Brands are embracing Mixed Reality

Brands are embracing Mixed Reality

I put my hands out to open a door in VR and felt a heavy door with my fingers in the real world. I reached out to touch the ledge of a castle window, and felt it in the real world. Moments like this massively heighten the sense of reality in VR. They’ve deepened my passion for that place where the physical and the virtual worlds collide: Mixed Reality.

Mixed Reality isn’t new. It isn’t news. But the way it’s affecting our work in the experiential market is exciting! For years, VR has attempted to shed its gaming skin and offer itself to other sectors. About time too! Education, property marketing, FMCGs, automotive, research .. all will benefit from VR opening up new ideas and possibilities.

This year’s HTC Vive launch brought the freedom of movement that was lacking. Back in the Oculus DK days, there were early flashes of brilliance from agencies who wanted to free the Rift from its rooted position at desks and on exhibition stands. Sure, it meant following the user around a space, holding cables and watching their every step, but the concept of movement was a good one. Being able to move in VR is the most obvious and natural human need – we want to reach out and touch, walk over and investigate, so Vive’s solution is spot on.

At L3, we specialise in creating cool spaces. We invested in research and found there was appetite from our clients for using more technology. And over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of VR headsets appearing in events and exhibitions. 2017 will be a huge year for VR, as more brands realise its potential for a connection with their audiences. And as a torrent of new head-mounted displays flood the market, we’re working on how we can integrate tech into physical spaces.

Creating environments that respond to your movement is an essential part of the experience and we’re discovering that you only need the tiniest physical nudge to ‘trick’ your brain and make things richer. While laying in a hammock, looking up through the coco palms on Accra beach, Barbados, you feel the heat of the late afternoon sun (heat lamps mounted on a truss above). You hear the waves lapping as children play in the shallows just in front of you, while to your left the sound of reggae dub hums from a beach bar a hundred metres away (3D sound). A heady blend of coconut sun screen, BBQ jerk chicken, sweet Manchineel trees and ozone all drift across on the cooling breeze that takes the edge off the heat (electronically-triggered fragrance boxes and an array of two stage fans). Your left leg hangs out of the hammock as you rock from side to side, with your toes tracing circles in the warm sand (electrically heated sand box). So, although we’ll all become quickly accustomed to high-definition visuals, adding in subtle physical touches leaves you feeling, “Yeah, ok. Maybe I’ll lay here for another minute or two.”

Since the Oculus Rift DK1 arrived, we haven’t stopped experimenting and working out how leading brands can run with this tech. VR is so powerful when you first experience it, but after a while those basic human needs for touch, taste and smell leave you wanting more. Setting the senses on fire with mixed reality guarantees a richer and more complete experience. Surely that’s the strongest connection you can make? A massive win for brands that get it right.

Owen Thomas
Creative Director, L3