How Brands Are Utilizing the Immense Potential of AR and VR

On a recent trip to LEGOLAND in Florida, my family and I stood in line for what was billed as “the world’s first virtual roller coaster built for kids.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but we stood in line anyway – for what felt like forever in the hot Florida sun. (According to my phone, it was a million degrees that day.) When we finally made it to the top of the line, we were given the option of goggles or no goggles – we all chose the VR goggles.

We climbed in the car (it was just an ordinary two-seat roller coaster with five or six cars linked together) and pulled the goggles over our eyes. Everything was dark for a beat, then, suddenly, we were in a race car garage with a timer over the door. Looking around, the bright Florida sunshine had now become four walls, even my hands were now Lego claws that gripped a steering wheel. Then the door sprung open and we were off (synced to the movement of the roller coaster).

The ride is now a race against Lego characters, including a pirate (driving a boat), a wizard (in a dragon car), and a pharaoh (in a chariot being carried by four mummies). Everything is fine until a “road closed” sign appears and the car lurches to the right toward a shear drop. Lego workers frantically try to build the road as you’re racing on it, but they soon give up and suddenly we’re plunging through the open air to a path below. The next few minutes is a wild ride through a volcano, down a rushing river, even across a chasm when your car sprouts wings and a propeller.

By the time we hit the finish line my son and I were ready to ride again (it was, in fact, the only ride we rode multiple times). It’s a little disconcerting not being able to see the actual tracks, but it’s also exhilarating. The VR succeeded in turning a roller coaster designed for younger children into a genuinely thrilling experience (I’ll admit, my heart leapt out of my chest  when the “road” disappeared during that first drop).

Transforming an experience from the expected to something else even more thrilling is the exact intent of virtual reality (VR) and its sister tech, augmented reality (AR). For those unsure of the difference, AR adds digital information into a user’s environment in real time. The best-known example of AR is Pokémon Go. VR uses goggles to take the user to a completely different place. The goggles give a user a complete 360-degree view both horizontally and vertically.

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Photo Credit: Embedded Vision Alliance

VR and AR are still young technologies, but brands are finding ways to incorporate this tech in their marketing campaigns. As with anything new, there have been hits and misses, but some best practices are beginning to emerge.

For example, graphics are becoming more and more lifelike making animated VR experiences even more immersive, but one issue has always come up when trying to incorporate text: it’s been nearly impossible to read. An unexpected hiccup with fonts, that they were originally designed for 2D media, would lead to blurry, illegible VR text. While this wasn’t much of a problem for games, brand experiences frequently need high-quality, clearly legible text.

Still, these issues are being worked out. More and more brands are starting to incorporate elements of AR and VR for good reason. These technologies appeal to a young, affluent crowd; help your products and services stand apart from the competition; and let you showcase your wares in an exciting and innovative way.

Here are a few examples of how four very different brands are getting the most out of this cutting-edge tech.

IKEA

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” said Michael Valdsgaard, Leader of Digital Transformation at IKEA.

True to his word, the Swedish furniture and housewares giant offers an app that enables customers to virtually place IKEA products in real-world settings - with 98 percent accuracy, according to the company.

IKEA is continually updating the app, too. Soon customers will not only be able to see how a sofa looks, they will also be able to check it out when it expands into a bed.

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Photo Credit: Wired

Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball has enhanced its “At Bat” app with AR. Simply launch the app and point it at players on the field. Icons appear over the players. By clicking these icons fans will receive a wealth of information in real-time, including arm strength and catch probability in addition to stats like batting average and on-base percentage.

Fans can also use the app to follow the speed and trajectory of every hit. The app provides a fount of information and can radically change the in-stadium experience for casual fans and stats geeks alike.

Greenpeace

Greenpeace does most of its work in distant locals where most people are unlikely to visit. So, in order to provide folks with a detailed look at its good works, the nonprofit has released the Greenpeace VR Explorer app, which allows users to visit locations like the Arctic or Amazon rainforest.

Greenpeace utilizes VR headsets at charity events to encourage donations and sign ups. VR enables donors to “experience” how their money directly impacts Greenpeace’s efforts. Facebook actually did a study and found that 48 percent of people who view charity content in VR are likely to donate because they now empathize with the cause.

American Express

American Express has released a couple of VR experiences in conjunction with its sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament: “You vs. Sharapova,” a game where fans play against Maria Sharapova using live action and computer-generated imagery of the athlete and “Air Tennis,” where players use their hands and body movements to return as many virtual tennis balls as possible. This latest game not only uses VR, it also makes use of air haptics and motion capture systems for as realistic an experience as possible.

AmEx also incorporated an AR feature in its Coachella app that let users buy select products anywhere on the festival grounds.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The New York Times

In November 2015, The New York Times sent over one million Sunday home-delivery subscribers Google Cardboard viewers. The reason was “The Displaced,” a NYT produced VR documentary about children driven from their homes by war.

Since “The Displaced,” the Times has published more than 20 VR films, including “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart,” about exploring the dwarf planet Pluto, and “Climbing the Spire of 1 WTC,” a look at the rebuilt World Trade Center through a climb up the outside. This new way of storytelling enables the Times to remain current while showcasing its award-winning reporting.

Lowes

The hardware store created “Holoroom How To,” an immersive training simulator that walks customers through difficult DIY projects. For example, when someone put on the VR headset, they will receive detailed, visual instructions for how to put up a shelf or tile a wall, etc.

In addition to delivering a cool experience, Lowes is also encouraging customers to attempt projects that may have seemed too complicated.

By utilizing the immense potential of AR and VR, brands are creating experiences and delivering value for consumers. For help and tips in creating AR and VR for your customers, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.

sofia krsmanovic