Virtual and augmented reality look set to change how marketing’s done forever.
Remember when we relied on designers to draw how something ‘might’ look – that artist’s impression of a car, building or object, with lots left to the imagination?
The tools we’re using now make those methods seem as old as the pen itself.
Today’s world – and tomorrow’s – is one of augmented and virtual realities (AR and VR). And both have potential way beyond just the fun stuff we see in the gaming world that gave rise to them.
“One day, we believe this kind of immersive experience will become part of daily life for billions of people,” wrote Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in 2014 – the year his company bought VR platform Oculus Rift.
It seems as though he was right. AR and VR are becoming big business across the broad range of industries we work with.
The great news is that, because Linney likes to experiment and play, we’ve been doing that with both these forms for at least 13 years. So we understand the differences and the potential.
The clue’s in the names
To augment something means to add to it. So, with augment reality, devices like mobile phones and tablets are used to see our real world with something added to it.
For instance, a digital prototype of a display unit as it might appear in situ, or an animation that plays when the device is pointed at a real-world object. Pokémon Go is probably the most well-known recent example, but we’re already using far more sophisticated AR apps.
Virtual means ‘almost real’ – so virtual reality describes an entirely simulated world, often viewed with a special headset to make the experience more immersive. As the technology gets better and better, the closer to real life those simulations become.
Like any new technology, both AR and VR require intelligent use. Choose them for the right purposes, to reach the right people.
At Linney, AR allows us to show clients how a particular product, item of furniture or point of sale we design for them will look in a real location. The ability to walk into a store and see an object as it would appear in real life, but before it’s even been made, is powerful.
It’s an approach already in use not just by retailers but also consumers. Ikea, for instance, lets customers use their smartphones to place furniture in their rooms to see how it will look.
We’ve turned AR into an operational solution. Our first comprehensive client project involved using the technology to help DIY store teams see, build and merchandise display units. Now we’re using it in more ways and more sectors.
For product launches we can create game environments that encourage user interactions, add digital elements to real faces, objects and spaces, or trigger hidden or supplemental content.
When Royal Mail launched a set of special stamps commemorating Agatha Christie’s centenary, philatelic detectives could point their smartphones at one stamp to reveal a 3D scene created by Linney animators.
Virtual reality’s already mainstream in the gaming world, but we’re increasingly bringing its benefits to our clients and their customers.
The most popular applications are designed environments, and we’ve created lots of them. With VR, our clients can virtually walk around an area – such as a store, exhibition space or office – with no need to physically build anything in ‘real life’.
Together, we can assess the validity of different options so the design is right first time before the build, and even make big changes at the early stages, avoiding expensive mistakes later.
Linney’s work in VR goes back at least 13 years, to the time we first created a 3D version of a store for a client to virtually walk around. Today, we’re building VR models of all sorts of purposes.
We’re doing lots of exciting work for clients in different industries – retail, FMCG, travel and more. Brands come to use with a need to communicate their products or projects, and to help we’ll often virtualise their space, creating it three-dimensionally. We can then use that practically by taking it out in the field and showing them exactly how something will look in situ.
But it’s not just about what you see in the virtual environment. Increasingly, the other senses are coming into play in the virtual realm too. We can take consumers around virtual stores and let them pick up and put down items using virtual ‘hands-free’ features.
And a recent innovation called ‘Haptics’ takes this a step further, using electrical impulses so users feel resistance when they move an object, as they would in the real world.
Pushing what’s possible
Keeping up to date with where technology’s heading is a big part of the Linney approach, and it’s no different for VR, which is being used in some amazing ways to help people across the world.
It can be relatively expensive to get a really good VR experience. You’re looking at a headset worth £600 (Oculus and Vive are two of the biggest providers) plus a computer worth at least £1,000. It needs to be powerful enough to run the VR technology.
Meanwhile, new technology’s making AR easier and more accessible. All you’ll need for a really cool AR experience soon is a smartphone. It’s already built into the latest Apple devices, so will be in many more hands.
At Linney, we’re in a great place to provide these experiences because we’ve invested in them early. And we’re already helping brands provide the sort of AR experiences everyone will be using soon, which are more accessible and affordable.
For us, the two technologies complement each other perfectly.