Virtual Reality: Made in milliseconds

by Camilo Soto

This is part four of a month-long series on VR. Check out parts one, two, and three.

There are tons of virtual reality headsets coming out in the next year. How do they trick your mind into thinking you’re looking at a 3D space? What are the specs you need to make sure you don’t get sick?

Made in milliseconds

3D is produced by showing two different images to each eye to simulate what your eyes would normally see. It tricks your brain into thinking you’re present in a digitally produced environment. It sounds pretty simple, but in order to actually allow a person see what they would naturally see in a different environment, the image that they are looking at needs to be updated between 40 and 60 times per second, keeping track of exactly what they’re looking at.

This means that in a matter of milliseconds, the headset needs to figure out the user’s position and orientation, pass this information to the computer, and the computer in turn needs to produce an image that matches what the world would look like from that specific point in space.

Sony's Project Morpheus touted

Sony’s Project Morpheus touted

Advances made during the last decade in a number of fields have made it possible to produce a sense of “presence” that would have been impossible before. High resolution, high quality display technologies, and a push forward by the mobile phone market have made it possible to make portable “retina” quality screens that look great even when placed mere inches from your eyes.

Valve claims no one has gotten motion sickness while using the HTC Vive.

Valve claims no one has gotten motion sickness while using the HTC Vive.

 

Sensor technologies such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, miniaturized and optimized for use in motion controllers and mobile devices, make it possible to track movement and orientation very accurately and very fast. Last, but not least, advances made in CGI for the entertainment industry make it possible to create very realistic real-time renderings of imaginary environments. Put these elements together and you have a portable headset capable of actually making a person feel like they’ve been transported to another world.

In the VR arms race, developers are trying to differentiate their hardware by claiming it has the lowest refresh rate, highest resolution, or lowest latency.

Limitations on interaction

VR has been pushed forward very strongly by the gaming industry, but its application in gaming is still somewhat blurry. The reason for this is that even though you may be capable of creating the illusion of being in a fantasy world, you still need to solve the issue of allowing the player to act upon it.

This is where the controllers come in, but you can’t exactly let the player move around using their full body when they’re blinded to the physical world they’re moving around in. We’ve all seen the youtube videos of where that can lead. Solutions have been implemented using harnesses, rolling floors and dedicated rooms that track the user, but that’s very far from practical and ages away from becoming mainstream enough that making content for this platforms sounds like a good business proposition. There will always be classic controllers which gamers are used to, but can you really expect them to go through a long play session without being able to see the controller they’re using?

MorpheusDemo

That leaves us with a technology that allows people to immerse themselves in an environment, but with very little capability to do much more than spectate. That sounds an awful lot like another huge branch of entertainment, where you look but don’t touch: cinema. Therefore, some of the first popular experiences in VR are bound to be experiences where you’re just an audience, immersed in a world in which things are happening, but unable to act on them.

Initially, VR’s strength will be experiences that allow users to navigate environments that would otherwise be unreachable, allowing them to effect changes that would be impossible in real life. You could for instance allow people to navigate their new home before it’s built, changing the furniture, the paint or the time of day. The big question right now is whether there’s going to be a wide adoption of the technology for household use, or if it’s going to be the type of thing that you run into at the mall as a curiosity.

The bottom line is VR is just a platform, a new display technology, and the most defining factor in it’s success and meaningfulness will be the content and experiences available in it.

Have thoughts on VR? Have thoughts on our thoughts? Tweet at us @zemoga! Also check us out on Instagram and Facebook!

 

Virtual Reality: Look, but don’t touch

This is part two of our month-long coverage of VR and You (catchy right? not really). Check out our high-level VR landscape summary from part one.

It’s funny, I tend to be someone who is really hesitant about most new technologies. Once people find out that I work in product development/strategy, they’re usually shocked by this fact. I think it comes down to a way of thinking: Do you think like a customer or a marketer? As well as the idea of right place and right time. Remember Microsoft created a tablet and “smart”watch years ago, but it never stuck. Would argue that right place and time got last due to many factors: hardware, software, and execution.

Virtual Reality for Marketers

I can see why the Marketer loves new technologies. Unfortunately, it’s been the lowest common denominator in terms of thinking when it comes to how to monetize a product. If you can’t figure how to monetize then, “we can always sell ads”. More screens just means more ways for people to push things you don’t want into your face. I tend to think like a consumer as much as possible in the development of any strategies or products. That usually means thinking “where am I experiencing the friction? How can I make a decision faster? How does this thing entertain or benefit me?”

VR is great because there aren’t a whole lot of ways for traditional marketers to leverage it, even though they are trying. At Zemoga we build stuff. So we love the prospect of building experiences for our clients on VR. Letting an experience add value/entertainment to the end user is the best form of marketing.

Virtual Reality for Brands

So what does that mean for you, Brand? How can you leverage VR? Well, you have to ask yourself a couple questions:

  1. Am I poised to support VR strategy post launch of my VR initiative?

  2. Is what I am trying to create capable of being better experienced IRL?

The answer to these questions for most is probably, “no”.

A great example is what Audi recently did with VR.

audi-virtual-reality-002-1

In short, the VR experience helps give the potential Audi driver a sense of what it’s like to be inside the car. You see where this is going right?

Why would I need have the “experience” of a door shutting or the sound of the audio system? Wouldn’t the best way to provide that be from actually sitting inside one of their gorgeous cars? Listening to their incredible sound system and feeling the engine as I press on the gas. I love Audis, but is the Audi so out of reach for most customers that VR would help convert on a purchase? Or heighten the experience? I would argue “no”.

I can see VR being very applicable, however, for the customer looking to buy a Gulfstream G650. There is no way to know what a custom G650 looks like because they are built from scratch for their customers. Sure, I can see inside one that’s already been built, but every Gulfstream jet has literally millions of configurations internally (they have over 2,000 types of leathers to choose from alone). VR could be a great way to help a buyer see exactly why they’re spending 100 million dollars.

Virtual Reality makes sense as the next step for Gulfstream's DesignBook

Virtual Reality makes sense as the next step for Gulfstream’s DesignBook

The type of person looking to spend $70-120k on an Audi, however, wants to sit in that Audi, because it’s a product that isn’t that far out of reach or that provides so many custom details that even a base model S8 couldn’t communicate it’s value. Also, they aren’t in short supply. Every local dealer will keep these products on site, they’ll even come pick you up in one. So again, the IRL experience is far better than the VR one could ever be. So to me, this VR play was nothing more than a PR play. That isn’t to say it’s a bad thing, but it only adds value to the brand, not the consumer. I know you can make the “customer perception argument”, but the VR experience isn’t going to make the close. It’s going to be sitting behind the wheel of that S8 that will make them choose it over the Mercedes S class.

This is the reason why the gaming industry is running full speed ahead with VR. It’s their job to create worlds we could never experience IRL. Environments that don’t truly exist IRL made possible to experience through VR.

Does this mean as a brand you shouldn’t be thinking about and playing with VR? Absolutely not. You should be investing time into how the tech works and looking to explore ways to bring experiences to life for your customers. Just let this governing strategy guide you:

Can the experience we want to create be better IRL? If the answer is “yes,” move on to another idea.

Next week we’re going to hit on part 3, which is about UX and VR. Be sure to check back in and be sure to tweet at us if you love or hate what we said @zemoga.

Chad

 

 

Zemoga’s retail innovation for Home Depot featured by PSFK

Zemoga is honored to have our creative innovation featured yet again, this time by leading trendspotting publication PSFK.

Creatives build things. It doesn’t always have to be in ones and zeroes. Sometimes we like to put hammer to nail.

We’ve designed “Simple DIY” for Home Depot, an end-to-end experience that reinvents how customers buy.

We started by looking at the problem. Unless you have experience, building something yourself is confusing. On HomeDepot.com , users will be able to choose what they want to build, such as a standing desk that can be made within a budget of $300 and has specific dimensions. Home Depot will aggregate all the pieces and hardware required to build it into a shopping list to build the desk within the user’s budget.

To make sure you don’t get lost in the home improvement store jungle, the Home Depot app will then use iBeacon technology in-store to lead users to where those items are located.

The nature of city living doesn’t always allow for the space to build DIY projects, but we can expand the possibilities by creating “Design Studios” within Home Depot stores. The Home Depot App will end by offering the shopper to build their item in one of Home Depot’s “Design Studios”. These are specialized small work spaces where tools, space, materials and everything else needed are provided for the customer.

Once completed, the Home Depot can deliver that item locally next day for the customer. Simple DIY can help thousands build better and build smarter in their own personal garage or working space.

You can find our work in PSFK’s Future of Retail 2015 report. To find more of our work, check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

Zemoga Insightz: How to master working from home

We work in an industry where a large part of our interactions with clients and our delivery of products is digital. A quick email, a phone call or Skype is much easier to fit into everyone’s schedule than an in-person meeting.

Why, then, is it so hard to master the art of working remotely? The challenge is finding creative ways to change the perception of needing to be next to each other to get work done. As a company that has been servicing clients under a remote model for over ten years, and that has teams in different states and countries that work very close together, we have a little bit of expertise in this subject.

The driving concern was that since Zemoga promotes the spirit and environment of building bonds between the team members,  dissolving the connection of a physical space seemed to threaten that goal. Once we rolled out an organized process to allow employees to work from home, we saw positive results.

Working remotely doesn’t need to be difficult.

As digital thinkers, we would be remiss if we weren’t on top of the best digital ways to make working from home a better experience for everyone, whether they’re in the office or not.

Working remotely is typically solitary, and often lonely. It’s entirely possible to go an entire day without speaking a word if you’re not on any calls. That’s not good for office culture, and it’s not good for your productivity as an individual. A study done at California Sacramento University found that lonely workers get less done and have worse team performance.

Whether it’s an ongoing Skype thread or a voice or video call in the background, human contact–even digitally, is important.

Streaming Video

Our current favorite way to interact with teammates in other states or countries is video chat. Whether one-on-one Skype or from conference room to conference room, it’s the easiest way to feel like you’re talking face-to-face with your team.

For the next level of video conferencing, we’ve also begun looking into Dropcam. It’s a small camera that broadcasts either to anyone logged securely into your account or, if you choose, to the public through their website. This way, we can have video streaming to each office all day long, to make an office in another country look like it’s just a room away.

Team Organization

When your team is spread out between offices, it’s not plausible to have a physical central hub of documents. Email attachments and even Google Drive can get messy, so we need to look at alternative ways to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The Zemoga team primarily uses Basecamp as a central hub for our hours, to-dos, files, and team communication. It takes a bit of effort to set up, but is much easier than keeping track of everything separately. Slack is another way to remedy this problem. It’s a catch-all communication tool that aims to be the hub of everything. It connects to Skype, your phone, your email, Google Drive, and a ton more. You set up channels where you can share files or have general discussion. It’s all saved and searchable.

We’re making working remotely easier for everyone.

Zemoga won the SAP M-Prize for the Office Mood Check-In, an idea to gauge the mood of everyone in your office at any given time. It works for team members working remotely as well, so your team can understand how others are feeling even if they’re not in the office. It makes possible the previously-insane job of HR trying to understand how remote employees are doing.

 

 

Our social campaign for Paramount is escalating quickly!

AM2

Paramount Pictures International tapped Zemoga to help them promote the international release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, because… well, this movie is kind of a big deal. And what better way to create brand awareness and encourage participation than by creating an online portal that invites (via a “Breaking News” alert from Ron Burgundy himself) fans to submit an audition video to join Ron’s news crew! Each week, the most majestic of audition videos are hand selected and then featured in a highlight reel for the entire world to enjoy.

Because of its growing user-base and popularity overseas, a custom-skinned Tumblr site was chosen as the experience hub. With the Anchorman franchise already entrenched in this platform via the user-created universe of memes that have been created over the years, Zemoga further promoted this cultural phenomenon by empowering fans with an Anchorman 2 themed meme generator of their very own.

The fun doesn’t stop there. To ensure widespread reach of the brand, Zemoga also created stand-alone applications for both the Audition Submission experience and the Meme Generator, that were syndicated to 8 of Paramount’s international Facebook pages and Will Ferrell’s person profile page. Throw in a couple of videos of Ron Burgundy to help sell the experience via media outlets around the world, and we’ve got a campaign worthy of even Baxter’s standards.