VR Doesn’t Have to Be VeR-y Confusing

Virtual Alphabet Soup: Decoding VR in all its flavors

As the world of marketing continues to move at lightning speed, it is imperative to grasp onto the innovations that are here to stay. Cue, Virtual Reality (VR). The rising popularity of VR can no longer be ignored. This immersive innovation has infiltrated virtually every industry. VR experiences have graced trade shows floors, video game modules, the silver screen and more.

Behind this rising trend is software, technology, design platforms, and a host of products that support VR’s place atop the marketing stratosphere. As brands push for increasingly immersive experiences, VR rises to the top of the digital marketing toolkit.

The term “virtual reality,” was coined in 1987 by VR sherpa Jaron Lanier, and has evolved (and morphed) ever since. So, let’s get our bearings straight, once and for all, and break down the intricacies of VR and all its variants.

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” -John Lennon

Virtual Reality (VR)
Augmented Reality (AR)
Group Virtual Reality (GVR)

VR Classic: Virtual Reality at its Purest

Definition: The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

Let’s Break that Down: You are immersed into a virtual environment.

The most popular use cases for VR can be found in the leisure sector. Gamers flock to play Pavlov Shooter, Robo Recall, and Beat Saber using their headsets. Brands such as Converse have optimized ads to fit VR content, offering viewers an experience rather than a static feature. Even the adult film industry has taken advantage of the sensory experience that VR offers (but we won’t provide any links to that).

Converse’s “Made By You,” campaign takes a customized turn courtesy of VR.

Yet, not all VR applications are strictly commercial endeavors. This mechanism has simultaneously grown into a purveyor of various social causes. VR has been adapted to allow people to “try on” another gender, race, or ethnicity, granting empathy in the name of ending discrimination. This medium also helps tackle the social causes of homelessness, domestic violence, and more. 

Some of the world’s most distinguishable brands have championed the VR movement, further pushing for its advancement. Facebook assumed the role of VR Zeitgeist with the release of the Oculus Headset at a fairly reasonable price point compared to earlier models. No longer was this technology inaccessible to the masses. Oculus enabled the spread of VR to those in middle-tier income brackets, further ingratiating this tech into the framework of modern culture.  

While the VR medium has been around for decades, with ever increasing levels of exposure, only recently has it directly infiltrated global pop culture. Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One hinged on VR headsets as an integral part of the film, and in doing so did more to normalize the technology amongst the real world than any previous efforts.

As VR continues to trend upward it’s traces can be found in an ever-increasing number of industries. While the topography of the VR landscape did change in the wake of AR and Group VR developments, VR is and will always remain the archetype. Incapable of being replaced, only to be replicated.

The Sequel: Augmented Reality Supplements Surroundings

Definition: A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

Let’s Break that Down: Parts of a virtual environment superimposed into your world.

For better or for worse, the application that seems to have grown synonymous with AR is Pokémon Go. Characterized by its cult following circa 2016, this app resulted in youths and the young at heart rabidly chasing down augmented poké balls amongst the scenery of cities across the world.

Despite the tomfoolery of the aforementioned application, there are some AR iterations on the market making a real difference. For example, SpotCrime overlays crime incident data atop city and county maps. Users can take the information into consideration prior to deciding to move into a neighborhood. GoogleSkyMap enables users to explore the vast expanse of our universe by navigating through space as the app identifies planets, constellations, and nebulae.

Continued education has also emerged as a large benefactor of AR’s possibilities. Medical professionals, maintenance workers, and even the military, have all implemented this tech and reaped it’s handsome rewards. By creating a no risk environment, professionals are free to learn and practice without the potential of mistakes having real-world consequences.

Neurosurgeons can practice a risky surgery via headset, before s/he performs it on a patient. GE Aviation mechanics can use a WiFi-enabled torque wrench to optimally tighten bolts while performing routine assembly and maintenance tasks, resulting in an average 8-12 percent improvement in mechanic efficiency. Military personnel have implement a helmet mounted display, nicknamed the “HUD 3.0,” to improve aim, train in life-like situations and track virtual enemies. All of this is made possible through AR.

Just as these examples clearly lay out, individuals that work in high-risk industries shouldn’t be limited to training only in situations of dire consequence. Augmented reality’s risk-free atmosphere allows for an augmentation of experience and expertise.

On the civilian front, AR can also be utilized to ease customers through the buying journey. Sephora implemented a “Virtual Artist” feature, to combat the difficulty faced by users when purchasing cosmetics of the right shade online. This app allows makeup junkies to upload a picture of their face, and virtually try on different brands, shades, and pigments of makeup. Ultimately, this endeavor resulted in higher buyer confidence and increased online sales. Over 200 million shades of makeup have been virtually applied since the app’s release.

Sephora’s Virtual Artist user interface is shown, enabling customers to try on different cosmetics prior to making a purchase.

The Showstopper: Upping the Ante with Group VR

Definition: Using no goggles or HMD (head-mounted displays) a group of participants can view a virtual reality experience on a large display, allowing for group engagement and participation.

Let’s Break that Down: Virtual Reality sans headsets.

VR’s latest iteration, Group VR, is the bombshell of the virtual reality clique. This flashy, head turning technology commands the most sought-after sort of attention: crowds. Allowing multiple viewers to share in a communal experience, Group VR sees engagement and interaction soar to new altitudes. Without the isolation that headsets can impart, viewers are free to move, touch, and interact with the display at hand.

So new is this medium, that even the Oxford English dictionary has yet to define it. Yet, the newness of this advancement does not in any way equate to a novelty that will soon pass.

The “Cyclorama” is explained and dissected in a video filmed at the DHD GroupVR Showcase in January of 2019.

The term “Group VR” was first published in 2016 by Adweek to describe the Lockheed Martin project, “Field Trip to Mars,” shown below. A group of Washington D.C. elementary schoolers believe that their school bus is simply shuttling them on a mandatory field trip. Rather, the bus is the field trip in and of itself. The yellow bus’s windows double as display screens, transporting the children to Mars and they drive alongside Martian territory, stopping to point out the passing Rovers. In addition to this deployment’s sweep of the Cannes Lions in 2016, it is widely lauded as one of the first true Group VR installations.

A group of school children are taken for the ride of their lives as their unassuming yellow bus transforms into a Mars Rover.

Given this thriving family tree of the VR sisters, there’s no better time than the present to go out and explore the limitless capabilities of these game-changing innovations. VR deployments intrigue and inform, just as they illuminate legions of possibilities, waiting to be discovered.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein