The past, present and future of Augmented and Virtual Reality

21 September 2017

From Pokémon GO (did anyone ever actually catch ‘em all?) to Apple’s iOS ARKit, PR and Outreach Specialist Grace Scott finds out how AR and VR are changing the way we interact with the world.

This year has been huge for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) - but what do those terms actually mean? Clay Bavor, VIP of Virtual and Augmented Reality at Google says,

"VR can put you anywhere, and AR can bring anything to you."

Put simply, VR replaces the real world with a simulated one, and AR enhances what you’re seeing in reality. Pop a VR headset on and you’re on the moon, open an AR app on your phone and see safari animals while you’re on the bus.

Pretty much every ‘coolest gift list’ from 2016 included virtual reality headsets, glasses, games consoles - you name it, someone got it for Christmas. With UK retailers tipping the PlayStation VR as the ‘must have’ gift of last year and the boom of Pokémon GO, 2016 saw interest in AR & VR peak.

Since then, major companies like Facebook and Google have been ramping up developments in AR/VR technology. Just last week Snapchat announced a new feature called ‘3D Bitmoji World Lenses’ - simply connect your Bitmoji account to Snapchat, and you’ll be able to see a mini cartoon version of yourself in the real world.

The most recent development with phones and AR/VR comes from Apple in it’s latest iOS update. Released on the 19th of September, it introduced ‘ARKit’ as,

"A framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad. By blending digital objects and information with the environment around you, ARKit takes apps beyond the screen."

But how can marketers use it?

AR & VR have the potential to be game-changeing when used in marketing. Storytelling is a huge part of breathing life into a brand, with Marketing Week describing it as ‘the foundation of a growth strategy’. AR & VR allow brands to tell their stories all the more viscerally and emotionally.

Messaging doesn’t get much more evocative than an entire experiential reality. Plus, AR & VR in marketing can be easily personalised - it feels like it’s being aimed at you and you alone, which makes it immersive and innovative. And since this technology can be accessed via an individual's mobile device, it lends itself to fast sharing and in-depth data tracking methods.

Ikea’s in-app catalogue

Need a new sofa? Simply scroll through the in-app Ikea catalogue via iOS, find your dream sofa, and check out how it looks in your living room.

Star Wars Rogue One: Recon 360 Fly-Through

What better way to get excited for an upcoming Star Wars release than by flying an X-Wing? Teaming up with Verizon, Star Wars gave eager film fans the chance to enter an epic battle scene.

Mcdonald's Happy Meal Boxes

Forget mini beanie babies or cheap plastic toys - Happy Meals have had an upgrade. McDonald’s brought virtual reality to Sweden with Happy Meal boxes that transformed into cardboard virtual reality headsets, called Happy Goggles. Simply take apart your box (maybe wipe off the ketchup first) and refold it into a headset. Slide in your smartphone, download the app and away you go!

Of course, incorporating AR & VR into a campaign costs time and resources - but get the right story to the right audience and you could see some serious ROI. Make sure you know what your story is and who you’re talking to before you jump in.

Our VR & AR experience

We don’t need asking twice when it comes to trying new tech. Our team have been testing various AR and VR experiences to see what’s what.

Social Media Lead Jenny experienced Habitats, an immersive exhibition at The Old Market in Brighton. She said, “the entire room became a digital forest… I climbed trees, explored, and even swam with a whale. It was epic.”

VR gaming tournament The Unspoken gave our Senior Account Manager Kizzy a chance to try a game in development - “the visuals were really amazing - generating fireballs to throw at my opponent with one hand, with a shield in the other hand. Amazing and so immersive, I couldn’t get enough!”.

Rick and Morty fans, this one’s for you. Jim, our Web Developer tested the Virtual Rick-ality game. According to him, the game is “a bit of an assault on the senses” in which he could “wave a virtual plumbus around or walk through a portal to an in-orbit space station and throw junk at the earth”.

What's next?

Previously, VR was accessible only to those who had £400 to drop on a headset, but now cardboard headsets start from as little as £15. As VR & AR become cheaper and more accessible, companies are competing to create the next big virtual experience.

AR & VR are likely to boom in influencer marketing in a big way - imagine joining your favourite travel vlogger on their latest trip.

Meanwhile, Facebook is working on Facebook Spaces - a digital chatroom where you can hang out with your friends. HTC’s Senior Vice-President of VR predicts innovations that will help to achieve a sense of “true presence” through haptic suits that allow users to feel real physical sensations from their virtual world.

John Hanke, the man behind Pokémon GO guesses that AR glasses will be the next step. Google’s Glass provided a glimpse of this, but when AR glasses really take off, we’ll find ourselves in a world where everything we see can be experienced on multiple levels of reality.

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