According to Sarah Hill, CEO of VR content and platform company StoryUp, VR and other immersive media depend upon access and engagement.
Previously, in Part 1 of this Q&A, Hill talked trends in immersive media while distinguishing between augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and hologram-based technology known as "mixed reality" (MR). Now, in Part 2, Hill talks about enabling access to and optimizing content for AR/VR/MR. (See StoryUp's Hill on Healing With Holograms .)
Telco Transformation: AR/VR is increasingly used for education and training at both the consumer level and the enterprise level. (See EdCast's Mehta Talks Killer Apps for AR/VR.) What are you seeing in that area?
SH: What I'm seeing is that there are schools all around the nation and the world right now that want this technology, but they can't afford the headsets in order to be able to view it…
The content is out there. They can go through the space shuttle. They can swim underwater with sharks. They can swim with whales. They can go to Africa and have experiences in our app in the Amazon and elsewhere, but they need headsets in order to do that. So just like there was a huge buying phase to get schools iPads and tablets, there needs to be a whole 'nother phase where somebody steps in and gets these schools headsets -- because what that headset is is a teleportation device that allows them to amplify those textbooks so they're not flat, and they can come off the page. And individuals can step inside those stories and retain that information at a far greater rate than when they're reading about it in black and white text.
TT: Moreover, for marketers and content creators, it's hard to ask consumers to spend a few hundred or a few thousand dollars on headsets. At the same time, TVs, VCRs, DVD players and Blu-Ray players were all once very expensive. What needs to happen to get to this commoditization of AR/VR/MR equipment?
SH: Google Cardboard is the gateway drug to virtual reality. It is the most affordable device, at about five dollars. A lot of brands are giving them away free now. And that's what's getting people into these experiences, understanding what VR is, and then wanting to buy a higher-end headset.
There is a huge barrier to entry [nonetheless]. So we have to do a lot of education about why this content is important … There's something called WebVR, which is a bridge to virtual reality. There's a common misconception that virtual reality, that content in a headset, that's the only place it can be viewed. Wrong. It can be viewed in the browser as well -- in a flat Internet browser -- by dragging your cursor around the screen, or on a Facebook 360 video or a YouTube 360 video.
I think that's going to be the bridge for people. They'll see it in a browser, they'll experience a WebVR experience online, and then there'll be a prompt from somebody that says if you'd like to step inside this story in a headset, load your virtual reality device.
So what we're talking is a long game. It's happening on the coasts and it's creeping into the middle of the [US]. Today I got a Tweet [that] said, "What is VR?" As much as we have been immersed in this culture of immersive media and talk about it all the time, there are still pockets of people who don't know, who have no idea, what it is.
TT: Other than the obvious technical aspects, how do content creators optimize -- or should they be optimizing -- their content for VR?
SH: Just as we had to make our websites responsive for mobile, so too will we have to make them responsive for VR -- because the world is becoming a place that we step inside. It's no longer flat. Marketing is no longer flat. Content marketing is no longer flat. It's immersive.
[Content creators] should be choosing stories -- number one -- that have location as a character because that's the first and foremost. You can tell any kind of story in virtual reality but you don't necessarily want to. There are certain stories that might lend themselves better to immersive media. Certain stories might be better told with fixed-frame media. But location is definitely a character. We know from metrics that virtual reality and immersive media [content] is shared more. It's watched longer, and it's liked more. So from a marketer's perspective, those are valuable tools to know that this kind of media is stickier than regular video.
TT: What do you mean by "stickier," exactly?
SH: It has higher engagement rates. The audiences are more engaged. They watch it longer -- probably because there's more real estate to look around the screen. And they're more likely to share it -- and, obviously, on social, that's really important. The fact that people are sharing Facebook 360, YouTube 360, or your website's immersive media more? That's valuable.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation