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.

HTC and Jaguar Team Up for VR-Enhanced Car Launch

HTC:

Taking place over 12 VR pods, the experience featured a series of interactive technology stories, to dive deeper into the mechanics of the E-PACE. With Vive’s tracked controllers, guests could rotate the model to view from all angles and lift away sections of the car to reveal the interior. Whole sections of the car could be interacted with, such as opening the boot to get a 3D view of the capacity inside, or removing the engine for a close up look.

The VR experience culminated in placing the participant between two ramps in the heart of a thrilling car stunt. The 15.3 metre-long jump complete with a 270-degree corkscrew-like ‘barrel roll’ stunt was then spectacularly recreated live at the ExCel, setting an official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title, for the Furthest Barrel roll in a Production Vehicle.

A few years ago I moderated a panel on developing AR/VR experiences for business applications using Salesforce data.* One of the panelists demoed a mixed reality experience he’d developed for car dealers: A car shopper sits behind the wheel of a new car (either in person at the dealership, or in a digital car via VR). The shopper selects available vehicle options – trim, options, interior color, etc – and the digital car changes in real-time to reflect the selections. When the shopper glances at the driver’s side window, a virtual window sticker updates the car’s price to reflect the selected options.

It was genius; the panel audience was wowed by the combination of whiz-bang technology and obvious business use case.

Whatever happens (or not) in the mainstream consumer space, VR will continue to grow in the enterprise. Awesomely sticky experiences in controlled environments like press launches and retail showrooms will provide more bang for the buck in VR than via any other medium, including physical reality, over the next few years.

*Side note: One of the other panelists was founder of an AR company called Augment. Looks like Salesforce Ventures invested $3M in them a year later. Maybe I should host more panels? 

Sneakers. In AR. What’s Not to Love?

Nike updated its SNRKS app for iOS to include augmented reality functionality. In typical Nike fashion, this new feature is equal parts creative, capitalist, marketing, and partnership genius.

Take a moment to unpack the example description from Nike’s press release:

When David Chang’s Fuku East Village menu, or an image of it, is viewed through SNKRS, an interactive 3D model of the Nike SB Dunk High Pro “Momofuku” will be overlaid. This will allow purchase of the shoe while supplies last.

In order to get your hands on this limited edition shoe, you have to download SNRKS and visit Fuku or find an image of their menu. Do it fast enough and you’ll earn the right to buy some kicks from Nike. Nike wins, Fuku wins, Apple wins (the AR update seems to be iOS only), and — assuming you’re a sneakerhead happy to spend your time and money on exclusive kicks — you just might win, too.

Genius.

Apple Partners With IKEA on Next-Gen Furniture Shopping

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors about forthcoming enhancements to IKEA’s Augmented Reality-enhanced furniture catalogs, powered by Apple ARKit:

IKEA has been doing this for years now, including an early version which required users to scan pages of an IKEA catalogue to view AR furniture, but the company said that Apple’s platform will greatly increase the consistency and quality of the experience.

I’ve scanned the old catalogues and twisted and turned phone and body to get a glimpse of a digital couch superimposed on my own living room. It was cool, in an uber-geeky sort of way.

The promise of consistently high quality experiences is a big part of why big companies and indie developers alike are excited about ARKit. Apple doesn’t invent new technologies; they make existing ones good enough for mainstream consumption.

VR For Retail Spaces Is The New Old Thing

A few years ago when I worked for Salesforce, I attended Dreamforce 2015. I actually hosted a panel for developers at the show, discussing Salesforce-powered AR/VR applications.

Two things about that experience came to mind as I read the news of Nomadic closing a $6M seed round to help them build location-based VR for retail spaces:

  1. I distinctly remember checking out a rather involved and lengthy VR experience put on by a Salesforce partner at the show. Try as I may, I cannot recall the content I consumed, or even the name of the company who’d built it. What I do remember is waiting a long time to get strapped into one of two available PC-connected headsets, seated in a rather complicated chair, and guided through the experience by a human who stayed in the non-virtual world.
  2.  

  3. A week or two before the show, I was researching in preparation for my panel. I came across a video of what is still one of the best consumer-facing uses of virtual reality I’ve ever heard of:

What’s my point? High(er) quality virtual reality is too expensive, technically involved, and physically cumbersome for most consumers to use on their own. It was two years ago, it is now, and it likely will be for a few more years. Snapping your iPhone into the free Cardboard that came with your Sunday NY Times is one thing; manning an Oculus rig is another entirely.

Retail space VR, on the other hand, has been making an impact for some time now. Though Nomadic seems to be focused on a sort of movie theater-meets-VR Arcade experience, and n0t immersive marketing stunts in malls, the point stands: Wide scale home VR use is likely a few years off, and may or may not ever see mainstream-scale adoption. But high quality, one-off VR experiences in dedicated spaces are well within reach in the US today (they’re already a thing in China).

Unless you know you’re going to spend hours a day strapped into a headset, why forgo the expense and hassle of bringing VR into your home? Just head to the VR Arcade – or your local North Face store, if you live in South Korea – for a few hours instead.