ABOUT: I have been in the production marketing industry since the mid-80s. This includes video production, motion graphics, web development, app development, training, and trade show support. I have always believed technology could bring something new to our clients and built my first website in 1994. Around the same time, I developed flash-based CD-ROM presentations that trained Hewlett-Packard employees within HP’s printer and mass storage divisions. When VR became commercially available in December 2014, I felt it was a real opportunity to look at a new form of storytelling that could immerse somebody in a specific message or idea. Movies, TV, training presentation (generally supported by PowerPoint): these are all passive experiences…and virtual reality allowed us to engage a viewer in an active immersive experience. To me it was a real game changer.
How did you guys get into VR?
– Our company first opened in 2001 and provided production services for the training and marketing industries. We began looking at VR in December of 2014 when Samsung released the Gear VR, a device that allowed a user to mate a smart phone with an inexpensive headset. Suddenly, we had a virtual reality training tool, a recruiting tool, and a new entertainment device that was accessible to everyone. As a company, we have always looked at technology like this to create new products and service offerings to our clients. In fact, immersive technology created such an impression on us that we rebranded the company to “360 Immersive” from “DTX Creative” in 2016
What is it like working with you guys?
– We’ve always offered a creative platform for our clients that encourages unique ideas, new forms of outreach and message delivery, and takes advantage of societal and technological changes. All these concepts are used for the creation of our clients’ products and services. We also believe communication is king; there must be a good fit between us and our clients. Our tagline: “We build apps that save lives” is additionally important to us regarding our training initiatives: we feel there is a fundamental need for better training in the American workplace and a better tool available to help us reach that goal. Immersive technology offers an innovate way to communicate new ideas to a workforce that is increasingly diverse.
How would you describe your company culture?
– We are a relatively small company that is making a big impact in a brand-new industry. We are flexible and dynamic in our approach to our business model, clients, products, and services. We create content that not only meets our clients’ expectation but is creative while offering a high degree of quality. In order to create the best product possible, we hire team members that understand our core values and mission. Fundamentally, we create a work environment that is both enjoyable and fulfilling.
Our mission is to prevent both fatal and non-fatal injuries…one immersive training experience at a time. We will achieve this by educating organizations about the benefits of immersive training, demonstrate how the technology can be applied to their industry, and collaborate with experts to develop curriculum that fosters a culture of safety and enhanced situational awareness. This mission will save lives and impact how organizations attract, prepare, and retain tomorrow’s workforce.
What is your company’s core expertise?
– We are a software company with expertise in production techniques; our capabilities allow us to thrive because we excel at storytelling and can offer this service affordably to our customers. Our core service offerings set us apart from our competition and make us a unique value for both large and small organizations. These offerings include:
360° Video Production
VR Computer Simulation (Unity3D-based)
Our uTrainVR Platform for Distribution & Deployment
LMS Integration that provides organizations the means to supplement and track Immersive Training content with their existing training curriculum
Device Management – we offer a robust platform to track, update, and manage VR mobile devices at an enterprise level
Do you offer any type of satisfaction guarantee or revisions of completed work?
– Quality assurance and customer service is one of our key service offerings achieved only through great communication at the onset of the project. Our process includes initial consultation, discussing the scope of the pilot project, continuing with the actual development of the content, and finally: the deployment and ultimate approval of the project itself. Communication is key all along the way and helps us maintain high levels of customer satisfaction…something we’ve maintained throughout our almost 20 years of business. Project revisions are part of doing business and our customers are assured that, as long as the revisions are within the scope of the contractual agreement, they will be made.
Can you explain to me why I should invest in a VR marketing campaign?
– Virtual reality is a new way of connecting the consumer to a brand, product, or service. Almost every form of marketing outreach prior to this technology was passive. The advantage of VR is that it allows a company to immerse a client into a key idea, message, or product in a way that was not possible before. This technology has become a game changer in the world of brand and product differentiation: it feels futuristic to some users while also offering companies a significant tool for product and brand recognition.
What is your best tip for a brand looking to its first VR experience? How should they think and act?
– Our best tip: secure proper consultation from the onset of any project. Viewer demographics, hardware, outreach pipelines, and software content should all be a consideration from the very start. A brand should also decide whether to use 360° video or VR computer simulation to carry the message. A second consideration is how the content will be consumed by most of the brand’s viewership. Will it be a social media outreach, which mainly focuses on Facebook and YouTube? Will it be a tradeshow where the brand will give away inexpensive VR headsets attendees can use with their own phone? Will it be app-based, wherein the marketing is focused on the Apple App Store or Google Play? And most importantly: the brand must ask itself what it wants to get out of the campaign and whether or not there are hooks built into the program to help determine the final analytics, and ultimately, ROI on the initiative.
What sort of VR experiences do you think we will see in the future, in terms of marketing?
– We are starting to see the first mobile units that have 6° of freedom: namely the Oculus Quest. We are also beginning to recognize other products that have almost the same capabilities as PC desktops. This trend will continue since it is almost a universal fact that everybody wants to use a headset without being bothered by cables. We also anticipate headsets with a higher resolution and firmware designed to reduce latency and cyber sickness. Haptic feedback will also be a key component in the future as our interactions with VR content will become more natural than controllers with buttons. At some point, neural interfaces will solve the problem of data input which will allow XR and mixed reality headsets to finally replace displays, keyboards, and the mouse we have been using since 1984. Computer-generated experiences will become more lifelike and we will start to see real-world applications where social settings utilizing VR will become practical and beneficial to businesses and in consumer applications.
What are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing?
– The main risk to the VR industry is the lack of quality content. Furthermore, organizations do not have a good benchmark for “quality content” so, unfortunately, the user experience is low. To create mass adoption for the industry we needed an equal amount of quality hardware and quality content.
Pick a brand and product that you like and tell me what sort of campaign you would create, given total freedom and an unlimited budget.
– Let’s pick Toyota (though this application and campaign could be used for any car manufacturer). Imagine being able to test drive and understand any Toyota model before visiting the showroom. Virtual reality, utilizing a combination of both 360° video and VR computer simulation, could allow a prospective buyer to test driving specific vehicles while interactive UI elements could allow changes in accessories, paint, or model configurations. This experience would create an impression for the brand and help the dealership at the same time. Consumers would be better educated and more excited to take a test drive on a specific model in VR. Virtual test-drive Toyota kiosks could be set up in the showroom while consumers wait for the next available salesperson. Apps could be distributed on iOS, Android, and Oculus Mobile that allow Toyota to reach far beyond the dealership.
How big can VR marketing get and what will it take for it to get there?
– Immersive technology will be fundamental to how we learn and understand brands and products. In our estimation, this transition will take another 5 to 7 years for mass adoption. Of course, there are wonderful opportunities to engage this fledgling industry now, but for the most part we are just now starting to see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding and engaging immersive technology by organizations and consumers.
How would you define a successful VR marketing experience?
– A successful VR experience is defined by a meaningful experience that engages, educates, and offers value to the viewer. This experience could come in many forms, but for the most part it is an experience that is easy to understand, easy to engage, and most importantly: creates value and understanding in the end user.
What is it about VR that gets you excited?
– Frankly, I get excited this industry is just starting to take off. We have felt, for the last five years, like we’ve been pushing a boulder uphill. Obviously, there is significant satisfaction in the content we have created, the apps that we have developed, and the platform that we are getting ready to launch. Nevertheless, teaching consumers about the benefits of VR has been challenging. I think the next five years will hold great promise, both for the industry and for our company, as the technology starts to mature. This truly is just the tip of the iceberg and I look at it as one of the great technological achievements that will rival the advent of the Internet and the development of the smart phone and its related apps. I believe that immersive technology is that next great milestone in our lifetime.
What VR experience do you fantasize about experiencing in your lifetime?
– I would choose the ability to experience AR or VR using neural technology. If we could untether ourselves from our keyboard and mouse and instead display our work environment wherever we are via some form of small head mounted device or possibly some form of implant, that would be my fantasy. I’m a realist, yet feel this change may be less than five years off.
Any final words?
– I can say for myself, with over 30 years of production marketing experience, that I have never been so excited about a new industry or service offering as I am about immersive technology. It offers all the things I dreamed about in the past, it’s with us today, and it will only get better in the future.
STUDIO: 360 Immersive