Inspiration Station Vol. 23 – Virtual & Remote Experiences
This year has seen astonishing accelerations in science and technology, as the human race adapted to overcome new challenges. People have also needed to reach out and connect unlike any other time in recent history.
Some of the following virtual innovations will alter the landscape of live experiences forever. Others will simply make you smile. Whatever the case, here are some pretty nifty examples of virtual tech and remote experiences that will leave you feeling like you’re in the year 3000.
There are now more than 171M VR users worldwide. Practically every business during the last 6 months has utilised remote technology to communicate and collaborate. People are plugged in. Brands need to make sure they are now too.
The next phase of social media is here. Yep Facebook are up again, this time with an incredible Pixar-like virtual platform, that we don’t mind saying is rather impressive. Let’s start with the avatars. Your mouth and hands are mirrored when you speak, which when combined with some other gesture triggered expressions, makes this the ultimate online hang-out experience. And we’ve not even gotten into the virtual worlds and creation space…
You can play various games, head to different worlds and create your very own virtual experiences. It’s a bit like Minecraft (which has also recently gone virtual) but with more features and a greater focus on realistic human interaction. Check out this early walkthrough for more of an idea of what we’re talking about. It sure beats scrolling through your newsfeed.
“It’s a ‘do’ social network versus a ‘share’ social network,” says Ari Grant, product management director at Facebook Reality Labs Experiences. “I do believe the next wave of social is being with people that matter to you, doing experiences that matter to you, and creating relationships.” That’s kind of our philosophy for brand experiences too… Which provides a lot of interesting food for thought around the future of digital brand experiences.
The Weeknd Experience
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Travis Scott and Fortnite earlier this year, The Weeknd drew over 2 million viewers to a virtual concert on TikTok. The event not only recorded 275,000 concurrent viewers at its peak, setting a new TikTok record, but raised $350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative through limited edition merchandise. The Initiative is committed to challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting human rights for the most vulnerable people in the U.S.
The concert followed The Weeknd as he led fans through a “hallucinatory XR dream world”. Engagement was maintained with audience participation, where fans voted in the comments to guide the live experience. But the experience didn’t end there; videos that users shared with #TheWeekndEXP garnered more than 1.3 billion video views. Woah, that’s some serious amplification.
3D Tour of Pharaoh Ramesses VI Tomb
Another virtual tour to emerge from the global lockdown is this very cool (and quick!) 3D stroll down the elaborately adorned tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI. The Egyptian Tourism Authority decided to share the underground structure online, which is comprised of a single corridor leading down to the shattered sarcophagus, to continue sharing its history with the world.
The walls and the ceiling are decorated with vast inscriptions of hieroglyphics from ancient Egyptian texts. Like many lost civilisations, they leave behind a mysterious and impressive legacy. Click here to begin your descent. Explore at your leisure, or click the play icon at the bottom left for a guided tour!
The Hidden Worlds of National Parks
Many of us have had to cancel not just professional, but personal travel plans, however we can still virtually experience much of the world’s natural beauty thanks to Google (again). But this is no mere “street view” of galleries. Oh no, this one’s the full guided tour. Check out the US National Parks Service tours here for some of the most immersive natural experiences you can find online. Seriously, take a look. It’s impressive.
You can kayak through the icebergs of Alaska, explore lava tubes in Hawaii, trek through the stunning underground network of the Carlsbad Caverns, see hoodoos up close at Bryce Canyon, and take a plunge in the tropical blue of the Dry Tortugas.
This is the perfect wellness remedy to combat cabin fever or keep yourself occupied when trying to break up the day. Explore the world from your sofa!
Ok so we featured virtual influencers in the previous edition, but Ikea did something pretty cool in Japan. The retail giant partnered with Imma, a virtual influencer, moving her in to their new store in Tokyo.
Passersby could peer into Imma’s living room, watching her spend time “at home” doing things like yoga, vacuuming and watering her plants. A view into her bedroom was also streamed on a screen on the second floor, which was viewable from the nearest station. For those who couldn’t visit, the digital window was available via a 3-day livestream on IKEA japan’s youtube channel.
IKEA brought the virtual world to life for the very first time by using LED screens placed inside of physical rooms. The LED panels’ colour temperature was adjusted in real-time to seamlessly blend the virtual with physical and could even adapt to sunrise, sunset and weather.
With advancements in mixed reality technologies, such as XR studios and AR, there’s a lot of exciting potential for intertwining the digital world with the physical one. Brands who harness hybrid experiences, bringing the digital to life in a physical space, while providing an online experience to remote audiences, are going to get noticed in a big way. And maybe even make a few headlines.
You don’t always need an arsenal of digital wizardry; there are many ways to create a remote experience. By thinking outside of the box and stimulating the senses using an alternative approach, you can transport your audience in a way that subverts expectations. Sometimes, the seemingly simple solutions can provide the biggest smiles.
VR 3D Portraits – Anna Dream Brush
Anna Zhilyaeva is a virtual artist who combines her traditional artistic skills of painting and sculpting, with computer graphics using softwares like Tilt-brush, Masterpiece and Anim VR to create a dynamic three-dimensional piece of art, which she calls ‘a painted sculpture’.
This futuristic medium allows for infinite ways to express creativity on a three dimensional canvas, while allowing for viewers as well as “sculptors” like Anna to interact with the art. The end result is a style reminiscent of impressionist oil paintings, revealing hidden characteristics when viewed from different angles. At a TEDx conference Anna termed this as ‘Volumionism’. Kewl.
Check our her TED Talk here.
Eau de Space
Have you ever wondered what space smells like? Well, some decades ago, NASA asked scent specialists to develop the smell of space to help train astronauts and eliminate any surprises they might experience in outer space. The formula of the scent was kept secret for many years until the Eau de Space team was able to get their hands on it.
The team, which boasts fashion, tech, design and logistics experience, has partnered with award-winning perfumers to create a fragrance that brings the smell of space to Earth. How’s that for an alternative remote experience! And if you are by now wondering; astronauts describe the smell of space as ‘a mix of gunpowder, seared steak, raspberries and rum.’
The worldwide VR market is set to reach $2.6 billion by the end of the year. By 2022, the global AR and VR market is expected to grow to an eye-watering $209.2 billion. While future mainstream applications remain uncertain, it’s looking likely that VR and AR technology will become commonplace in the new era of remote collaboration.
At Facebook’s recent VR/AR conference Connect 7, Facebook announced that it’s unifying its entire VR hardware lineup into their new headset: the Oculus Quest 2. In addition to more power and a higher resolution, Oculus announced new features outside of gaming. The main headline is Infinite Office. Promoted as a business tool, it’ll combine multiple customisable screens with a camera feed, so you can still see your working environment all around you.
The early releases, which will begin rolling out in a few months, are said to focus on personal productivity rather than group collaboration. But stay tuned for future releases, as this seems like the beginning of a new era of working. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also announced the company’s first pair of consumer “smart glasses” will be releasing next year as a branded Ray-Ban product. Yep smart Ray-Bans. The year 3000, just like we said!
Speaking of collaborative VR business tools… Spatial is a startup that does facilitate collaboration through augmented or virtual reality. You can use VR or mixed-reality headsets from a whole heap of brands to host meetings, discuss projects, import content (including 3D models) and even share PC screens. It’s pretty cool, you simply create an avatar and work as if next to each other, essentially transforming your room into a giant immersive 3D monitor.
The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the necessity for this kind of technology, so the good guys at Spatial have now made the platform completely free and open to everyone! You can use any device, including your desktop, or your phone to participate. Try it here.
Sam Smith – Diamonds
Sam Smith and Spotify have teamed up for a digital activation that brings latest single Diamonds to life using cutting edge AR technology. This groundbreaking concept not only utilises volumetric capture and web-based AR technology to build interactive augmented reality within a web browser, but it’s also the the first-ever 3D AR artwork to appear on Spotify. Check it out for yourself here.
The holographic experience marks the next evolution of album artwork, encouraging fans to scan the visual on Spotify to unlock their own personal concert. Fans can then enjoy a miniature augmented reality-version of the star dancing on their mobile phone in an intimate location of their choice. Adding another layer of interactivity, they can also interact with the experience by releasing a shower of on-screen diamonds in time to the song. Fancy!
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