Isolationism – VR’s Blessing and Curse

In flight entertainment has seen tremendous improvements over the past half decade. Seatback monitors, while generally not very big, offer an array of movie and television choices while in-flight WIFI continues to become easier and easier to access. However, Alaska Airlines thinks that they can one up that experience, by using virtual reality.

During a 4-day period at the end of September, 10 flights on the airline will test out their VR offering. Passengers will receive a lightweight headset, made by in-flight entertainment company SkyLights, and have the option to be entertained by a few different VR experiences. Given the stationary nature of the environment, these experiences are limited to watching movies in your own private theatre and exploring virtual worlds through slight head movements.

Paired up with noise cancelling headphones, those experiencing VR will easily tune out any crying babies or other distractions aboard the flight and may make for an incredibly enjoyable experience. But is VR the future of in-flight entertainment?

Implications

Virtual Reality has long been knocked for some of its glaring fallbacks. It’s an isolating experience that’s expensive to set up and doesn’t have compelling content offerings to justify it. Those fallbacks, while justified, are tailored to the home – as a replacement or auxiliary option to your family gaming system. On a flight, many people prefer that sense of isolationism, as even the thought of sparking up a conversation with a random neighbor gives them anxiety. And cost issues? Well, those may be an airline value add or an additional fee.

In 2019, we’ll likely see VR address its obvious fallbacks and offer more experiences tailored to the environment that individual is already in. Location based VR, like arcades and immersive experiences such as The Void, have become increasingly more popular as they drastically reduce the isolated aspect of the experience. VR during in-flight, and possibly other transportation offerings, will look to capitalize on isolationism in the completely opposite sense.

Amazon’s TNF Stream points to an Interactive future

Last Thursday night kicked off Amazon’s live-streaming deal with the NFL, allowing them to broadcast 11 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games of the 2018/19 season. The feed, which was available for free on Twitch as well as offered to Prime Video customers, set the stage for what the future of interactive live television could be like.

For one, the stream was available just about anywhere someone could imagine watching the game – Amazon’s Prime Video app, Fire TV, mobile devices and anywhere with a strong internet connection. The ubiquity of it changes the paradigm of how consumers can take in this content. No longer is it primarily a passive event as the mobile and open nature of streaming platforms allow for more interactivity.

Amazon wasn’t shy about moving into this trend. Thursday’s broadcast on Prime Video included an ‘X-Ray’ feature, allowing users to see real-time stats as well as personalize their broadcast to follow Game Leaders and Team Stats as the game progressed. When digging deeper, users were able to discover more information on the history of the teams and players involved.

Another unique feature to Thursdays broadcast, and one that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, is the ecommerce aspect that Amazon integrated into the experience. Available within the Fire TV stream, users were able to browse and purchase officially licensed merchandise relating to the teams at hand. Carson Wentz just dropped a dime from 40 yards out in the back corner of the end zone? Cool, you’re 2 clicks away from owning his jersey and your eyes never had to leave the screen.

The other choice that Amazon gave users was with regards to the actual broadcasters. Three options were available on Prime Video, including the first ever all female booth, and Twitch highlighted a popular streamer, GoldGlove, to call the game for its viewers.

Within the Twitch platform, live reaction of viewers was a feature that was highlighted. After an exciting play, the Twitch chat was blown up with emotes (Amazon’s version of emojis) and the social nature of the platform made for a less isolating experience. Bringing people together for live sporting events is something Facebook and Twitter have been working hard at, but neither of them can reach the level of engagement that Amazon currently has.

Implications

Live sporting events have traditionally been viewed in a passive setting as users were mainly confined to a cable provider and their living room TV. That’s slowly but surely changing, and it’s a trend that’s not going to slow down anytime soon. It’s also one that has pretty wide ranging implications.

Niche sports executives should see this as a massive opportunity to get their product in front of a much wider range of audience. FloSports, a leader in partnerships for OTT sports, features rugby, track & field, wrestling, bowling and more. The company will steam 2,500 live events in 2018, increasing live streaming views and event attendance for hundreds of teams across the country. It’s all about getting your product in front of as many eyes as possible, and live streaming is doing that at a scale that hasn’t been seen before.

With those eyeballs, come brands trying to ride the pigtails of that success. Marketers will be able to closely align their product or service with teams that or events that closely align with their brand values. As the services mature, there will likely be opportunities to personalize these messages to individuals or segments. On top of that, the active nature of the service will continually allow for a reduction in friction to the path to purchase. Live streaming events and the interactivity that comes with them may be the last domino to fall in the fight against cutting the cord.

Snapchat Launches Voice Recognition Lenses

Snapchat continues to push the AR boundaries by launching a new lense that can recognize simple voice commands. In the past, lenses could react to users opening their mouth or raising their eyebrows. Now, basic English words will have the same effect. Simply saying “love” will cue jazz music while saying “yes” causes the camera to zoom. Other words like “hi”, “no” and “wow” come with their own animations. Users can expect to see five to six more lenses added to the rotation throughout the week.

While Facebook has the advantage of owning other key apps like Instagram and Messenger, Snapchat continues to use camera technology as their strength. Users have already seen visually stimulating updates with the sky changing lenses and selfie games. Snapchat Inc. has noted it is possible to combine these features but has not made any specific announcement for the future.

Implications

Social media marketers should be on the lookout, as this voice recognition lense may be open to advertisers soon. Snapchat is proving to be an essential platform for connecting with teens and the growing, older audience. The emphasis on interactive content has helped keep users engaged which is crucial when it comes to brand messaging. While users may still choose Facebook and Instagram to view content from creators, Snapchat is enabling the creation of content. Brands that can find a way into that creative process, potentially through these new lenses, will be at the center of users’ messages.

The Evolution of The Camera

Computing is quickly moving from the small screen in our hands, to the world around us. The camera, and advanced AI algorithms behind it, are driving this shift.

google-lens-android.jpg

‘The Evolution of The Camera’ dives into the trends and use cases that we see today revolving around three key areas.

Communicate: How the camera has changed the paradigm of communication and virtual presence.

Enhance: How computer vision and AI can play a role in digital engagement and what that means for consumers.

Augment: How AR is enabling new experiences and utility through the camera.

 

AR Lands in the News Feed

Facebook and Instagram have made tremendous strides to bring AR functionality into their platforms in 2018. This years’ F8 saw the announcement of AR within Messenger – proving useful for product launches and demonstrations. We were also given advanced AR capabilities within Instagram’s camera and the ability for third party developers to easily create them.

This week, they’ve added another tool to their arsenal in the form of a news feed ad product. Users will begin seeing ads that feature a “Tap to try it on” option, which would then bring them into an AR experience. The goal is to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds and allow consumers to “try before they buy”. Of course, commerce is the end goal of these experiences, and an easy path to purchase is included post use.

tumblr_inline_pbo6ts2GzN1uk4gsu_540.jpg

Michael Kors was the first brand to test out these new ad products but look for more similar brands to jump into the testing grounds soon enough. AR, while still in its infancy has become almost a necessity for cosmetic brands and high end retailers. For Facebook, giving these companies an avenue to push their product in this format to highly qualified customers should prove to be profitable for both the advertiser as well as the tech behemoth.

Implications

As the hardware needed to invoke high end AR experiences gets into the hands of more and more users, brands will begin to see the benefits that augmented reality experiences can have on their bottom line. Consumers will come to expect the ability to visualize products in their own environments while they move along their decision journey and brands will need to get creative in how they push these experiences.

Marketers should be extremely excited about the prospect of these new ad buys and those in the clothing, accessories and cosmetics space should be pushing for this functionality within their companies. What’s even better is that with AR, there’s some economies of scale that can occur. Developing an augmented reality experience that’s invoked through a news feed ad can also be triggered within Messenger, as an Instagram/Snapchat filter as well as through their own app.

The ability to allow consumer the freedom to customize and view your products in their own world will soon lead to a paradigm shift in how commerce decisions are made. Now’s the time to ensure your brand is set up for the future.

Project Eagle Snaps into Place

Over 200 million users open up Snapchat every day to take selfies, play games, share their surroundings and augment their world. For many, it’s how they see the world, and how the rest of the world sees them. Soon enough, commerce will make its way into that equation as well. Via TechCrunch, a secret project codenamed “Eagle”, has shown up in in the code of Snapchat’s Android app and focuses primarily on visual search including a partnership with Amazon.

tumblr_inline_pbm9owKbVW1uk4gsu_540.png

We’re not entirely sure how the service will eventually work, but one can imagine that through the camera, users will be shown context specific information about their surroundings. Think Googles Lens but through social media.

This is a big step for Snapchat, which markets itself as a camera company, and could allow them to bring in revenue through additional sources. There’s sure to be some sort of affiliate deal in place with Amazon as well as updated advertising products to take advantage of these new capabilities.

What this also does is enhance the future functionality of Snap’s Spectacles. As the general public slowly but surely tosses aside their mobile phones for some sort of eyewear or visual product – the company in control will have an enormous opportunity to profit off of users surroundings. By integrating visual search into mobile cameras of today, Snap is setting itself up to be the Augmented Reality leader of tomorrow.

Implications

The mobile camera is the window into a users world. As hardware has evolved and gotten cheaper, the software that runs on it has paved the way for frictionless experiences to occur. That’s exactly what Snap is attempting to accomplish here. A frictionless shopping experience that’s triggered by what users see in the real world, what a friend sends them, or what they view on the platform within other channels.

For brands and marketers, it will be important to keep an eye on this feature to determine how best to set their products (or services for that matter) up for success. Snap’s Context Cards, which show information on businesses, allow for restaurant reservations, ride-sharing and more will likely become an increasingly important vehicle for engagement as commerce is brought into the picture.

As is the case with popular Snapchat innovations, be on the lookout for a similar Instagram clone in the coming months.

AR Steals the Show at WWDC

Virtual tape measures, Memoji’s, Tongue Detection, and more were all part of Apple’s AR updates announced at this years WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference). As part of ARKit 2, developers will be able to upgrade their experiences to include improved face tracking, realistic rendering, 3D object detection, persistent experiences and shared experiences.

The first few of those updates allow for greater looking experiences, whereas the latter completely shift the paradigm of what is possible in an AR environment. Multiplayer experiences will be big for gaming, allowing multiple users to interact with each other in their own synthetic layer of reality. Apple will surely aim to bring this functionality to other aspects of their software – one can only imagine shared data visualization, product demonstrations, educational experiences, and much more.

tumblr_inline_p9tv3cFQfV1uk4gsu_540.png

Persistent experiences will turn AR applications into something that was once a one off use case, into an environment that offers an incentive to return. An easy way to visualize this is that if you were to hang up a virtual painting one day, you can return the next and that painting will still be there. Unless of course, your son or daughter went into that same virtual environment and decided to draw all over it.

Memojis are Apple’s way of personalizing yourself, just as Samsung, and many multiplayer games have done before them. However, in this case, Apple is allowing you to bring your Memoji into the camera – overlaying your virtual avatar onto your physical body. It’s somewhat of a snapchat like effect, which should lead to more native sharing within the messages app.

tumblr_inline_p9tv3ttAt61uk4gsu_540.png

With all these AR updates, Apple needed to make it easier for creatives to develop content for them. They did this through a new file format for AR entitled USDZ. In partnership with Pixar, this new file format will make it easier to create and share AR concepts. What’s better, Adobe will be integrating USDZ support into its suite of creative cloud applications. Developers will be able to natively edit AR designs and objects within software that they already know and love.

To cap it off, Apple made a few nods to web based AR integrations, which will entirely change the landscape of the consumption of AR content. Within Safari, virtual products will soon be instantly viewable in a users physical environment, and will eventually evolve into full on AR experiences, completely negating the need for one off apps and reducing the friction involved in accessing them. AR has long been hyped as the next great computing platform, and while we’re still not there yet, Apple has certainly provided us with some exciting updates as we work towards that day.

Implications

For brands and marketers, AR can seem like a shiny object that may look cool, but not necessarily bring value. As more and more users are given native ability to access an augmented world, and developers are given more tools to create objects that inhabit that world, that will no longer be the case.

It will soon be table stakes for ecommerce sites to offer AR viewability of their products and experiences will be inherently personalized as live data is brought into the experience. AR is an extremely exciting category, and will soon be an integral part of digital experiences, as computing moves from the mobile phone into spatial existence.