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Can Mixed Reality Really Change the World (for Marketers)?

“The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” said William Gibson in 1998.

Poignant words in our increasingly fast paced, technology driven society. Every now and again certain technologies emerge from the noise of constant innovation and start to shine a light on what our future as a civilisation might look like.

Working out where to place your bets in a marketing landscape that’s increasing in complexity at an exponential rate is hard. Where would we place a bet? In the world that doesn’t exist yet, or more precisely, the one that never really does.

Mixed Reality (MR) is the phrase we’ve adopted to encompass the variety of technologies that enable us to augment the existing world in which we live with new, artificial inputs. Building on technology that’s actually been around for some time (Augmented Reality technologies have been utilised in military, engineering and education fields for some time) – the technology is now starting to pivot towards the consumer market.

Why is this technology so interesting to those with a marketing remit?

Microsoft has recently licensed its Hololens technology to 3rd party manufacturers – paving the way for the developer specific hardware to transform into something with far greater distribution.

And Snap has released a pair of glasses designed specifically to generate content for a platform that’s built around a core Augmented Reality platform. Glasses that create AR content now, how long before these evolve into a device that can be used to view AR content?

This is the beginning – perhaps a five year transition from a world where our primary device is a touch screen smart phone to one where the technology we’re wearing balanced on our noses is our primary interface with the global networked and augmented world.

What about Virtual Reality? Aren’t we overlooking that? Not really – the differences between the two platforms currently are rooted in two separate evolutionary threads – but these will converge soon – all we need is a Hololens-like headset with active LCD tinting and a wider field of vision and you can easily switch between fully immersive VR and augmented MR dependent on your need and location.

This is a future that will be here sooner than you think. A couple of killer apps and we’ll feel like we are there.

Magic Leap might just be that killer app. Who knows, but there’s enough interest in it’s yet to be revealed technology that the company has raised $1.4billion in funding based on a valuation far north of that figure.

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If you want to be a part of this movement, then we’d suggest you get going now. If you decide to do just that, here’s a few things to think about;

  1. Don’t think of the technology augmenting or replacing reality – think of the technology augmenting the human. Try to create a tool or experience that enables people to do something they simply couldn’t do before. Cracking that problem will give you the ‘why’ that a lot of early adopters might miss. Getting the ‘why’ right will position your brand as an enabler of the transition our society is about to undertake.
  2. For brand experiences, as always storytelling is everything. And you’ll be using visual communication rather than words to do this. Creating a rich visual story which transcends the enabling technology is your ticket to delivering a lasting impact. As Guy Kawasaki says ‘ some things need to be believed to be seen ’. Your production values are super important, meaning the appropriate investment needs to be made. 1 minute of impactful quality storytelling is better than 10 minutes of the banal.
  3. That said, experiment. Your audience is going to be much more forgiving now in the early stages of adoption. Getting to know this technology in a market which Goldman Sachs predicts to reach $110 Billion by 2020 could reap serious rewards.

There feels like an inevitability to the future Mixed Reality represents – and the stories that emerge in the early days have the potential to increase in value as time goes on.

We wonder if there is a similar effect within storytelling to that of compound interest in finance?

In which case maybe we should apply the same logic we would to saving when answering the question ‘when’s the best time to start?’.

It’s now.