Alternative Realities: VR vs. AR

by Jay Selig, Marketing & PR Manager

Experience is a matter of perspective, and perspective shifts as you change out the lens with which you view the world. Brands, and their products and services, can be experienced through different lenses as well. Each one provides a shift in perspective, brings focus to new elements, and calls attention to particular details. Some brands will look great through one lens, while others will look the complete opposite.

As technology progresses, so too do the perspectives by which we view things. Messaging that once existed in two dimensions now exists in 3D. What we once could only view on a television screen we can now experience in an immersive alternate reality.

Both virtual reality and augmented reality have altered the way we consume content and experience brands. With 90% of brands expecting to increase their experiential spending next year, we can expect to see a whole lot more of these mind-bending experiences. Can’t decide which is best for you? Let’s examine.

 

Virtual Reality

If you’re looking for the most cutting-edge of marketing technologies, look no further than virtual reality. Everyone has heard about it. Everybody wants it for their next activation. Few people understand the intricacies and nuances about it though.

Virtual reality has been around for decades, so why is it just now becoming an international sensation? Well, until now, there has not been a strong push to create valuable, rich video content. With the advent of 360-degree video rigs and the vast improvement of digital 3D content, we’ve seen a surge of new content.

That surge of new content has resulted in some pretty unique VR experiences. I’ve experienced some first hand while I’ve marveled at others. It’s truly incredible to feel as though you’ve been transported into another completely real (or created) universe—all accomplished by simply strapping on a VR headset.

With all of the amazing things that can be accomplished through VR, it still has a long way to go before it becomes commonplace, especially in the experiential marketing space. Let’s take a look at how the pros are still being weighed down by the cons.
 

Pros

  1. Diverse content base
  2. Experiences unattainable otherwise
  3. Wide variety of consumer headset options
  4. Affordable for consumers
  5. People know it

Cons

  1. Limited interactive components
  2. Expensive to produce content
  3. Limited activation throughput

 

Patrón Takes You on a Virtual Tour

The best examples of VR are those that share a story. It’s cool to have some great footage, but if there isn’t a clear narrative to it, you aren’t really accomplishing your goal. One of my favorite examples of virtual reality is Patrón’s virtual hacienda tour.

 


 

Not only does the video showcase stunning imagery from a multitude of angles, but it walks you through a unique and untold story. When you leave the experience, you feel as though you know the history behind the Patrón brand and feel a deeper connection to it.

The thing about VR is it has a transformative power about it. Places you never thought you’d see or experiences you never thought you’d have the opportunity to take part in are now all possibilities. You can provide consumers a front row seat to their dream without it costing them an arm and a leg. No other media has that power just yet and we’re just scratching the surface.

 

Augmented Reality

Not too familiar with augmented reality? Well the concept is rather simple, but the execution is where it gets more complex. Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Okay, maybe it’s more complex that I let on.

The crux of it is that augmented reality enhances real life elements rather than replacing them. Through your phone, a tablet, or now even special glasses, you are able to see digital components or environments as part of your live perspective.

Take something as simple as Snapchat. The filter feature, though inherently basic, is a prime example of augmented reality. A filter can allow you to swap faces or overlay a fun mask over your face. It puts a new spin on your reality, but doesn’t transport you to a completely fictional one.

One of the best consumer-centric examples of augmented reality comes in the form of Pokémon Go. The craze of the summer of 2016, consumers used their phone to find and capture digital Pokémon all around the globe.

So where does augmented really excel and where is it currently falling short?

 

Pros

  1. Usable anywhere
  2. Variety of uses
  3. Easier call-to-action

 

Cons

  1. Potentially harmful distraction
  2. Less widespread familiarity

 

Pepsi Max’s Surprise AR Experience

Pepsi Max had perhaps the most memorable example of AR when they took over a London bus shelter. What looked like a simple Pepsi Max sponsored transparent panel at the end of a bus stop was actually much more. Unsuspecting visitors were surprised by digital unnatural occurrences on the screen that provided a very real illusion and caused quite a stir!

 


 

Sports and AR Prove Perfect Fit

The Denver Broncos and Bud Light took sporting events to the next level by adding a layer to their fan experience through augmented reality. They took their ordinary souvenir beverage cups and the Bronco Bud Light cans and made a unique experience out of them. By downloading and using their Orange Herd app, fans can scan their cup or can and watch one of six digital animations overlaid on top of their current view.

For big sporting events and those of similar nature, this adds a new layer to the fan engagement aspect. It provides exclusive content to fans and even gives them an opportunity to engage further through calls-to-action.

 

What the Future Holds

VR and AR both offer a world of possibilities, yet neither has scratched the surface of their potential. If all goes according to plan, the markets for VR and AR will increase by ten times in the next two years. This shows the amount of resources being thrust into it and the transformation we can expect in the industry over the next several years.

Though smaller right now, the VR market has a much brighter future than its counterpart. One of the primary issues that have limited VR is the limited capability for interaction, but the recent announcement of Oculus’s Touch Controllers brings about a whole new set of possibilities.

Now, sports clubs can provide an even more vivid experience for fans.
 

  • Baseball fans can catch a major league fly
  • Basketball fans can take a digital buzzer-beater
  • Football fans can catch passes from their favorite player

 

Granted, it’s not quite there, but it’s on the horizon—as are opportunities for brands of all industries. There’s a reason marketing executives drool over this technology and it becomes clearer by the day.

As for AR, the future is certainly bright, but in a different manner than AR. One very interesting application is that of facial recognition. Blippar, an AR-focused company has discussed using facial recognition to create a new social network. Blippar co-founder and CEO, Ambarish Mitra explains:

“Augmented Reality Face Profiles will change the way we communicate and express ourselves. Our face is our most expressive form of communication and with this release we are allowing this to become digital for the first time. This is a new, unique and fun way of showing who you are and of learning more about others.”

In a completely different arena, AR has recently been used in the medical field to treat amputee pain and seen excellent results thus far. Patients use the technology to simulate movements of their missing limb which, in turn, has helped reduce phantom limb pain.

 

The Verdict

Both VR and AR are clearly changing the way we view scenarios and experience the world. What I’ve noticed though, is that VR has a far greater potential within experiential marketing. Why is that?

Experiential marketing is about storytelling and virtual reality is one of the best mediums for sharing a brand’s vision and a message. It allows you to put a consumer in the setting of your choice and view it from any number of angles.

Augmented reality, though still very much a major player in experiential marketing, seems to have even more relevance on an individual consumer level and doesn’t create the same immersive sensation of virtual reality.

Though both hold significant merit, your best bet to create something truly remarkable is through virtual reality. Strap on your headset and you’ll see why!