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Virtual Reality And Next Generation Marketing

Brighton based digital agency Makemedia recently produced an Oculus Rift multi-player racing game to promote an electronics component brand.

In late March, over 700 EPC (Electronica Productronica China) show delegates virtually raced ‘Wipeout’ style cars through a futuristic city of circuit boards and diode skyscrapers. In each session, 4 players raced against each other using games console controllers to steer their direction and two large overhead screens enticed crowds with a broadcast of a ‘live feed’ from each race, complete with F1-style trackside cameras.

This interactive experience was all about brand immersion, incorporating subconscious key marketing messages related to business aspects of the company. It was the first time Makemedia had used the Oculus Rift for a commercial project, since creating and converting a number of their previous simulations to work with the DK1 for client pitches.

These include aircraft hangers with airplane models that could be used for maintenance trainers and an early Unity project of theirs called “Jarrow” which allows users to discover life around the monastery and interact with monks that lived there.

3D Project Manager Sam Watts told Road to VR that they are also planning to take their existing Stadium Explorer content into the Oculus Rift to provide fully explore-able environments for promotion of new stadiums or other venues being built, or existing ones

Sam Watts, 3D Project Manager at Makemedia
Sam Watts, 3D Project Manager at Makemedia

looking to sell the premium seating and areas to clients.

Virtual reality is set to transform marketing, especially at events and many believe that the Facebook buy-out of Oculus VR could offer a new medium of marketing to a receptive crowd, especially when Oculus technology can be is powered by mobile platforms.

Watts believes the buy-out is a positive move: “Whilst individually some of us were horrified at the thought, once the initial shock passed, we were able to understand the advantages and potential possibilities that the acquisition would allow. Anything that makes the consumer edition reach market sooner and cheaper is absolutely fine with us!

He continued: “We like to think we see past the short-term and look to the future and what it may bring. The strength of the Facebook platform and the technology behind it can only bring stability to the development environment and open up more cloud-based, distributed services. The investment will obviously help it in the fight against the Sony Morpheus as a gaming device, and as already mentioned, bring it to market sooner.

It will help Oculus turn from a niche product into something more mainstream and widely accessible to a greater number of users. We will follow what comes out of it regarding social VR experiences that we could integrate into our own content but we expect to see them explore other areas outside of just the social space too.”

To read a fantastic behind-the-scenes account of how Makemedia produced the RS Components virtual reality experience, check out their two part article in their blog. In it, Watts talks about the limitations of the low-resolution display of DK1, how to reduce motion sickness and what the safety concerns are for public demos.

Premium brand sunglasses giant Oakley have seen VR’s potential in getting their brand message to consumers. The company recently commissioned an immersive experience called “Airbrake™ MX 360 with Ryan Villopoto” which utilises the Oculus Rift and 360 degree video with head tracking to allow the viewer to see though the eyes of the four time Supercross champion whilst scrambling around a Motocross course. Oakley’s CEO, Colin Baden said of the project:

We wanted to give fans the opportunity to go as fast and high as the MX riders they love to watch, and the groundbreaking technology of Oculus Rift gives them the virtual experience of tearing up the track with Oakley rider Ryan Villopoto,” said Colin Baden, Oakley CEO.

Virtual reality is a marketing agency’s dream, who are always looking for new ways to engage customers.  The theme park style attractions get people queuing around the block, ready and willing to interact with a brand. We saw this recently at the South By Southwest festival where hundreds of people queued for hours to try a virtual lift ride at the Game of Thrones exhibition.

Working with experiential marketing agency Relevent, Framestore’s digital team combined Oculus Rift DK1 headsets, wind machines and rumble packs for the epic ride to promote the new series of the hit HBO show.

And according to John Spray, Head of New Business at experiential marketing agency CURB, trips to the mall could get a whole lot more interesting, courtesy of the marketing budget of big brands:

“It could be the Brazil World Cup and you are in a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon, being dragged around by your other half. Whoever the sponsor could be, they could offer you a stadium tour from within Westfield shopping Centre.  You could have live streamed content direct from one of the FIFA World Cup matches where you are in the tunnel of where the players first walk out onto the pitch. If you add the sound, the smell and the sensation of the heat it will feel like you have got 80,000 fans roaring into your ears as you walk out with the England team.”

So, who knows; we could soon be dipping into a 360 degree movie trailer at a cinema; ride a new mega-coaster before the theme park season starts, or get treated to an airline’s First Class cabin experience in the middle of a train station.

Whats more, with Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR now done and dusted, it is not unreasonable to expect branded VR experiences for the home to be appearing on your timeline soon.

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  • ElectroPulse

    That’s awesome! I was looking around, and it looks like there will be one a couple of hours away from where I live. Any idea how to get in just to try the demo? Is it at a Motocross event, or are they just traveling the country independently to show it off?

  • monographix

    I am sorry to say that this article is seriously hard to read.

    • pato

      Not.

      • monographix

        Yup.

  • Psuedonymous

    The company is called “RS Components”, not “RC Components”.

    • Paul James

      Thanks for the heads up – fixed!

  • pato

    This article is really one of the most exciting things to me. I know that there are a ton of great things coming down the pipe in games but having companies that are willing to spend money to help promote products, I think in the long run, is one of the area’s we will see some really interesting things happening. The budgets are small enough that the ability to “experiment” with new idea’s will be broader. Then the things that work will end up filtering into the gaming markets. Already some of the things that have been tried with motion platforms or at least some kind of motion feedback are amazing and I can’t wait to try them out.