VR cools down while AR hits the spotlight with advertising

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A few years ago, virtual reality was the hottest gimmick in gaming since Pong. Now we’re living in a post-Pokémon GO world and have seen the power of augmented reality, and advertisers are taking notice.

First of all, some quick primers: virtual reality is when you stick on a headset and fall into a completely fabricated world. Sometimes it’s a city of robots, sometimes it’s a harsh desert. The point is, you’re totally immersed. Augmented reality is taking the real world and being able to edit it, like seeing a Pokémon in your living room or using the dog filter on Snapchat. It’s seeing a changed version of the reality we already exist in.

For such similar things, why is one so readily adopted by advertisers while the other falls behind? The obvious hurdle is pricing: people are reluctant to shell out $400 at least for the VR technology, but everyone and their mother has a smartphone now, which is all AR needs to thrive. But for big business, AR has proved superior in one all-important arena: advertising.

“In AR, an advertiser can drive a click through to a sale or direct someone to a retail location nearby, which is all completely measurable,” said Adam Hemming to Digiday. As chief revenue officer of Advertly, he understands advertising experiences and how to weave immersion with a sales pitch. “In VR, we are still wrestling with how to take someone out of the experience they are having to purchase or sign up or whatever.”

The road so far

The recent fixation on technical immersion began in 2006 when Nintendo released the Wii, the gaming console that had revolutionary motion controls. It was meant to target a broader demographic than ever before—which is to say, it was meant to draw in people who had never played a video game before. Motion controls are accessible and fun, and their novelty could make any lackluster game thrilling.

These were the beginnings of VR. Motion controls sparked a quest for ultimate sensory immersion, and now, after years of refining technology and really figuring out what works best for virtual reality, a new giant is rising with the help of corporate experimentation.

AR still has a long way to go, but admittedly, businesses using it to advertise will keep people interested in its capabilities. Pokémon GO was a triumph of AR, but it quickly grew stale because the game lacked substance and longevity.

Just think, if that was the experimental stage of AR, what will come next?

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Kasey Smith


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