Mixed Reality and the Future of Ads

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The world of technology today has brought a multitude of innovations which revolutionize our everyday lives. The impossible has become possible, and there is still much more work to be done on refining and perfecting the latest technological features and products. Currently in the world of advertising, one of the most talked-about innovations is mixed reality. This entails augmented reality, or AR, and virtual reality, or VR. At this seminar presented on the Bing stage, a panel of experts from Unity, a leading mixed reality company, described how this technology can be utilized, and what the future holds for it.

The speakers included Tony Parisi, head of VR & AR Strategy for Unity, Julie Shumaker, vice president of advertising for Unity, and Agatha Bochenek, head of AR/VR and mobile ad sales for Unity.

Unity is the world’s most popular interactive content creation platform. Through the platform, 1.2 billion users worldwide are reached with engaging virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality. As a matter of fact, two-thirds of all VR and AR content is created using Unity.

What exactly is defined as virtual reality and augmented reality? Well, virtual reality is an immersive, real-time experience which often responds to the viewer’s actions. The viewer is transported to a world of the creator’s choice, and is able to interact with it in many different ways. Augmented reality is different in the sense that it incorporates the user’s real-life surroundings. According to Agatha, augmented reality can be defined as “an integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time using a device.” This technology has already achieved popular usage, as it is utilized by apps such as Pokémon Go and Snapchat.

For advertisers, this opens up a whole new realm of opportunities for creative ways to connect with consumers. Julie introduced a virtual reality experience called “Virtual Room.” This is an ad standard which was created by IAB Innovation Labs. By using this standard, companies can take the user on their own brand journey, and even have them experience different outcomes by interacting with the product or the environment surrounding them.

Julie said that this type of immersive experience possesses a special, moving aspect: empathy. She gave the example of Baobab Studios, a VR production company known for its animated characters. Julie called this company the “Pixar of VR” and described how interaction with the cute characters brings about a sense of empathy within the user, something which is much more difficult to do in a non-immersive, non-interactive platform.

According to Agatha, one of augmented reality’s main strengths in advertising is that AR ads have the ability to run in non-AR content. This means that consumers will be able to experience augmented reality ads even without a headset or special viewing gear. It will expose the consumer to true, immersive content on a big scale. Agatha predicted that within months advertisers will be able to reach the entire mobile ecosystem.

Unfortunately, Julie pointed out that our society is in a “gap if disappointment” of sorts, in the sense that we know the potential and the features that this new technology will bring, but everything is too expensive and unfamiliar to make readily available to the public.

It seems as though mixed reality will prove to make a monumental difference in the world of advertising, through both virtual and augmented reality experiences and advertisements. While this may not commonplace quite yet, the advantages of utilizing this technology suggests that it will undoubtedly become a wildly influential form of advertising in the near future.

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