Volvo and The Weather Channel Plan Big AR/VR Plays for Upcoming Eclipse

Volvo (in conjunction with CNN) and The Weather Channel have interesting plans to leverage AR and VR during TV coverage of “The Great American Eclipse” later this month. As AdWeek’s AJ Katz reported:

When CNN’s livestream of the eclipse enters a commercial break, CNN’s brand studio Courageous will produce live ads for Volvo in 4K virtual reality and 360-degree video across all of CNN’s digital and social platforms.

This will be the first of a larger live ads effort from CNN parent company Turner and the Courageous studio.

This particular campaign centers on a 360-degree view of the eclipse and helps celebrate the 360-degree camera feature in Volvo’s all-new 2018 XC60.

I’ll admit I was surprised by that last bit: Advertisers are so often willing to push, shall we say, less than obvious product tie-ins that the direct link between 360 video of the eclipse and Volvo’s 360-degree camera is refreshingly obvious.

On the day of the eclipse, Courageous will station four cameras in different locations around the country where they will film influencers, sharing their perspective on the significance of the eclipse as it happens.

… Each will arrive at the eclipse viewing location in a XC60. The cars will be equipped with 4K VR and 360-degree cameras to help capture the commercial.

It’ll be interesting to see what Volvo airs live during CNN’s coverage (when viewership will likely be at its highest) and what they do after the fact with the 4K VR and 360-degree video footage.

The Weather Channel’s AR/VR plans are quite a bit vaguer, at least as reported by Katz:

In addition to stationing meteorologists across the country, TWC will also deploy its augmented reality technology to take viewers into space and help those watching at home understand the science behind this extraordinary event.

“Our Total Solar Eclipse experience will span from live broadcasting across the country augmented reality technology in-studio, to sweepstakes for a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the eclipse from 35,000 feet,” Weather Channel’s svp of live programming Nora Zimmett told Adweek.

But, hey, at least TWC has added their own brand name to the eclipse hype! Seriously, though, I hope they pull off something cool, because using AR to “take viewers into space” and help folks understand the science behind the eclipse sounds pretty awesome.

The eclipse will be viewable over parts of the United States on Monday, August 21st.

Facebook Live 360 Adds 4K and VR Support

Lucas Matney, TechCrunch:

Full 1080p is fine for spherical photos, but it’s actually a pretty low resolution for video when all those pixels are stretched over a 360-sphere. Today, Facebook is bringing 4K support to Live 360, and, along with it, support for viewing broadcasts in the Facebook 360 app on Gear VR.

360 video is arguably more of a novelty than full VR at this point. Sure, 360 video is more widely available, and watchable on a standard phone or computer screen without a headset. But when’s the last time you heard anybody get excited about a 360 video? At least enthusiasts keep coming back for more VR content.

Essential Android Phone Launches with 360 Immersive Camera

Android founder Andy Rubin launched his new phone today, and it’s available for pre-order with a 360 camera accessory. The device, dubbed “Essential Phone,” is a $699 Android phone whose hallmark features are a near-bezel less display and a magnetic accessory port. The first accessory announced for Essential is the 360 camera, which costs $50 if pre-ordered with the phone. That price will jump to $199 after the pre-order promotion.

In a (very short) blog post, Xiaoyu Miao, principle hardware engineer for Essential’s parent company, Playground, explains why he’s high on 360 immersive cameras:

The 360 camera captures the entire world around the user, which fundamentally changes how we take a picture. You don’t have to aim your camera, because you capture everything in your world. I think that’s a major difference.

Kind of an underwhelming reason, no? I’m chalking it up to a poorly written bit of communications; Essential’s site makes it pretty clear they’re banking on streamed and shared immersive video becoming a big force in consumer technology over the next few years.

Whether or not anyone wants to carry around a snap-on phone camera is another question, entirely.