About the above–This is what a motivated man can do with extended reality tools. Good for him, good for us all.
Extended Reality (XR), or the umbrella term for virtual, augmented and mixed realities is a combination of relatively new and older technologies. Mixed reality is relatively new. Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) have been around labs, hospitals and military training facilities since the 1970’s. VR is the most recognizable name and AR has the most recognizable products. Mixed reality (MR) is doing well among business users but so far has a very narrow user base. Let’s take a look at how each one works, courtesy of OngInnovations.com
What does the market look like?
“If the hardware becomes more readily accessible and affordable then we can assume that consumers will start to pull rather than brands pushing – this should force us all as marketers to consider this technique as a viable tool for more than just aesthetic additions to campaigns”—Fiona McArthur, Group Managing Director, adam&eveDDB London
VR awareness is broadest of the three, but there is very little depth of experience. In 2017, 1 of 3 Americans were aware of VR. During that year, all VR headset manufacturers shipped 13.7 million units, up 2 million from 2016.
Which sounds impressive until you make some comparisons. In 2017, Sony shipped 22 million PlayStation4 consoles—including 2.55 million with PlayStationVR headsets. That 13.7 million mentioned above is a little under 5% of the 252 million consoles shipped by the entire gaming industry in 2018 alone.
The Oculus Go VR headset entered the market in 2018, driving the price of a name-brand piece of VR technology down to just $200. Although it has been around since 2016, PlayStationVR (PSVR) gaming started to take off in 2018. Market forecasters project 2018-2020 to be the “ramp-up” period before VR really takes flight. IDC and partners estimate global headset shipments to hit 59.2 million by 2021 and 68.9 million the following year.
Augmented reality has an almost opposite story. The technology has been here for a while, but you know it as Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters. Since the tech didn’t require oddly-shaped headgear, it got less publicity. Until Pokémon Go. And Snapchat filters. AR can be used anywhere, and it’s pretty spectacular to project and manipulate virtual objects from your mobile device. Especially when you start thinking of products and services beyond Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters.
With the upcoming launch of Microsoft’s HoloEye 2, mixed reality (MR) should begin to move forward as an option for a range of applications. The majority of current use cases are on the plant floor or with service technicians.
The good news is that forward-thinking PR practitioners aren’t late to the XR game. Over the next few pages, we will take a good look at each technology, share use cases, and show you ways to start using it now.
User numbers are growing, as anticipated
|Number of active virtual reality users worldwide 2014-2018
Number of active virtual reality users worldwide from 2014 to 2018 (in millions)
|Early Majority/KT&T||Early Adopters/Light Gamers||Innovators/Hardcore Gamers|
This figure is a result of the next chart.
Interest is price-driven
|Virtual reality: consumer interest by price point 2017
|Description: Share of VR consumers who would consider buying device in the United States, as of 2017, by price point
|Share of respondents
The table above makes it easy to see why Oculus targeted their new Go headset at a $200 base price. Although the exact number represents 30% of respondents, what do you think will happen among people willing to pay more once they understand the headset is a solid piece of tech at an affordable price? Why fork over $800 when only $200 will do? The Go puts another 20 percent of these respondents in play.
Market prognosticators are thinking explosive growth globally
|Global consumer virtual reality market size 2016-2021||Description: Consumer virtual reality software and hardware market size worldwide from 2016 to 2021 (in billion U.S. dollars)|
|Market size in billion U.S. dollars|
And in the US too
|Virtual reality market size in the U.S. 2014-2025||Description: Virtual reality (VR) market revenue in the United States from 2016 to 2021 (in million U.S. dollars)|
|Revenue in million U.S. dollars|
VR arcades are the longest-standing applications and the context most people connect to VR, followed by the DIY-inspired Google Cardboard viewer. If the cardboard glasses provide an experience valued at “7”, the arcade experience is a “21.” The arcade industry is gearing up to find new ways to make first contact with VR an even more incredible experience. This video below promotes a new Terminator social VR game that can be played at a new type of cineplex-based arcade.
Called “VR Experiences”, they are multi-layered social worlds where players cooperate and compete to accomplish a goal within a specific timeframe. Here’s a trailer for a Star Wars-themed experience:
Four letters spell success for VR in education: S-T-E-M.
The technology to put younger kids in different settings, situations and environments in order to teach by doing and showing has never been better. For older kids, an opportunity to learn how to create that technology or content can help them settle on a vocation or life’s passion.
“Touching Masterpieces” will change your perception of VR. It is the first VR educational program created with haptics to allow visually impaired people to “see” history’s greatest art masterpieces. Gloves instead of goggles.
Another very notable application is the Stanford Ocean Acidification Project. Available now in 3 of the 4 largest VR app stores, it allows viewers to see the effects of ocean acidification over time. But, instead of a dramatization, the visualized decay and destruction is based on current data extrapolated into the future.
Since the 1990’s VR has been used to help autistic kids learn social awareness, rehearse social encounters in a safe environment, and assists researchers of autism and social cognition. According to Autism Speaksand the CDC, research showed that in the United States “1 in 59 children (1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls) [have] autism spectrum disorder (ASD).” Since the 1990’s VR has been used to help autistic kids learn social awareness, rehearse social encounters in a safe environment, and assists researchers of autism and social cognition.
Here’s a video from the National Autistic Society that uses VR to let everyone else see life through their eyes.
If you’re thinking “why isn’t there a headset in the home of every family with an autistic child?”, then it’s easy to see VR’s upside. This is just one example of the potential for medical VR.
Statista says the global AR market size will grow by over 600 percent by 2025; $3.48 billion in 2017, $5.91 in 2018 and $198.17 by 2025.
Hardware-wise, the most notable piece of AR was Google Glass. The now-discontinued product would take pictures and video, as well as provide turn-by-turn directions, read email and a lot of other cool stuff. Although the Glass was discontinued years ago, others have come and gone since. Models featured on Amazon start at $35.00. Here’s story on the top models for 2019.
AR headset sales continue to grow and are projected to increase over the next few years.
|Global shipments of smart augmented reality glasses 2016-2022||Description: Smart augmented reality glasses unit shipments worldwide from 2016 to 2022 (in 1,000s)
|Unit shipments in thousands|
The battlefields for the AR market will be fought with glasses as well as on your smartphone. Check out this snappy compilation of applications (which are not Pokémon Go or Snapchat filters) that don’t need special glasses:
One of the most notable uses that didn’t make the video was the “View in My Room” feature on the Houzz.com app. Houzz.com entered the home furnishings market as a disruptor and continues to play that role. The app is a perfect example of AR. Pick your item or items, scan the floor in your room, tap your finger and BOOM, it’s in your space and you can look at it from almost every direction—even walk a circle around it. Move them around. Check out the app in this video from the Houzz team. The real action starts at :28:
Last June, company founder and CEO Adi Tatarko says the feature increased sales lift by 11 times. Not percent. Multiples. There are now a host of apps featuring similar functionality. It shouldn’t surprise you to hear IKEA has since integrated the technology into their app as well.
AR for cyclists and motorcycle riders means the lens becomes a literal heads-up display telling riders position, speed, physical condition, capture video, etc. Here’s video of the hot new product, the Raptor from Everysight.
With mixed reality, you need the glasses, but not the entire VR headset. MR uses and interacts with the reality in your field of vision. Not just data or directions flickering in the upper right corner of your eye. The best example of MR comes from the coming Microsoft HoloLens 2. The video below is a trailer for Robo Raid, a mixed reality game where you protect your home from evil robots.
Mixed reality is a way for municipalities, developers and regulators help visualize the impact of urban planning and impact on the environment. It’s a new way to let people vote for public art. It’s a way for meter maids to efficiently inspect and log the permits retailers and construction sites must post publicly. And that’s just some of what could be done in government. MR is also able to break the third wall. Below is a video on enabling people to create—and print what they create—in 3D.
On the whole, it feels like VR is a precursor to more advanced MR. Mixed reality allows users to co-create everything that was provided to us in virtual reality. The ability to integrate the real with the digital on the same interface offers new ways to connect with digital tourists, gamers, regulators, stakeholders and taxpayers. And communicators.
First: don’t call a vendor, start with your team
To cut through the hyperbole, XR is nothing more than a new kind of camera used to help tell stories. If you are interested in how to make it work before calling a vendor, spend a little money and time on the technology. Buy a few cameras and VR headsets. Start with 360-degree video and break some eggs learning how to use it. Determine whether it fits in terms of creativity and whether audiences see it as effective.
Assign your creative team with the task of integrating XR into a simple, small-scale self-promotion campaign. Or another manageable and controllable way to test the tech. If you opt for self-promotion, you already know the client—yourself.
Second: Look at what other people are doing with it—especially artists
For wild inspiration on what an agency can do with VR, look to visual artists, influencers, sophisticated hobbyists and first-adopters. They are already thinking on the edge. Use what you think is impactful.
For example, in 2017, Jordan Wolfson, a visual artist, opened a VR installation at the Whitney Biennial in New York City. Titled “Real Violence”, it was a 2:25 virtual depiction of the viewer beating the life out of someone with their hands and a baseball bat.
“Real Violence” involves a level of first-person impact and visceral responses the average communicator doesn’t usually aspire to. But the scary, shaking feeling this gives you is heading in the right direction for emotionally engaging people into the story of a crisis or disaster.
Using XR to tell journalistic stories isn’t as emotionally jarring as “Real Violence,” but quite effective. Journalism students at the University of Maryland used a 360 camera to film a short documentary on flooding in Ellicott City, Maryland. The disaster, which occurred on May 27, 2018, swept away buildings and roads in parts of the city.
Third: Take #1 seriously
As advised earlier, use XR to tell the stories of your own agency or department. Think big, break things and all that TED talk stuff. Worst come to worst, the client won’t fire you.
But approach it with the same earnestness that you would with a client. Go through your regular creative and production process. Keep the same timelines. Because what remains at the end of the development campaign will be a team with a first-hand understanding of XR. They will be smarter and better-equipped to talk with vendors and clients about turning an internal project into a new product offering.
Adam is the founder and CEO of EX3 Labs, a Chicago-based XR startup. Over the past decade, Adam has helped dozens of companies, from start-ups to large enterprises, design / build web and mobile applications, train internal design teams and develop digital strategies.
Enjoy a few of the questions and answers taken from a wide-ranging interview from March 2019.
Q: Which do you do more with prospective clients? Present based on needs they bring to you; or challenge them with new solutions that you see uniquely fit for XR?
“Internally there’s two pathways that we take when we deal with customers. In some cases, there is more of a proactive ideation where we’re essentially using the technology to help find an audience. In other cases, companies directly ask “here’s our business challenge. Let’s see if we can solve it.”
There are also a few cases where we have an idea or see an application that requires us to find someone to talk to. EX3 Labs has an impressive breadth of knowledge. Sometimes we’re covering topics and areas and see solutions that companies in these sectors haven’t considered; since they’re unfamiliar with the technology. And it has worked. We have a few clients who tell us our outreach was a reason to act on their curiosities.
A lot of our job–even on a daily basis—is to educate our customers and partners around the capabilities of this emerging technology and then map those capabilities to the business challenges that they’re faced with.
Do people understand that XR is an option? Are they thinking of it when analyzing options?
You’d normally want to start with a business challenge but that’s not always the case. Quite frankly I don’t subscribe to the notion that you have to have a business challenge to solve before you can start exploring technology. I think it stifles innovation. I’m not saying there’s not a place for waiting for a problem. We get clients that way too. But I also feel like that situational incuriosity could potentially stifle innovation.
If you have a different role and your role is just to do “X” then just do that. But if you’re in a leadership, the value of introducing your team to XR will generate good ideas about how to apply the technology. Recently, we had visitors from a manufacturing company. They never heard of the technology before. and they instantly said we could do this with it.
Once we got them in the lab, they instantly said “we could do this with it, we could do that.” They tried the device on and it was like a spark plug of ideas went off.
So how would each of those better educate or prepare themselves for that first meeting after they reach out to I think part of it has to do with some of it is understanding their business and where they might be struggling a little bit in other respects it’s leveraging other scenarios of other companies outside companies and how they’ve actually used them. There are countless case studies of how other companies in various industries are using different technologies. Again, a little bit more specific to the whole lens. But Microsoft has a ton of case studies on how various companies or health care manufacturing and transportation are using the type technology.
I always recommend being able to kind of explore those and do some do a little bit of research and homework just to figure out if there’s some overlap because there oftentimes is so who is using XR right now.
What are some of the common misconceptions about extended reality out there?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that XR is something that’s still five to 10 years out. It’s very difficult to predict that that moment of when something is going to hit its absolute peak or have that “a-ha” moment where consumers go into mass adoption mode.
I don’t think mixed or augmented reality is going to have a similar trajectory as the mobile phone. Mobile was the perfect timing of people getting all the computing power directly in their pocket. It was a small form factor and easy to use with just one hand. Combine those two with the app revolution, and that just changed everything.
I don’t see a world where everybody’s wearing headsets all the time. I could be wrong, but I think that’s just too much of a barrier. What I will say is that the people that we know that have experience really strong applications on either virtual augmented or mixed reality. They can’t get enough of it.
And I think one other strong indicator that I would point to is how the interaction of today’s kids is with technology is completely different than how you or I was growing up is very, very different. What seemed to be an impactful experience for me growing up is definitely not the same experience were I the same age today.
There’s a quality gap between what is available for home versus work. Does that affect XR adoption?
I believe the gap between the consumer and business user experience never been wider. In 2019 most of the interactions with computers are driven by the consumer experience. The computing power you have at home is probably more powerful than the technology at work. Consumers have all of these great experiences at home they’ve got Nest thermostats, and they can talk to Alexa where they can talk conversationally to an interface as they shop for clothes.
Then they go to work and it’s a paradigm shift. They got an old machine with older software and it takes three months to find out they can’t get something better because of security measures. As a result, people don’t consider better technology until they feel it’s mainstream enough for work. That trade-off puts you at a competitive disadvantage.
Telling stories with XR is easier and cheaper than AI. That’s the good news. And there is no bad news. Unless you choose to stick with the same old thing.