorizing their SUV’s, we made it possible for people to “view in 3D” their vehicles being kitted up step by step, as they chose the accessories they wanted. When they had built a product they liked, they could order it online.
The altered reality experience here was intrinsic to the sale of the vehicle, because without those customizations the vehicle itself was not quite in saleable shape!
Tip #3: Make it all seem like fun to the consumer, because a brand that allows positive feelings is well-remembered. For many customers today, an experience is “inauthentic” if it’s not interactive.
They have to be able to see and feel like they’ll be able to grab whatever you’re selling. Two apps that I can think of that make buying fun are the Sephora Virtual Artist app that says “make up your face with our cosmetics and then buy the look” – or the IKEA app that allows you to “see your living room with IKEA furniture in it before deciding what pieces to fit together”.
The big secret to making such immersive and interactive experiences is that consumers start feeling a sense of ownership of the product they have “co-created” by visualizing it! Thereafter they are buying their creation, not yours!
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Technologies & Trends”:
- Real Truths On Artificial Intelligence For Content Marketer Solopreneurs!
- How To Craft Your Campaign For Multi-Screen Content Marketing!
- Clear Your Throat And Get Ready For The Voice-Search Revolution!
- Are Content Marketers Ready For This New Internet Of Things?
- Location-Based Content Marketing: SoLoMo Factor For Solopreneurs!