Augmented and Virtual Reality in Asia-Pacific - Path To A Newer Frontier
Proximity will no longer determine who you spend your time with. Here, I articulate how Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have had an effect in the dynamics of marketing and interactive media.
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Rapid change of pace in APAC
Personal computers had changed the tradition of computing during the early 2000s. Later, laptops were handed the torch. Similarly, the second wave of disruption was witnessed when mobile phones came into existence, thereby questioning the need for many product categories like cameras and watches. Smartphones are a vital aspect of our daily communication. Immersive engagement, better ROI, higher share of voice - these are just some of the parameters that are likely to be changed forever thanks to the application of AR/VR technology using smartphones. And with an evolving digital landscape in India, we will inevitably behold a wider spectrum of interactive mediums in communication.
APAC will witness the fastest growth
AR and VR are buzzwords today, and they will travel far. They will go beyond the perception of just an "innovation" and attract greater value on brands' wishlists. Here are some examples I believe progression for AR and VR is likely to shape up in the coming years.
Retail made Virtual
eBay set the trend by launching its e-commerce platform virtually in Australia. The consumer has the ease of seeing things virtually, checking out products, and swiping-in payment. Mobile consumers will be time-starved and will hence be happy to use virtual experiences to see and shop for products for which they were otherwise dependent on physical store purchases. E-commerce has set the trend, and now VR/AR will take it to the next level in a short span of time.
Live Events Made Accessible to More People
With live feed made possible on YouTube and social networks such as Facebook, we can expect 360° live streaming happening across many social platforms. This will drive social media engagement in a big way, and will change the interaction between C2C and B2C. Events such as the Rock On 2 music concert being streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, making youth across India swing to the tunes of Farhan Akhtar, point to what could soon be possible. The same can be done for IPL cricket matches, football games and F1 racing, thereby bringing a new genre of content for mobile phone apps of all broadcasters.
The challenges of primary education and secondary technical education will be handled using AR and VR. At best, teachers would be virtually available to the remotest of schools, enabled by 4G mobile bandwidth driving reach. Higher education will no longer be the privilege of the rich alone. VR will drive reach amongst a larger base, thereby ensuring that Ivy League universities can reach out far and wide. While also not forgetting that MOOCs are set up by these institutes, VR can also be utilized in a plethora of applications such as life sciences - where brands are actually communicating with doctors and creating impact on consumers. The treatment of VR and AR in healthcare is able to represent a detailed understanding of certain cases like anatomy where resources are limited. They are proving beneficial for visual representation and are being adopted for business. It is just a matter of time for these developments to draw closer to perfection.
Automotive VR & AR
The automotive industry embraces technologies in creating a marketing impact. VR & AR in this scenario makes a lot of sense when we put opportunity against cost. When you experience a virtual tour of a car, you are able to experience it by logging onto platforms such YouTube, Facebook Video, or a free app, without requiring to incur additional costs to consume that kind of content. The ROI factor is a huge bonus in Automotive, We had created the Tata Tiago 360 VR experience, distributing 2.3 million VR cardboard kits in a single day using an insert in the daily circulation of TOI's newspaper in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru. Sales saw a boost of 20,000 cars in just 3 weeks after this successful campaign.
A first of its kind marketing stint, the experience for the automotive market in India received an astounding response across social media, motor shows, & shopping malls where the car was promoted. Now many car manufacturers are realising the benefits of a virtual experience when it comes to reaching the consumer. Two such prominent recent examples are Audi's R8 VR experience, and Jaguar's I-PACE Concept VR.
Content and Video Entertainment
This space will implode, and AR/VR will be used to bring immersive storytelling to consumers. The Guardian used VR to bring to the reader the essence of being in solitary confinement through a VR experiment. The purpose of the media group was to transform news from being merely informing to immersive. Through this experience, one could understand how it feels to be in solitary confinement and what emotions prisoners go through. This triggers a debate and helps the newspaper build a commune of informed and opinionated readers.
AR will drive the screenless future, where data and information will be conjured up in front of your eyes using AR-enabled screens that project the necessary information layered onto your existing world. The privacy issues of data have been laid to rest by Microsoft HoloLens, which makes information more functional, such as by projecting key performance parameters about your cycle while cycling. Experiences such as this, projected and layered along your real world, will make the future screenless.
Advertising turns VR
As with any channel, first comes generic content. With video entertainment, education, events, and retail going VR, advertisers are bound to follow the trend. Advertisers will push the envelope to marry creatives with technology and create content that is gripping, immersing consumers in a make-believe world of the brand.
Experiences such as understanding the distilling processes of your favourite single malt whiskey before it winds up in your glass are something advertisers will lap up as a part of an advertising strategy when interspersed with generic VR content.
The above are, of course, early signs, and things should move fast when the ecosystem of hardware, content, and demand from brands is addressed cohesively. I believe that a major push from content aggregators like Facebook and YouTube will be a key trigger for this ecosystem to take shape.
Like any established medium, we need to see a lot of action from the broadcaster space to help create generic content. This will fuel demand from consumers and hence, brands and generic categories will join the Virtual Reality technology movement.
In summation, the next frontier is when we see high-quality content driving the charge and industry pacing up to deliver on the presence and experience that VR and AR promise to offer.