Virtual reality- VR. It’s more than just a buzzword right now. At the surface level, it seems like an enhanced video game experience at best, so what is it to you and your brand?
Enter Sean Rodrigo. Sean is a creative from Sydney who, for the past 12 years, has worked in video production and film making . In just the past two years, Sean has immersed himself into the fascinating world of VR.
When VR first began popping up, Sean– like many –was initially sceptical about the technology. But as soon as he was able to try the headsets at an arcade, he realised VR was fundamentally different from any existing technology because it’s an experiential medium.
“What that means is that VR is able to transport you into a virtual world that your brain completely buys,” says Sean, “It’s different to hearing story, watching a movie, and even playing a video game. You can see images and hear audio as if you’re there. Each eye sees a different image so you get depth perception. You can interact with the computer in 3D space as if you’re in the space yourself, all with the freedom to move. You really need to experience it to understand, it’s just like how nobody can describe how a rollercoaster feels.”
“It’s almost like the logical part of our brains knows we are in the safety of an office with a headset on but the animal part of our brains perceives virtual whales and arrows shot at your head as a completely real threat and that’s when you’re completely immersed,” says Sean.
So your brain believes it’s the real deal— it doesn’t even feel like you’re watching a screen.
As a filmmaker, that’s been important to Sean because there’s not a lot of other technology out there that does what VR does. VR can give people visceral feelings— fear, vertigo, entertainment —all as if they were there in the virtual world.
VR is in the Early Adopter Stage
There are five stages to the acceptance of new technology according to the studies of Everett Rogers:
- Innovators— These are the first people to adopt an innovation. Innovators are willing to take risks, have the highest social class, and the best financial resources. This is about 2.5% of people.
- Early Adopters— This is the second fastest category of individuals to adopt a new technology. These people generally have a high degree of opinion leadership, are younger in age, have advanced education, and are more cautious in their adoption than Innovators. This makes up about 13.5% of the population.
- Early Majority— These are the people who adopt an innovation significantly slower than Innovators and early adopters, but have above average social status and contact with early adopters. This makes up about 34% of people.
- Late Majority— In this category, individuals will adopt an innovation after the average member of society. These people will approach an innovation with a lot of scepticism, have below average social status, little financial lucidity, and are not connected with others who have adopted the innovation already. This also makes up about 34% of the population.
- Laggards— These are the people who are last to adopt an innovation. They typically have an aversion to change and focus on the traditional. Generally, laggards are older in age. This is about 16% of people.
VR is in the early adoption stage. As a medium, it has the potential to change the landscape of the digital world and as time goes on the technology will improve and become even more immersive.
Sean has been using this technology in both the creative and commercial spaces to produce work that’s helpful to brands. So how exactly does VR work for brands?
The Benefits of VR to the Creative Process
When Sean creates art in a virtual space, he does so by using software to create a 3D installation that people can experience with a headset. He started gaining notoriety for his work around Sydney and now based out of London, has developed his own VR techniques for helping creatives and brands visualise their ideas.
In Sean’s experience, VR benefits ever stage of the creative process— from high level to planning to end use. The following are just a few of the advantages Sean has experienced within his VR work.
The Barrier of Entry into VR is Low
Sean is not a trained artist. “I have artistic experience, commercial experience, and technology experience, and where that Venn diagram intersects is where I’ve been able to thrive in VR,” he says.
The level of entry into VR is much lower than other technology. Photoshop and 3D software present a hard learning curve, but rotating an object in 3D space in a VR setting is far easier for a layperson and can happen in a matter of minutes. This is easy for users because rather than sitting and having to learn keyboard shortcuts, they’re able to rotate a model with their hands in mid-air.
There are a lot of different players on the market for VR, but Sean has his own technology he now uses that’s small and portable. This technology allows him to do demos on-the-go with quite a nice resolution. Sean works with clients to train them to use accessible software— particularly the Google Tilt Brush program. “This training is an opportunity to teach people how to use VR as an extension of what they’re doing,” he says.
A More Immersive Experience
As VR technology advances and becomes more accessible, creatives will be able to make a more human experience. It will help remove the need to be tied to a computer and empower people to create better and more accurate representations of their creative ideas. The ability to create an experience breaks down the barriers to be more creative.
“It’s like dreaming with your eyes open.” – Sean Rodrigo
VR presents a more straightforward and laser-focused experience. Rather than exchanging emails or texts back and forth to discuss a prototype or a concept, VR puts all the words and ideas into a nearly tangible experience. It provides an immersive platform to visualise ideas, which is an incredible tool for B2Bs and B2Cs alike.
Expedites & Enhances the Creative Process
3D software simply can’t match the productivity and speed at which you can create with VR technology. The nuances of VR allow creatives to more quickly create sample products and spaces to show brands, and in a far more experiential way. The innovation facilitates the creation of better representation, which of course lead to better agreements between creatives and their clients.
At first Sean was cynical of VR, but now he’s totally immersed as he can see the benefits not only as a medium for brands, but a medium for artists and producers to more effectively and efficiently communicate their ideas.
An example Sean gives is with the creation of a prototype for a new helicopter. With 3D software, it can take a whole team sketching and manipulating images over the course of days or weeks. With VR, Sean can create the prototype on his own in an hour.
And not only is this prototype created much faster, it can also be manipulated and experienced by a client in a way that 3D software simply cannot replicate. For example, sculptors can scan their work and have someone on the other side of the world experience their work in a matter of minutes.
VR takes creation to an unprecedented level by increasing the speed and cost saving for prototyping and presentation material.
More Effective Pre-Visualisation
In cinematography, it’s critical to have a grasp on the approximations for what will be shot. Most pre-visualisation is done in 3D programs. But the major difference between VR and a 3D program is that VR is much closer to the real thing.
Not to mention, whereas 3D animation and concept art can take days, weeks, or even months to create, VR can turn an idea into an approximation in front of people’s eyes in a very short amount of time.
“It’s as close as you can get to the real thing, but in a safe and contained environment.” – Sean Rodrigo
In its end use, VR content can be digested online, via social media or platforms like PlayStation VR. It can be consumed on both high end tech and simple low cost Google Cardboard headset.
Other Benefits VR Brings to Brands
A Tool for Planning and Communicating Creative
VR can be used as a resource to plan and execute ideas more efficiently.
There’s a social aspect to VR that makes it captivating and shareable online, which is great for communication and memorable connection. 360 video and live streaming, for example, create content that immerses viewers in a way like never before online.
VR Offers Safer and Less Expensive Alternative for Training
Some job training can be expensive, cumbersome, and even dangerous to arrange in a real-life setting. Sean says, “for example, it’s hard to train firefighters. It gets very expensive to light things on fire. But visualising the danger is more effective.”
VR offers the same ability for firefighters, and other emergency service responders, to train and experience the environment they’ll be working in without physical risk or expense.
Training with VR empowers can empower users to:
- Scale up or down elements.
Example: You see a ship in the ocean from a helicopter, then instantly stand on the port of the ship and feel vertigo from the depth of the ocean below.
- Perceive the shape, texture and how a model or product might look in lifelike lighting vs. on a screen with no context.
- Have the ability to plan out ads, films and plays without the cost of physical equipment, make mistakes that don’t cost anything, and plan difficult shots without the risk of danger
- Change and mark-up artwork in real time
Example: Change colours of 3D models instantly without rendering or move the position of a model by grabbing it with your hands.
“It’s almost like a Star Trek Holodeck,” says Sean, “You can animate and have people walking through a space and seeing danger.”
VR is Here To Stay, But it Won’t Replace Other Technology
There’s always some resistance to new technology for fear that it will replace the tech that we’ve taken the time and effort to gain some proficiency in using. Sean says that while he believes VR will become something that people don’t want to do without, it won’t replace the need for laptops.
“Storyboard artists will still exist, 2D & 3D visualisations will still exist, and this will sit somewhere in between those technologies,” he says, “The lasting impact of VR is that you experience something that you haven’t before. It’s similar to the experience that Pokemon Go created.”
TV won’t be replaced either, but rather it will be augmented by the development of VR. Sean likens the shift in technology to what the iPhone did for smartphones. Smartphones weren’t replaced with the creation of the iPhone, but they were revolutionised.
Sean predicts that in 5-10 years, everyone will have some form of VR or AR (augmented reality) technology: “The technology depicted in the movie Ready Player One is practically a reality but with exact polarity probably 5 years off from becoming a reality.”
VR is quickly on its way to becoming a technology that’s integral to our lives. Its use is not simply to enhance the video game experience or impress people at technology conferences— VR has a practical use for brands across all industries. Whether it be to create amazing pre-visualisations, revolutionise and expedite the creative process, provide safer alternatives for training, or simply work within a more immersive experience, VR is quickly on its way to becoming a crucial tool for brands. So don’t rule it out!
If you’re interested in using VR for your digital brand activation, we can help. For more information or to find out how VR can change your brand for the better, contact us.