How XR Can Enhance The World We Live In

This week we take a look at how XR technology is shaping the future. Current events cannot be ignored, but how can we look to technology to help support us in these days of uncertainty?

Read on to explore how XR can help solve current problems (looking at you COVID-19) and solve current business and cultural strains through technological solutions.

VR And AR Can Solve Current Event And Conference Participation

What’s happening: From the Game Developers Conference to Tokyo’s Cherry Blossom Festival, we’re seeing events get canceled due to coronavirus concerns, and rightfully so. XR could be the solution to these unfortunate circumstances. 

Why it matters: Imagine a world where conferences and events have a virtual component allowing anyone under any circumstance to participate and join events from anywhere in the world. 

While the challenges and barriers to this solution are present, the opportunity to look to AR and VR technology to solve problems such as this and make the world more connected already exists today.

The Future Is XR

What’s happening: We’ve covered many XR applications in our short time on AList with a specific focus on AR/VR solutions. However, this article is a great reminder of what can be done in the XR space. This article explores the opportunities and many ways that companies can begin looking at the future of technology.

Why it matters: From entertainment and gaming to medical applications and inmate rehabilitation, VR is reshaping the world we live in and opening new doors providing ways for the public and businesses to experiment and explore the world, giving pause to consider how you can leverage these new avenues to tailor content for your customers in a new and engaging way.

Home Depot Sees Payoff From Mobile, Digital Marketing Efforts

Home Depot’s mobile marketing efforts appear to be paying off. Crediting growth to its 2019 holiday ad campaign, its mobile app downloads saw double-digit growth, according to the company’s Q4 earnings call.

CNBC reports same-store sales were up 5.2 percent, topping Wall Street’s expectations. Home Depot’s Q4 revenue fell 2.7 percent to $25.78 billion from $26.49 billion a year earlier but exceeded analyst estimates of $25.76 billion.

In December 2019, the company ran a 32-second television spot called “It’s a Good Time to Be a Doer” showing how customers can use the Home Depot app to identify unknown parts, pick up purchased items in-store via Home Depot lockers and take advantage of the company’s delivery services.

Home Depot has also stepped up its digital offerings. Around the same time the home improvement retailer launched its holiday commercial, it added a section on its website detailing its mobile app’s features.

“We believe that the front door of our store is now in the customer’s pocket, it’s on the job site, that most of our customer’s shopping experience actually starts in the digital world even if it finishes in the physical world,” Home Depot CEO Craig Minear said on the earnings call.

Home Depot’s Q4 performance reflects its continuous efforts to boost experiences across all consumer touch points especially during the holidays. In 2018, Home Depot partnered with Verizon Media for a personalized digital holiday campaign to promote its selection of holiday decorations. Home Depot became the first brand to pilot Verizon’s augmented reality (AR) ad unit and in doing so, allowed consumers to visually bring to life their Christmas tree and all of its decorations from their mobile phones. Users spent an average of over two minutes interacting with the AR ad and the campaign received a 12.5 percent click-through rate (CTR) from the ad to the Home Depot landing page.

“It’s interesting because we’re seeing that people are using their mobile and in-app functionality even when they’re within our stores. So, even if they’re in our physical environment, they’re still using our mobile app. This demonstrates the multichannel shopping experience that we’re living in today. In addition to letting shoppers check store product availability via our site or mobile app, we’re also incorporating voice and visual search into our efforts,” Home Depot senior director of marketing Dawn Erksa told eMarketer in September 2018. 

From a feature standpoint, Erksa added, voice and visual search are generating the greatest adoption.

Home Depot announced plans to hire 80,000 associates this spring to prepare for its busiest season of the year, Nasdaq reports.

Integrating AR And VR Into Business And Marketing

This week in Extended Reality (XR) we saw AR integration coming to Chrome and a company that looks to enhance current stationary bicycle experiences through the power of virtual reality technology. 

Chrome Getting AR Support

What’s Happening: Google’s Chrome 81 will get support for web-based AR. This means anyone using Chrome as their browser will be able to experience augmented reality moments right through their browser rather than needing a specific AR application or Google’s AR options built into the camera. 

Why it Matters: When browsing the web, users have the entire world at their fingertips. With this new integration, marketers have access to a whole new world of AR. We can create content that can be explored without the need to download additional apps, breaking down a huge barrier in converting users who are hesitant to test out the medium. With AR integration built in to Chrome, the door to new and exciting digital marketing experiences has flung wide open.

Virtual Reality Takes Exercise To The Next Level

What’s Happening: VirZOOM looks to enhance exercise experiences by taking the stationary bike anywhere in the world. With a handlebar attachment and virtual reality headset, you can teleport your exercise experience from the gym to locations like Iceland and beyond. 

Why it Matters: We should always be looking at how things are done and how we can use emerging technology to expand on and enhance the traditional methods. In this case, VirZOOM saw VR as a way to enhance stationary bikes into something that’s emotional and creates a story. How can you look to future technology to enhance your product or marketing approach?

Extended Reality Becomes The Norm At Sundance

This week in Extended Reality (XR) news we see an increase in demand for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) developers as well as a huge turnout of virtual experiences at the Sundance Film Festival. XR is coming, are you and your business ready with innovative ways to take advantage of this new(ish) medium?

We previously used XR for mixed reality, however after digging in a bit more we’ve identified the umbrella term of Extended Reality (XR) which is used to define all real-and-virtual worlds combined is becoming more and more common. This primarily encompasses augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality (think a combination of virtual reality and real life) but may include other realities that haven’t been invented yet. Going forward we’ll use XR in this space. 

AR/VR Engineering Jobs On The Rise

What’s Happening: AR and VR engineering jobs are on an uptick as companies look to XR to reach potential new customers as this technology lets people experience product offerings in a completely new and interactive way. 

Growth in interview requests for AR/VR among software engineers is up 1,400 percent from 2018. Facebook currently has more than 3,000 jobs with the terms “AR/VR” and Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Google have a total of 1,000. The AR/VR industry is expected to reach $571.42 billion by 2025

Why it Matters: When building new technological experiences it’s important to look at where any given industry is and look and current trends. This growth in XR is a very good indicator that not only entertainment but a variety of industries are going to be impacted by the disruption of augmented and virtual reality. If you’re looking to build a team around AR/VR solutions, it’s a smart move to start looking at potential candidates now rather than later. 

AR And VR Take Sundance By Storm

What’s Happening: Sundance film festival goers typically expect traditional flat entertainment. However, this year VR and AR experiences are disrupting the norm as attendees are interested in a plethora of interactive and personal experiences. Showings include virtual space experiences with waterproof VR rigs, to incredibly personal and emotional 1:1 moments. The shift in packed theaters to longer intimate experiences VR can be seen as attendees prioritize what’s important during their time at the festival and this is ushering in a new notion of VR not being an isolating experience, rather one that allows people to make memorable and personal connections.

Why it Matters: Every brand has something to offer, and as marketers, we have a huge opportunity to leverage VR and AR to make these brand connections more meaningful for our audience and potential fans. By using technology that lets people feel closer to others or brands, we can create authentic experiences that will have fans talking about our products with a personal relationship (or at least create a very memorable and cool virtual reality story to tell).

Report: The Behavioral Trends Of Mobile Gamers

Nearly two-thirds of mobile gamers are more likely to engage with an in-app rewarded ad than a sponsored social media post for retail advertisers, according to Tapjoy’s 2020 “Modern Mobile Gamer: Direct-to-Consumer Retail Report.”

The data suggests that mobile gamers are a high-return growth opportunity for DTC brands and subscription services are still in high demand. 

The report details the behavioral trends of four major segments including Gen Z, millennials, parents and high-income consumers. Across all segments, 70 percent said they’re interested in trying a new subscription product or service. Tapjoy also found that about two-thirds prefer shopping directly from a brand than through a third party retailer, with clothing listed as the most popular product category for online retail shopping. 

All groups identified convenience as the main deciding factor in choosing to buy a product or service. Gen Z and high-income consumers said personalization is a secondary factor whereas millennials and parents chose affordability as a secondary factor. 

Tapjoy’s research found that Gen Z is most likely to engage with ads that feature a trial or new release promotions, image or video gallery of products and personalized quizzes and customization. Gen Z also said brand loyalty isn’t a big factor because they shop with multiple brands in a given year. They do, however, regularly shop for clothing or lifestyle products on mobile devices and they like subscription delivery services because of personalized product selections.

Price-conscious millennials engage the most with customer testimonials, reviews, promotions and image or video product galleries. A majority of them (88 percent) also shop for clothing or lifestyle products via mobile devices. Nearly half (48 percent) of millennials surveyed report keeping their delivery subscriptions active for four months or more and 83 percent already use one to four different subscription services for clothing or lifestyle products.

Parents are price-conscious too but open to trying new subscription services and brands. For ease of purchase, 79 percent prefer shopping online using a digital device. Their subscription habits are similar to millennials’ in that they’re open to trying new subscription services and keep those services running for more than four months. 

Where high-income consumer behavior differs from all segments is that one of the most commonly cited reasons for why they shop digitally is that they have more control over personal touches like color and design. Additionally, they value quality of merchandise as 63 percent said that that factor influences their decision to purchase new clothing or lifestyle products.

A little over half (56 percent) of both parents and high-income consumers spend between $50 to $200 on clothing and lifestyle products each month.

Tapjoy surveyed 11,290 mobile US consumers aged 18 and over between October and November 2019 via a variety of popular games in Tapjoy’s mobile ad network.

Streaming Accounts For 19% Of Consumers’ Television Viewing

Consumers spent nearly 19 percent of their television time during Q4 2019 streaming content, according to a special streaming wars edition of the 2020 Nielsen Total Audience Report, which for the first time has utilized smart television data from Gracenote.

The report also found that 60 percent of US consumers subscribe to more than one paid video streaming service and 93 percent say they will either increase or keep their existing streaming services. Among time spent streaming, Netflix accounted for 31 percent followed by 21 percent for YouTube, 12 percent for Hulu, eight percent for Amazon and 28 percent for other services.

Consumers cited cost (84 percent), ease of use (81 percent), variety of content (79 percent), streaming and playback quality (77 percent) and speed (74 percent) as the top five attributes that make a streaming service attractive. When asked why they canceled a paid video subscription service, 42 percent of respondents said they didn’t use it enough to justify the cost.  

The report also found that through December 2019, viewers had access to 646,152 unique program titles, up 10 percent from 2018. 

As for why consumers subscribe to additional paid video streaming services, the primary reason was to expand the content that they had available.

Nielsen also included stats on the streaming audio, which on smartphones reached 64 percent of US adults in Q3 2018, up 19 percent from the year prior. Streaming audio on tablets, the firm says, reached 25 percent while radio and satellite reached 92 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

The bottom line: content is king. Streaming provides marketers an opportunity to easily reach consumers in the digital age. Content creators and rights owners will have more power as streaming grows, but platforms must continue generating high-quality content and lots of it. Otherwise subscribers will lose interest as 20 percent of consumers said they canceled a service after watching all the content they were interested in.

AR/VR Hits Big In Enterprise Solutions

This week we’re highlighting a few announcements in the enterprise space for Mixed Reality (XR). This is telling for the XR space as more and more businesses are using virtual reality and augmented reality to better develop tools and work collaboratively with remote employees. As a marketer we should always be aware of how technology is shaping our business and how we can implement tools to complement workflow. This week we’ll discuss a few items that can do just that. 

Spatial Brings Remote Employees Together

What’s Happening: Spatial looks to build out how brands and teams work collaboratively with a global workforce and has raised 14M to continue work on their collaborative AR tool that let’s remote employees work together through augmented workspaces. Think Slack or Google Hangouts, but one where you can visually see and work with each other through a shared virtual workspace. 

Why It Matters: Over the last 5 years there has been a 44 percent growth increase in remote work. In order to adapt to this shift of flexible work becoming the new standard, tools will be necessary to bring employees across disciplines so they can collaborate effectively. Spatial looks to jump into that market to bring people together over work in a way that feels natural and supports collaboration.

Canon Still In The Augmented Reality Game

What’s Happening: Canon announced it’s AR successor with some really impressive visuals. Beyond hyper photorealism, Canon is touting many new features to make AR 3D models seamlessly integrate with real life objects. 

Why it Matters: Oftentimes when we think of augmented reality, it’s for fun or marketing purposes. However, advancements in technology are providing businesses with the tools to create efficiencies across many development processes. If you’re looking to create a better workflow, it might be time to look into XR enterprise solutions for your business.

VR In The Cloud

What’s Happening: Amazon announces Wavelength, a new addition to Amazon Web Services (AWS) called Wavelength for 5G devices. Wavelength promises single digit millisecond latency for AR/VR applications that are latency-sensitive applications over 5G connections. 

Why It Matters: Currently high-end virtual reality devices rely on expensive local computing. Wavelength aims to take that processing into the cloud to render and AR and VR content remotely. This drastically reduces the processing power required for applications that require low-latency and can let battery-powered devices take advantage without the need for said expensive local computing and enables these devices to access from any 5G location. Varjo, the maker of high-end VR enterprise headsets, believes this is a necessary step to scale VR usage. 

Voice Shopping Via Smart Speaker Is Growing Slower Than Expected

The number of US consumers warming to the idea of shopping via smart speakers is smaller than eMarketer initially predicted. Now 21.6 million people will have made a purchase through a smart speaker by 2020, compared to eMarketer’s Q2 2019 prediction of 23.6 million. Smart speaker usage forecasts have also been updated from an expected 84.5 million users in Q2 2019 to 83.1 million users.

The revised forecast is a result of a lack of trust between brands and users. Friction in the voice-based buying process includes consumers’ concerns about secure payments and privacy. The absence of screens is also an issue as consumers want to visually see what they’re shopping prior to purchasing. According to eMarketer, some voice buyers resolve the issue by using other voice-controlled devices like smartphones and tablets to make purchases. 

Most of the purchases consumers make on voice-controlled smart speakers today are reorders and items that don’t need to be inspected. Many smart speaker apps that simplify things for consumers such as ordering takeout and finding recipes are being underutilized, according to eMarketer principal analyst Victoria Petrock. Instead consumers use more direct commands such as playing music or asking questions. 

eMarketer also readjusted estimates for the types of activities users engage with on voice-based devices. eMarketer lowered its percentage of smart speaker users who would shop via voice-controlled devices in 2020 from 27.9 percent in Q2 2019 to 26 percent.

Though the researcher lowered its outlook for the number of smart speaker buyers and users, smart speaker activity is growing and will reach a new milestone in 2020 when 10.8 percent of all US digital buyers will buy something via a smart speaker.

A recent study from NPR and Edison Research shows that 54 percent of the US population has used some form of voice-command technology. To leverage this lucrative means of consumer targeting, marketers are investing more in audio ad spending, which the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) says reached $2.25 billion in 2018.

Doritos Hopes Fans Join Super Bowl Dance Challenge Via AI App

Doritos is giving fans a chance to create videos inspired by its Super Bowl campaign via the artificial intelligence-enabled app “Sway: Magic Dance.” The activation is an extension of Doritos’ Super Bowl ads, which feature singer Lil Nas X and actor Sam Elliott battling for the brand’s revamped Cool Ranch chips in a dance-off. Doritos’ teasers end with the hashtag #CoolRanchDance, a clear call-to-action encouraging users to join the challenge on social media. 

From the Sway app menu, users can choose from the four dances that Lil Nas X and Elliott perform in Doritos’ Super Bowl spots. Then they must film their dance for 30 seconds and upload it to Sway. Using AI, Sway then transposes the video over Lil Nas X and Elliott’s bodies.

Sway has recently gained popularity for its ability to generate deepfake-style videos for users who can also stylize the results with avatars, stickers and GIFs. 

Released on its social media channels, Doritos’ Super Bowl teasers show Elliott reciting lyrics to “Old Town Road” and Lil Nas X riding a stallion. The spots support Doritos’ new tagline “Another Level” and its new Cool Ranch chips which now contain more cool seasoning.

Like Doritos, MTN DEW launched a Super Bowl dance challenge on TikTok under the hashtag #AsGoodAsTheOG. The activation is part of the beverage brand’s omnichannel campaign around its new Zero Sugar product that launched in January. 

Hyundai also launched a TikTok campaign for the Super Bowl called the #OneDayAfterWatching challenge, which kicked off with a TikTok video featuring one of its Super Bowl ad star Rachel Dratch. The challenge calls on users to share videos of how watching a movie or television show changes their behavior.

Augmenting In-Person Experiences With Virtual Reality

This week in Mixed Reality (XR) news brings higher engagement opportunities for in-person activities, VR tourism and virtual reality finally hits classrooms as brands look to introduce VR to enhance traditional experiences. 

Enhancing Physical Experiences With VR

What’s Happening: The National Zoological Park in Delhi is adding VR headsets and mobile apps to their zoo offerings in hopes to make visits more engaging and informative. Visitors can use a VR headset to get physically closer to animals while also seeing how they might behave in nature. 

Why It Matters: Supplemental content has always been popular for adding value, but it’s traditionally fact-based and dry. With AR/VR it’s possible to bring people to places never before imaginable. How can you use XR to provide additional value to your customer base while driving higher engagement? If you have physical locations, it’s worth considering what VR and AR experiences can be introduced to drive excitement and take consumers deeper than possible in the real world. 

VR Tourism Is Coming

What’s Happening: VR travel is on its way to taking would-be-travelers anywhere in the world. There are a couple of ways this is happening. The first is by helping consumers virtually visit real-world locations, while the other is allowing us to visit fantastical worlds that don’t exist in our reality. Today in Japan, airlines are developing tech to allow people to put on a VR headset and take control of a travelling robot. This lets travelers look around from a fixed point and also control where and what they see through the eyes of the distant bot. 

Why It Matters: With the ability to take users anywhere we can imagine, expect to see a shift in the way people think about travel—the technology now makes it possible to experience travel without booking a plane ticket. While this won’t appeal to everyone, many people will likely jump at the opportunity to travel to faraway lands during their lunch break. Businesses would do best to consider how to leverage all the positive experiences of virtual travel, and how traveling without the jet lag will entice your consumer base. 

Virtual Reality In The Classroom

What’s Happening: Lenovo’s newest headset, the ‘Lenovo VR Classroom 2,’ is the latest device to brink immersive content to the classroom. It’s a 3DOF headset with a suite of education tools to drive higher engagement among students as this tech takes them beyond classroom learning.

Why It Matters: Imagine a world where students can go anywhere or see anything without cost or logistics getting in the way. For businesses that are looking to the future workforce, this is a big deal. Instead of waiting for students and the workforce to come to you, there’s now an opportunity to reach these students through education-based experiences. With the help of ThinkReality and LanSchool Air students will have the capability to learn well beyond what can be presented in a classroom.