After months in the deep freezer of NYC, we're excited to finally make our way to Austin this weekend for SXSW. Always a great place to scope out new tech and music trends, South By has been leaning heavily on VR the last couple years, with some splashy activations (virtually climbing the wall in a Game of Thrones piece) as well as a theater full of solidly curated pieces. This year's immersive Westworld experience sold out in record time, and we're hearing rumors of some cool mobile AR activations on the ground as well. The Friends With Holograms team will be there on the 11th and 12th -- we've got panels at 1:15 on Sunday and we'll be speaking as part of the NYC Media Lab event at noon on Monday on the East Lawn on the Four Seasons. Additionally, we're booking demo and meeting slots and would love to connect and show you what we've been working on.
EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK
The BBC recently launched Civilisations AR, which allows users to view a range of artifacts in 3D. According to a release, "At the heart of the Civilisations AR experience is a core ‘magic spotlight’ feature, which allows users to uncover annotations, audio and imagery that enrich to the story of each exhibit. An X-ray function lets users see through or inside an object, while a restoration feature can be used to rub through the layers of history. Users can browse the exhibition geographically, using an AR globe, or via the themes of the series, as new exhibits will be added as the series progresses."
This is one of the smartest and most useful AR products we've seen recently. Merely placing an object in a space quickly loses its luster, but this gives users multiple opportunities for interaction and learning, keeping them engaged and excited.
On the AR front, we're also excited about Google expanding its Lens product to more phones. Image search is the future of search, and this is a great way to create more AR content and get people comfortable with seeing information delivered as an overlay on top of the physical world.
WHAT WE'RE UP TO NEXT
We had a great time talking AR at the Mobile Innovation Summit in NYC last week. Cortney is hosting a talk with VR filmmakers Lily Baldwin and Jessica Brillhart tomorrow night -- alas, it is all sold out, but we're hoping to do another similar event in the future. We'll also be speaking at ISG Future Workplace Summit on March 27 and at Augmented World Expo at the end of May (exact date TBD).
Hit us up if you want to learn more or grab some tacos in Austin!
First off, a big thank you to all the folks who responded to the survey two weeks ago -- your responses were really helpful. If you didn't have a chance to fill it out, it's still open; just click here to give us a piece of your mind.
Now, on to the big stuff -- the coming augmented reality explosion, and how you can be prepared and make great content. Cortney was quoted in this fantastic AdWeek piece a few weeks back, and that's only one of the many use cases we've pinpointed for AR this year. We're coming to the point where any space can become an ad, and even more than that, a hyper-targeted ad that people actually want to interact with. It can power games and scavenger hunts that can spark huge viral conversations. And with the groundbreaking WebAR tech we've been working on, it can do that right from a phone's browser -- no apps required.
Needless to say, we're bullish on AR, and we've started offering an intro to AR session for our clients. Interested? Let us know.
EXPERIENCE OF THE WEEK
Look, based on the name alone this was going to be the experience of the week before we even know anymore. But this is not just crazy cute -- it's also an amazing example of how AR might just be the thing that saves dying malls. This is a fun game, but the AR experiences for shopping could be so much more. For instance, a store app could allow you to scan a shirt, see options for complementary clothes and accessories, be directed to your size, and even click to buy if you like it. This combines everything we like about online shopping with the things are still great about spending time with friends at the mall.
WHAT WE'RE UP TO NEXT
Cortney will be talking AR at the Mobile Innovation Summit in NYC on February 28 and will be moderating a panel on March 6th at Sonic Union with amazing female VR directors, including Jessica Brillhart. We're heading to SXSW for the first weekend -- Cortney is speaking on a panel on March 11 and we're also booking meetings, so please let us know if you're interested in connecting in Austin. We'll also be speaking at ISG Future Workplace Summit on March 27 and at Augmented World Expo at the end of May (exact date TBD).
As always, we'd love to speak at events or meet with your teams.
OK, we'll admit it -- we can be a little exacting when it comes to VR and AR content. We see a ton of it, all day long, and it takes a lot to impress us. So when we see things that make our jaded jaws drop, that means it is pretty special. We've seen two things that met that high bar in the last two weeks, and both were not only cool in their own right, but an amazing glimpse of what the future of VR for education looks like.
Well, we've almost made it through another year -- and what a rollercoaster of a year it has been (although not a virtual rollercoaster, because please do not ever do those). Everything else aside, it's been a massive year for VR and AR, and 2017 will likely be seen as the year where the engines revved up and we all sped down the runway before taking flight into a new immersive reality.
Greetings from southern Africa, where Cortney has spent the last two weeks having meetings, shooting 360 footage of some amazing and terrifying animals for an upcoming project, and enjoying a whole new world of meats. But the best part of this trip came in the most unexpected place -- a tiny (seriously, small town bus station size) airport in Namibia. A kindly regional private jet pilot noticed her struggling to set up her SIM card and offered to help; in return, she thought she'd impress him and let him play with her Gear headset. The pilot informed her that as nice as that was, he was already an old hand at VR, as his tiny airline did in-flight training in a Rift (alas, he couldn't sneak her past security to see it in the office).
Co-author: Jenya Lugina
At least once a week, a version of the following article pops up in one of our feeds: [Brand] announces they are experimenting with VR with the release of [content]. When I check out the content, no matter what the quality, one thing is almost always consistent — it has nothing to do with the brand’s current messaging strategy. Sometimes it tells a story, sometimes it’s a gimmick, but more often than not, it just reads as an experiment. The message has nothing to do with the brand; rather, the message is, “we heard VR was a cool new thing we had to do, so we threw some money at folks who may or may not know what they’re doing, and they made a video that we probably don’t really know how to promote. We weren’t solving a business challenge or creating a coherent narrative; we were doing a thing we had to do, probably badly, and using that as an excuse to not do it again.”
As we chat with more of our wonderful agency partners, the issue of ROI in VR keeps coming up. We've been spending some time digging into stats and research, and one thing is becoming clear -- humans retain information delivered via VR in a much deeper way. One survey compared patients recovering from brain surgery and relearning skills using VR to those using traditional methods, and found the VR group bounced back faster than the control group. Another study split construction management students into two groups, one using VR and one using books and flat videos -- and when tested a month later, the VR group had much higher scores. Finally, a group of doctors using VR to train before working on patients had a 5% error rate, while the doctors using the usual methods had a 55% error rate (terrifying, right?).
First things first -- a massive shoutout to John Deschner of TBWA\Chiat\Day\LA, our reader of the week. On a panel at the Fast Company Festival in NYC last week, he made the central point we here at Friends With Holograms have been trying to make for months now: “You can sit on the fence (with VR), but then you will be playing crazy catchup.” As we approach 2018, the fence is no place to be when it comes to emerging reality tech -- you’re either getting in front of the curve or setting yourself up to fall behind.
In recent years, a bleak picture has started to emerge of people in left-behind America. In communities with few jobs and a raging opioid crisis, young men in particular have retreated in great numbers, simply dropping out of life altogether, spending their days playing video games with no end in sight. Funding for local educational programs has been slashed, and the for-profit institutions that prey on them require taking out massive loans and rarely provide any sort of useful education. In the meantime, skilled manufacturing jobs sit empty and productivity decreases, because there remains a wide gap and no clear path for those who could learn the skills but cannot figure out how.
Last Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg stood onstage in front of nearly 3,000 people at Oculus Connect and made a promise -- he was going to get a billion people in virtual reality. To make that happen, he announced the launch of two new VR headsets -- the Oculus Go, which will be phone-free and release next year at a $199 price point; and the Santa Cruz, a wireless immersive headset that will release to developers next year and then to the wider market.
I’ve been speaking on a ton of panels recently, but realize that not everyone can make it to every conference. Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to release a series of pieces based on my remarks so a wider audience will be able to access them.
Imagine this: you’re sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, ready to head off on your daily commute. But rather than place your hands on the wheel and start driving, the car takes care of the work for you, while you enjoy a coffee, answer some emails, and catch up on the news. Because every other car on the road is also a self-driving machine, there’s no need to watch out for erratic or distracted drivers, and before you know it, you’re at your office and the car is ready to zip off for another trip, rather than wastefully sitting in a parking lot for the next eight hours.