Virtual Reality in Digital Marketing by
Stephan Lange

February 22, 2016
[Featured]

Virtual Reality or VR has been a buzzword for a while again, but it has really picked up momentum since a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 for the VR headset called Oculus Rift. They raised over $ 2.4 million to make their dream a reality.

OculusRift
Oculus Rift Headset

Only a couple of years later they were acquired by Facebook for a small sum of $ 2 billion and are now part of one of the biggest companies in the world.

So what is Virtual Reality (VR)? It is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. VR places the user inside an experience. Users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. But VR isn’t really a new thing. I am old enough to remember Sega’s Master System 3D glasses or Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, but none of them had the impact either of the companies hoped for and they disappeared again.

NintendoVirtualBoy

Nintendo Virtual Boy (1995)

Now we carry little, but very powerful computers with us in our pockets and another trend emerged – the VR headset. One of the first to bring out an affordable VR headset was no other than Google with their Google Cardboard that could be put together DYI style in your own home. The idea here is that you use your phone to run VR apps and the headset is just a fancy holder for your phone. Now there are a lot of them out there and big companies are trying to get a piece of the cake – Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, Sony …

Different VR headsets in the marketDifferent VR headsets in the market

The Mobile World Congress 2016 is happening right now and already two of the biggest mobile manufacturers have announced support for virtual reality. LG just announced a small and slick VR headset that connects to the USB-C port of their new flagship the LG5 and Samsung announced a 360 degree camera for filming immersive footage.

Samsung_Gear_360_camera
LG 360 VR

Samsung Gear 360

So what does that have to do with Digital Marketing? We are always on the look out for innovative ways to add to the marketing potential for our clients. Most of Metropolis clients are part of the Developer category and we help them by getting genuine leads to sell their properties. Selling property off the plan has always been challenging and we tend to spend a good chunk of our budget on making the future development come to life with CGI renders, beautiful photography and location shots. But it is always up to the potential buyer and their imagination to see themselves be part of this suburb, apartment or house.

Now imagine that you could put on a headset and suddenly you are on one of the busy streets filled with trendy café’s, restaurants and your local organic food store. You look around and you can see the park across the street, you see children climb the slippery slide or play in the sandbox.

SpatialMicrophone
Spatial Sound Microphone

Just by looking at the small forest in the background you are suddenly teleported into it and you find yourself standing in the middle of it. Again you look around and you can hear the wind moving the leaves, you hear the birds sing in the trees. You hear a noise coming from behind you, you turn around and you see a possum climb a tree. Hearing is very important to a person’s sense of space and human beings react more quickly to audio cues than to visual cues. These lend a powerful sense of presence to a virtual world and should be a must in every VR experience.

Through your head movements you can navigate to other sections and with the help of CGIs we can combine real life footage with computer generated ones and you can find yourself in front of the yet to be build apartment building.

You are looking at the different floors from the other side of the street and once you look at one in particular you will be teleported inside that floor. Here you can choose the apartment you want to be looking at and suddenly you find yourself standing in the middle of it. You look around and you see the kitchen, the couch, the way out to the balcony. You have the option to go into other rooms, but you decide you want to check out the view from your new apartment, so you look at the balcony door and then you are standing on it, taking in the amazing view. You look around and you can see the city from here on one side, the river on the other or maybe a forest. It is simply breath taking.

The big advantage here is that we can invoke an emotional response in people that we just can’t with static imagery and film.

The Australian market has been of high interest to foreign investors and the ability to see and immerse yourself in this environment will be a big advantage over the traditional way of marketing a property.

We are still a fair way off of calling VR a mainstream tool, but with large companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Sony backing it, it won’t go away again.

We can see a trend in video streaming services starting to support the medium as well. Wistia has a beta program for their embedded VR player, Youtube has supported it for a while and they incorporated it into their Android app.

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YouTube’s Android App with VR

There are lots of different ways how VR can be used for marketing purposes. Here are just a few examples:

Love music? Want to go to a concert, but it has been sold out for month? With VR you could be in the comfort of your own home while the concert is being live streamed from the front row.

Want to get a new car? With VR you could use an app to customize your new car to your specifications and then take it for a test drive. All while sitting at your desk.

Are you wondering what that view is like from that Hotel you found online? With VR you could jump into the room of your choice, explore the facilities and check out that room from the 39th floor.

There are plenty of opportunities for VR and I am looking forward to work together with our clients to immerse their customers into a virtual world to help them decide on buying their new property.

Stephan

Stephan Lange – Head of Digital at Metropolis.
To hear from more Stephan, please follow him on LinkedIn

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