Virtual reality is a technological promise that has seen multiple fits and starts over the last 20 years. However, in the last 18 months we appear closer than ever to making good on that promise. Advancements in everything from smartphones to graphics processors in PCs and video game systems to millions of dollars in investments in 360 degree video by content creators, sports teams and entertainment studios have created an environment to support VR.
The consumer remains a question. Are they ready to adopt yet another platform? Major media publishers are willing to bet on this shift in consumers. Last month’s Sports Illustrated made headlines by offering its annual “Swimsuit Issue” in virtual reality (VR) for the first time, taking readers behind the scenes of the magazine’s exotic photo shoots. Quad/Graphics, a global print and marketing services provider (and Stanton Communications client), included its QVR Viewer in 500,000 special editions of the swimsuit issue on newsstands, making the exclusive content available to the masses essentially for free.
The VR Viewer as a Marketing Vehicle
Quad/Graphics’ expertise as a printer, publisher and marketer creates a unique opportunity with the QVR Viewer. More than just an easily accessible VR headset, advertisers are able to brand and print four-color process on the unit’s outer shell for greater consumer recall and recognition. The viewers can be bound or stitched into magazines or catalogs, placed in a carton or distributed as a stand-alone piece.
A customizable, easily produced and efficiently distributed VR viewer opens a world of possibilities for communicators. Tim Fox, director of custom products, told Xconomy he sees potential for custom VR viewers in tourism and higher education for 360 degree immersive tours of destinations and campuses included within marketing materials.
Working with Quad/Graphics, Stanton Communications told the story of the Sports Illustrated partnership, a first of its kind. Efforts were focused on media covering advertising and marketing innovations, technology, as well as business press based in Quad’s home state of Wisconsin, which resulted in a front page story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Telling the Story with VR
While the visual side of virtual reality is often the focus, sound is a critical component to a fully immersive VR experience. The audio experts from Fraunhofer IIS , known for creating mp3 and advanced audio technologies enabling more than 8 billion devices worldwide, are the developers behind the delivery of 3D surround sound to the Samsung Gear VR and the recently announced LG 360 VR.
Much like communicators help to tell stories in written, verbal or graphical form, immersive 3D audio distributes sound in a way that tells the virtual reality story with a sense of realism. In a recent Digital Trends article, “How the Creator of the mp3 is Building the Future of VR Sound,” Jan Nordmann, Fraunhofer Senior Director of Business Development for New Media, pointed out that when making cinematic content where the user can look anywhere, audio can be used to help tell the story, making sure the audience follows the director’s path of action and doesn’t wander off somewhere else.
Fraunhofer was the industry pioneer behind the delivery of internet audio, and now is the first to introduce 3D sound for VR. With virtual reality there is an opportunity for content providers with the help of our client Fraunhofer to deliver experiences with a sense of realism. This is accomplished through head tracking, which allows the user to hear sound objects from above, below, behind and to the left and right. For marketers, advertisers and communications there are still unknowns when it comes to developing content, but we are excited to see what developments are to come in the world of VR and how it will play a role across the communications, marketing and advertising industries
The New Reality
Virtual reality has been gaining momentum in consumer electronics and catching the attention of content creators with the coming release of high profile products like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and LG 360 VR, in addition to more affordable viewers for instance the QVR Viewer and Google Cardboard. As more consumers experience VR, there’s more opportunity to tell a bigger story of companies like Fraunhofer IIS and Quad/Graphics playing key roles in refining VR audio technology or providing innovative applications for VR in communications, publishing, marketing and advertising. Is VR finally poised to gain a foothold? What do you think?