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Tech Trends, Part One: Get Ready — VR & AR Are About To Change Brand Experiences

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Chris Cavanaugh
Chris Cavanaugh

Chief Marketing Officer

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Creating new ways for audiences to visualize, engage, and empathize

This is the first installment in a three-part series in which Chris Cavanaugh, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer of Freeman, discusses the event technology that is shaping the future of the brand experiences. 

Keeping up with event technology can be a full-time job. It seems like every week there’s a new application or piece of technology that promises to revolutionize the world of brand experiences.

Deciding which technology is right for a given brand, live event, or audience is not an easy decision, given the resources and budget required. There are many drivers, such as the audience’s needs, the strategy, the environment, the brand narrative, and even the brand’s history (to name a few). The best approach is to ask yourself this: what story is the brand trying to tell, and how does this application help deliver the message in a personalized, compelling manner?

In this series, I’ll be discussing three technology trends that are currently on the rise, and offering some insight as to why I think they genuinely offer the best opportunities to enhance a brand narrative.

One of the biggest trends that we are all going to see over the next year is the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The technologies are closely related, but VR is about creating entirely digital worlds, while AR is about enhancing reality with digital content.

As these technologies mature and prices come down, their applications are becoming more and more evident, not just in creating engagement opportunities for audiences, but also as an integral part of the design process. In other words, VR and AR can be just as useful behind the curtain as in front of it.

Let’s face it, not everyone is visual. We could all use a little help, right? In terms of design visualization, VR and AR are creating some breathtaking possibilities. With VR, designers and clients will now be able to preview their designs before anything goes into production — in three dimensions, in real time, and with all the context of size, scale, and depth available to them. In the future, as AR technologies become more refined, clients might even be able to preview their designs and experiences in real-world spaces. These applications aren’t just tools to help us tell stories, they’re also the tools that will help us design and build the worlds in which our stories take place.

Let’s face it, not everyone is visual. We could all use a little help, right?

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In terms of content, VR and AR are just starting to come into their own, and consumers are showing a keen interestFacebook has invested billions in Oculus, and its developers are working on creating avenues for consumption of 360-degree VR content within users’ timeline feeds. The infrastructure is developing, so now it’s up to us to create the content to fill it.

As far as engagement, the research is very promising. Studies have shown that this technology can be an incredibly powerful emotional engagement tool, even more so than TV. There’s a widely held belief that VR and AR have the potential to increase empathy, which in turn could result in a deeper, more authentic connection with audiences. Some brands are even using the technology to let users experience life through another person’s eyes.

Consider that we’ve only just scratched the surface of VR’s potential. Brands are currently using VR and AR to let consumers interact with products virtually, visit travel destinations or environments they’ve never been to before, and experience concerts or sporting events from the front row.  In just a year or two of content creation, our ability to tell impactful stories has already increased by leaps and bounds.

As developers get accustomed to using VR and AR as storytelling tools, I think we’ll start to see them dramatically expand the use of these technologies and push their limits. In the hands of our most creative people, there’s no telling what new applications are out there that we haven’t even seen yet.

Therein lies the power of VR’s evolution. The Internet was around for years before people discovered that social sharing was the key to driving content adoption. There’s a good chance we’ll see the same growth with VR and AR.

Stay tuned for my next article, when I’ll be discussing my thoughts on live streaming and events.

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