ABOUT: My interest began in the mid 1990s when the PC graphics revolution was started by a company called 3dfx with their Voodoo range of cards. This allowed 3d gaming to take off. People could now experiment with stereoscopic effects essentially rewriting game code and using red blue glasses to give a in and out of screen effect. One of the first games to take advantage of this was Doom and Quake 1, which at the time was awesome with fireballs coming out of the monitor!
Shortly after in the late 1990s, 15 odd years before 3d TV, a company called e-dimensional produced “shutter glasses” which gave PC gamers the opportunity to experience a world outside their monitors. Nvidia embraced this technology and made their video card driver 3d enabled for this niche but enthusiast driven market. In the early 2000s several forums existed for the niche 3d gaming community one of which was stereo3d.com.
From this forum a new one emerged called mtbs3d.com on which active members experimented with headsets usually the cheap Vuzix glasses which give you a stereoscopic image of your game as if it as on a 50 inch monitor 20 ft away. At last though you could play Fallout 3 as though you were there.
Wow 2010 had come! On the mtbs3d.com forum was a guy called PalmerTech and we were all experimenting with VR type headsets as even before the popular bubble of 3d TV we had moved away from that technology. Then he was helping us upgrade our existing kit or buying and selling second hand headsets.
Fast forward to 2013 and he offered to build kits for a number of mtbs3d forum members using mobile phone screen technology. We were all in, but chance would have it that he was showing this project at a tech fair and John Carmack (the guy that wrote Doom) was so impressed he suggested Palmer take it to kickstarter instead. Thus Oculus was born and Palmer Lucky ushered in the current wave of VR interest.
Why did you start doing VR?
– With the background above we could avoid it? Impossible. We were part of this wave of VR right from the start and seeing the journey to the end was just too tempting to miss. However, having built numerous headsets and with no background in mass production, it was obvious manufacturing would never be our strong point so headset production was not on the cards. Software though was something we were experienced in having helped on some of the codebase for those early self build headsets so that is what we concentrated on. We built Orbulus as one of the first apps for the DK1 and then quickly pushed a version onto Google Play before Cardboard was released. We were then part of Google Cardboards launch offering and helped with the debugging of the first Cardboard development SDKs.
What is it like working with you guys? What can I as a customer expect in terms of communication and collaboration?
– We work with people. Not everyone has experienced VR or is aware of the issues around VR as some things that people assume will work in VR simply don’t. What we have found is that using an Agile approach made up of short sprints to something all stakeholders can view and assess, creates exceptional VR projects. It is really common that once we have breathed life into someones concept at the end of the first sprint, the ideas of how the original idea could be so much better/useful/fabulous cascade. We always allow for this in our project planning and let the client team know upfront that this will happen and what to expect.
How would you describe your company culture?
– Fun, open and honest. We have a Director of Happiness – a puppy (Ted) – and enjoy “Hot Wing” Fridays. We do not farm work out to other companies as many other VR companies do, as we actually have in depth technical knowledge of the underlying hardware, software and user experience. It is this experience we believe a customer actually expects to be paying for not have the work farmed out to an offshore company which is all too common.
What is your company’s core expertise?
-VR. We have only worked in this area and have many years direct experience of how ordinary people want to use and enjoy VR. Our VR apps are built in Unity and deployed accross mobile, Oculus, Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, Daydream and Gear VR.
I’ve been living in a cave the last few years and just got back to work at the marketing department, can you explain to me why I should invest in a VR marketing campaign?
– Three years ago it would have been because of the PR, marketing and association with innovation that would have justified the expense of VRs return on investment. Now businesses rightly see VR alongside all other routes to market and VR projects have to be results driven against stiff established competition. However this is outweighed by the greater emotional engagement and time spent that VR offers. User/customer each is the key issue here as new customers represent the real return on investment. There are very few people with high end VR kit so the primary use case needs to be defined by audience share which has to be deployment to mobile devices. It really doesn’t matter if that expensive ground breaking Oculus app is award winning as few if any of a client’s customer base will actually experience it. Not only does is the largest target market people with mobile phones, those people know how to use them and how to share information with their friends. This makes mobile VR the place to be for any VR marketing campaign.
If you were to speculate freely. What sort of VR experiences will future tech allow for?
– Small user centric personalised experiences based on already gathered metrics – much like how adverts are targeted to people. If an experience means something to the user then they will of course be more emotionally attached to the brand associated with it. This leads to greater engagement and a higher opportunity to complete the ROI cycle. For marketing in general, the idea of smell, haptics and neural feedback are all too complex for the next 1 – 2 years to have any positive effect on a users response as the complexity of deploying would negate any marginal benefits gained. Honestly, if you pick a member of public form the street and put a game controller in their hands its highly likely that they would not know what to do with it and that is a key representative of the users most brands need to reach. At the moment in VR there are too many people sprinting before they are even walking. Ease of use, accessibility and ROI will always rule the day but these ideas seem to be lost in the majority of VR offerings.
What are the risks and pitfalls with VR marketing? Describe what you would advice against doing.
Be easy – don’t make things too complex.
Be realistic – just because something is possible it does not mean that it would work.
Be understanding – just because you think it’s interesting that does not mean your audience will.
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.
– Create personalised accessible experiences for Top Gear/Sports Team fans from around the world bringing them closer to the Top Gear Team and creating a global VR community based around a common theme.
How big can VR marketing get and what will it take for it to get there?
– It is a mistake to see VR marketing distinct from marketing as a whole. No client has created more budget for VR because VR exists. Money for VR projects comes at the expense of other routes to market and VR has to stack up against some well understood and the really cheap customer acquisition channels namely those of print, TV and radio to mention a few. VR will eat into the overall budget for marketing but as understanding of how this is best will be used for proven use cases where the ROI is measurable and apparent.
How would you define a successful VR marketing experience?
– Easy to use
– Accessible to the widest audience
– Relevant content
– Great message
– Good call to action
What is it about VR that gets you excited?
– We work about 6 months to a year ahead of the public. We know what is in the pipe and trust us, we should all get really excited. The best thing is even after 5 years we are still only just beginning this journey.
What VR experience do you fantasize about experiencing in your lifetime?
– The ability to relive those moments that make real life oh so special !