Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are each a variation of reality manipulation. Now more than ever, marketers are interested in gainfully applying them, hence their eagerness to know which type is right for enhancing their particular story and understanding how it will help them break through.
This is an important question, because over the past few years many businesses have tried to augment their customer experience using reality distorting platforms, only to find that they often failed to add any real value.
Fortunately, nowadays our understanding of the true differences between these technologies and how to get the best from each has advanced considerably. It is no longer a case of adding technological clutter just for the sake of it. We know much better how to use them as unique and innovative tools for enhancing the audience experience. Our focus is solely on using the power of these technologies to tell our stories better!
A significant part of this change has been recognizing that the philosophy of ‘less is more’ applies just as much to technology as to any other part of life. To tell a story successfully we must make it not only engaging but comfortable for our customers to access.
VR creates a closed environment, so use it when you want to completely immerse the audience and transport them into your chosen universe.
Take, for example, the task of explaining a drug’s mode of action (MOA). This lends itself perfectly to the technology. The user is brought inside the body to see first-hand how the drug actually works.
Empathy-led themes, which aim is to put the audience in the shoes of the protagonist (e.g. the patient), are also ideal for VR. The audience can experience much of what the patient experiences and thereby more truly understand the impact of a disease at a personal level.
The challenge is that although interest in VR is growing fast, the technology is still not widespread and as a result, your audience is unlikely to possess their own equipment. This will need to be delivered in person.
Use AR when you don’t want to close off reality but to build on top of it.
For example, consider real-time molecule manipulation. A customer is able to break apart the structure of the molecule through their smartphone screen without leaving the reality of their environment. AR allows you to apply direct manipulation to the content on the screen.
Alternatively, how about bringing to life static printed materials by using a visual as a marker to create a lively three-dimensional experience? Again, all this from your customer’s or your own smartphone or other device, making AR easily accessible and a viable approach for marketers to enhance their story either in person or remotely.
Use MR when you want to combine these approaches.
Chances are that you may have seen MR in the form of Microsoft’s HoloLens technology. The user wears a headset and employs gesture controls that allow for the merging of the real and virtual worlds. They can both see and manipulate holographic images within their own environment. They can, for example, interact with a virtual human body, organ, molecule or device making the technology great for educational or promotional use and, of course, for gaming
Due to the headset and controls, MR is a high cost approach that requires specialist equipment. It is therefore probably best used in the presence of the story teller (e.g. in a sales call or at an event).
To get the best from any of these technologies, go back to basics. Ask yourself these key questions
– Who is the audience I want to talk to?
– What is the story I want to tell them?
– How well will they interact with the technology?
– What value does this technology add to the story and how does it do it?
Using this approach will keep you grounded in marketing reality and enable you to escape the pitfalls that these seductive technologies bring with them. Be sure that the one you choose provides the best possible means of helping your story break through and you will have achieved your goal!