Virtual reality (VR) has been the buzzword for a while now, with the likes of Facebook, Samsung, Microsoft and Google betting big on VR, it comes as no surprise to us that VR is being touted as the next frontier of branded content. Fleming. spoke to Clyde DeSouza, VR Filmarker and author of Memories of Maya about what VR holds for marketers and future implications.

Q1. What are the most promising uses of VR that marketers should know about?

People will put on a VR headset with an expectation to be transported to an alternate world that goes far beyond what current Cinema or TV can offer. In VR you ‘live’ the movie and since visual communication and story is what today’s marketers are after in brand engagement rather than just brand visibility, I’d say the most promising use of VR is the fact that Marketers can immerse their audiences in the world of their brand if they do it right.

Q2. One of the major concerns marketers have about virtual reality (VR) is its ability to achieve mainstream uptake. What are your views on this?

A year ago, I would agree. Today not so much. In fact, if this very Q and A is published after a week, it might need a re-edit to add more platforms! To drive home this point, just last week, Microsoft unexpectedly announced VR support and a slew of third party VR headsets being launched by partners for Windows 10 that won’t need top of the line laptops. This means VR will be common place. There’s already mobile devices (smart phones) that support some flavor of VR. With consumers shifting their focus from mainstream TV to mobile, only marketing depts. from the Jurassic age would be worried about mainstream uptake.

Q3. How does digital marketing in the VR/AR arena look in 2017?

So bright, we have’ta wear VR shades (sorry, couldn’t resist). I’ve seen much enthusiasm from mainstream marketing and ad agencies. Last month at a VR masterclass for Google’s agency partners at Google’s Dubai HQ, I had the pleasure of fielding very enthusiastic and insightful questions posed by agency heads who are keen to adopt VR for brand engagement. If 2016 is the year of VR experimentation, I’d say late 2017 is when the first truly ‘immersive’ marketing campaigns go mainstream.

Q4. How can marketers tap into VR technology being introduced for the smart phone market?

By not playing the same old game of wait and watch, but going out there and getting those smart phones, and hiring marketing talent who have a penchant for creativity. Then, creating an in-house VR sandbox and letting these creators “play”. Software, algorithms and interfaces are coming out by the month in the VR and AR space. A savvy marketing dept should encourage in-house exploration of the “mixed reality” possibilities and even help define it to suit their needs – for example, providing insights to VR headset manufacturers on what kind of analytics (hardware and software-wise) they’d like to see embedded.

Q5. As a content creator, what’s the most exciting thing to you about VR immersive storytelling?

The ability to make an audience truly forget their current environment and have an out of body experience of sorts, as they travel into an alternate reality. Enhancing emotions or making people feel new emotions; empathy, joy and even claustrophobia! are powerful tools now available to a storyteller. This kind of low level manipulation of the mind and the ability to trigger a flight-or-fight response in audiences, is unprecedented and exciting from a storytelling perspective. If used properly in the context of Brand engagement – it could contribute to heightened sense of brand loyalty. This is an area worth exploring and studying and documenting.

Q6. How would you advise a digital artist who wants to get started creating virtual reality content?

Creating content for VR is quite straight forward and for the current platforms that deliver VR, there are two options, CG VR (where the VR world is created much like that of a game, in a game engine) which is usually acknowledged as the purest form of VR (because of the ability to interact and have 6 degrees of freedom to move in the VR world) and video VR.

To get started in Video based VR, one has to know the fundamental difference between what is currently masquerading as VR, but is in fact just 360 video or QTVR (Quick time VR) as I call it, which was from the 1990s, only now being seen via a VR headset.

Some multimillion dollar marketing and Ad campaigns have unfortunately fallen victim to this kind of VR, because they rely on video production companies or digital studios that have not yet understood video based “VR”. At minimum, video VR should be shot stereoscopically (fancy word, but same method as seen in 3D movies in cinemas) This way one can experience depth – and the VR world will not show 20 feet tall humans or seats and furniture that tower over the audience, when viewed in VR.

TL;DR: Digital artists should learn optimized asset creation if doing CG based VR, and learn to shoot in stereoscopic 360 if creating video based VR.

Clyde DeSouza will be speaking on Mixed Reality – Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality marketing experiences at Outreach 2016. To know more about the conference, download the agenda below: