Monday, September 20, 2010

Immersive Technology & Marketing: From Mobile Apps to "Virtual Cocoons"

About 20 years ago people got really excited about Virtual Reality. In concept, games and entertainment that could immerse users in a rich interactive experience seemed promising. However, due to its high cost and clunky equipment VR never gained mainstream use. At least not yet. Last year a team of British scientists from the Universities of York and Warwick unveiled an ambitious project called “Towards Real Virtuality" aimed at taking VR to a remarkable next level - capable of simultaneously and realistically stimulating all five senses - touch, sound, feel, taste and smell. Included in the project is development of a “Virtual Cocoon” – a user module equipped with a special headset and wired with sensory-producing electronics and computing capabilities. 

Any VR device capable of simulating all five senses has huge potential from a marketing communications standpoint. It's easy to imagine how Virtual Cocoons might be deployed in experiential campaigns to promote everything from food, fashion and home furnishings, to real estate, exotic travel, luxury cars and interactive entertainment. Alas, the V-coon is still very much a work in progress as researchers try to reduce its prohibitive cost

In the meantime the here-and-now technology for ad and PR folk to explore is Augmented Reality. While AR can't come close to the all-sensory experience of "Virtual Cocooning," it still offers plenty in terms of creative interactivity and broad user appeal.  Watch tech reporter Adam Balkin's story on NY1 TV about three cheap, quasi-immersive games now available to Apple iphone users. Also worth reading is this blog post by Steve Mann, founder and CEO of AbleBrains, with commentary and a video demo of the new AR app called Wikitude.   

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