The entertainment industry claims that VR is set to change the landscape of digital marketing – but just how close are we?
It’s been a much alluded to fantasy in sci-fi for many years, but with headsets such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, virtual reality (VR) is more real now than it has ever been; and it’s a good thing, too!
Consumers’ insatiable thirst for more and more immersive experiences within the worlds they love suggest a demand for such a technology.
Ben Gamble, lead developer at ViewRanger/Augmentra says that gaming will be first to crack the use of VR. “VR for games is going to be a big thing next year. It’s almost there,” he tells Figaro Digital. However, the tech seems to be seeping in to other areas of the entertainment industry.
With the increasing popularity of real-life immersive experiences such as Secret Cinema in the film industry, and recently Trespass in the music industry – a live music event in Shoreditch, London which in May 2016 set out to invite music lovers in to the lives of the acts, who performed in specially curated rooms to portray their personality as artists.
Of course, where there are eager consumers, there are excited marketers – so how exactly do they see VR unfolding from a marketing perspective?
Sarah Lipman, global marketing director of Warner Music, says that it is a very intriguing time for VR, particularly within the entertainment industry. “Just the pure tech of it is exciting,” she says. “It’s really exciting to see come in to the industry that I love.”
Lipman and Warner have been working on bringing VR into their marketing campaigns for their artists recently, and have big plans to continue this in to the future. As an act of allowing the so-called ‘superfans’ that coveted access to their favourite artists’ personal world, Warner recently created a 360 VR experience for their Canadian electro-pop act, Lights.
“I wanted to take them even closer to her,” Lipman explains. “We changed one of our rooms and we created a dressing room for her. She literally walks around the room, plays some music, shows us some comics that she draws. It’s a fun piece.”
The other angle for music VR to take of course is the possible introduction of digital access to live shows. “So let’s say, for example, there’s a Kanye West concert and it’s sold out straight away. You’d be able to buy a digital ticket. And while it’s not the same as actually being there, you’d get a viewpoint that you’d not get through any other means. So you might pay £40 for a gig ticket or £5 for a digital ticket, but you’d have a live feed. I think the music industry is one of the simplest ways to exploit the potential of what you can do with VR” explains Jay Short, new business and sales director at Inition.
Lipman is trying this very approach, and planning to film their Japanese artist, Kyari Pamyu Pamyu’s live show at Koko, London this July in tandem with Infinity 360 and Frameless Adventures. However, we may be some way from the live streaming that Short suggests. He goes on to say that “people just assume it’s a ready-made system; that you just whack a camera down at the front row of a gig, sell tickets and it’s done. It’s nowhere near that simple.” Lipman sums up: “The post production is a lengthy, lengthy process.”
Short explains: “It’s all about the stitching. The immense amount of shots involved to make the VR experience successfully 3D are all stitched together to create the 360 experience – but this takes time. The only camera currently able to assist the process is the Nokia Ozo, which runs around £60,000 – a very pricey solution.
With such high costs for the production gear – and, of course, for the headsets in the hands of the consumer – it then becomes less and less likely that your target demographic will be getting in to the headsets and experiencing the content. Not everybody has access to an expensive headset, nor the computer power required to run one. The closest they can come is the Google Card – which is great, but runs solely off of the power in your smartphone; something which simply does not measure up to something like the Oculus Rift or the Vive.
Which begs the question – is the tech really ‘there’ yet? Currently, Short thinks that the impressive new tech overshadows the flaws. “The immersive nature of VR is so powerful that it papers over the cracks in terms of limitations on what the hardware can do,” he says. But much like all its predecessors in tech, this effect won’t last long. Consumers are all too aware of high resolution screens and high quality technology, and will eventually begin to make the comparison – not to mention the recurring issue of motion sickness in some headsets caused by the delay in the response rate when you turn your head.
Resolution, however, seems to be the biggest problem with VR right now. “Think about how many pixels your TV has,” clarifies Gamble “and then imagine that TV is pushed right up against your face; you’d see all those pixels.” However, throwing more pixels at the problem won’t be an instant fix. This will then require higher powered computers to run the headsets, and ultimately make the headsets too heavy to realistically wear for long periods of time.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t be investing in VR as a marketing tool? It’s a tenuous time. As Lipman says, “I think it’s going to be to your detriment if you hold back.” And whilst both sides are a little too far from where they need to be, “everything feels like if everybody made that one step, it could be great.” Gamble says.
One thing’s for certain – and that is that marketers need to be educating themselves on the possibilities (and limitations) right now, and ready to pounce if this new tech takes hold. But for now, it still runs the risk of going the same way as 3D TV and Apple Watches, relegated to the collections of technophiles and early adopters – and not much else.
With thanks to WeMakeMoviesOnWeekends.com for access to the Trespass x Mahogany event.