winter / 2016

The magazine of branded content
4 Uses for Virtual
Reality in Content
Feature
Juliet Stott
11/03/16
Experience. Exploration. Education. Entertainment.
Juliet Stott
Nov 3, 2016

Virtual reality is set to become the biggest content marketing trend of 2017. It’s out of the box, it’s innovative and with the likes of Facebook (Oculus), Google, Samsung and Sony investing heavily in the software, hardware and accompanying content, VR is now in the forefront of consumers’ minds too.

In the coming year, many brand marketers will start to experiment with this break-through tool in the hope of engaging with, and making deeper connections to, their audience. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at how you can incorporate this tech into your existing content strategy; and we’ve looked at nine examples of how VR is already being used.


Experience

Capture real life events through the use of panoramic camera rigs or transport users to completely imaginary environments using computer graphic simulations. However you use it, VR will put your audience at the heart of the action.

Volvo created a VR experience to launch its latest car, the CX-90. It gave gives users a cockpit view of the $55,000 vehicle and allowed them to take the car on a virtual test drive, before it had even arrived in the physical showroom. The immersive app, used in conjunction with a $10 Google Cardboard headset, showed off the features of the car, which sold out its first run of orders in two days of launching.

Red Bull gave spectators of its inaugural Red Bull Air Race Championships in Ascot (UK) in 2014 the chance to experience a true-to-life simulation of the ultimate motorsport. The cutting-edge film, which depicted Ascot’s air track, gave those brave enough to try a pilot’s eye view of the world’s fastest motorsport in full stereoscopic 3D. Red Bull used the VR film, made in conjunction with Air Race champion Paul Bonhomme, to give attendees an experience they’d never be able to try in real life and the ultimate wow factor.

A British Italian restaurant chain, Carluccio's, has created unique 360 VR video experiences to accompany its revamped menu this month. Throughout November diners in the UK will be given a pair of Google cardboard glasses, along with a link to a VR video, sent to their smartphone, so they can experience the feeling of being in Italy while eating authentic Italian cuisine.


Explore

Transport your audiences to real or imaginary places instantly by using VR. Use it to take customers on a virtual walk around an apartment or hotel or do a tour around a factory or office space. Or even use it as a virtual showroom for your latest products.

Patrón Spirits Company took its clients on a virtual tour of its hacienda distillery in Mexico, showing off its facilities using a 360 video rig attached to a custom-made drone. Its video, shown through the eyes of its iconic emblem, the bee, followed how its tequila is made, from harvesting the agave plant to its production and packaging. Global Chief Marketing Officer for Patrón Spirits, Lee Applbaum said that while many brands are using VR to entertain, Patrón opted to use it as an educational tool to “give an immersive, behind the scenes look into the artisanal process of making our handcrafted tequila.”

Tommy Hilfiger gave its customers, in select stores around the world, a front seat at its fall 2015 fashion show. Shoppers could watch a 360-degree, three-dimensional version of the catwalk as though they’re seated on the front row, bringing the glamour of the runway to the retail setting. The film included exclusive back-stage, behind-the-scenes footage and enabled viewers to see how the clothes look and move. The chief executive of Tommy Hilfiger, Daniel Grieder, told The New York Times, “These days, you can’t just wait for people to come into the store and try on your jackets. You have to provide entertainment. It’s not about turnover by square foot anymore. It’s about surprise by square foot, or newness.”


Educate

VR will revolutionize the way we teach. It will enable students to (virtually) attend libraries, museums and galleries and go on field trips all around the world. And, due to the immersive nature of VR, it can make the learners more empathetic due to a process called ‘embodied cognition’ (the effect the body’s actions have on the mind), say researchers from Stanford University.

Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab recently released a new VR science educational simulation tool to highlight the work of The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience, a research program aimed at raising awareness of the negative impact carbon dioxide is having on aquatic life. The free VR tool takes viewers to the bottom of our seas in present day and then fast-forwards to the “ocean of the future,” which shows a close-up look at how coral reefs might appear by the end of the century if carbon emissions aren’t curbed. The Virtual Human Interaction Lab’s professor Jeremy Bailenson said of the 360 video, which encourages interactive activities using an accompanying hand control, that the experience is not like watching [a film], but being part of it. “You learn by doing. These are magic, teachable moments,” he said.

The Apollo 11 mission has been recreated and re-told in VR video form using original archive audio and film, together with accurate recreations of the spacecraft and locations. This new type of documentary, made by Immersive VR Education and launched this year, not only allows viewers to relive the events of 1969, but lets them take control and fly the command module, land the lunar lander, explore the Moon’s surface and deploy the lunar experiments all before returning to earth in a fiery re-entry. One VR video-game player who experienced the film said, “It was incredible that VR could make me feel such powerful emotions from something that wasn’t even real.”

Entertain

VR storytelling is in its infancy, but game makers and movie moguls are investing heavily in this tech and are on course to create the next generation of immersive entertainment.

Ghostbusters: Dimension a VR experience created by Utah-based VR theme park The Void in partnership with Sony Pictures, opened in Times Square in July to accompany the Ghostbusters film. Masterminded by Ken Bretschneider, a serial start-up founder, and in collaboration with Ivan Reitman, who directed the original film, and Paul Feig, who's behind the remake, visitors were offered a virtual exploration of the props, costumes, locations and vehicles from the film. After exploring the iconic Ghostbusters Headquarters, guests could experience a finale where they were able to take part in a ghost hunt of their own, saving New York City from a paranormal villain.

Paul McCartney teamed up with virtual reality app maker Jaunt and noted music director Tony Kaye to make a six part 360 video documentary about his life in the Beatles. The film, which was released in June and filmed in his private home studio, allowed fans to go on a personal journey with the music legend as he recounted memories and anecdotes and shared archived and never-before-seen footage. McCartney also collaborated with Jaunt to create a VR video of his performance of Live and Let Die at Candlestick Park, which invited VR users to accompany him on stage.