While AR/VR has been teasing the consumer world for the last two years and despite some of the optimistic claims by thought leaders, success of these new technologies in the world of marketing has been limited at best.

Pokemon Go was a brilliant win to show startups and telcos the value of investing and improving tech in this space. According to The Motley Fool, we can expect

  • The VR market to be worth USD 30 billion by 2020
  • 171 million people could be using VR hardware and software worldwide by 2018

We began our series of VR interviews and articles with Tarif Sayed, former Head of VR Technologies at Nokia and currently the CEO of HOLO Media. Tarif is a Digital Media Executive with extensive expertise in content value chain ecosystem technology enablement and leveraging a “Content, Creativity & Technology” philosophy.

171 million people could be using VR hardware and software worldwide by 2018

S: VR has been in marketing news for the last couple of years but has yet to make headway into mainstream customer experience. What are some of the major deterrents and how can brands overcome them? 

Tarif Sayed, Nokia
Tarif Sayed – Holo Media

TS: VR is a long-term game; the industry made a mistake by creating a hype and set very high expectations not based on realistic studies and numbers. Major industry reports and statistics forecasted Head Mounted Display (HMD) shipping numbers very high, same for content and general adoption.

The reality is that consumers first want to be convinced with the experience and the content, and until now we have not seen great content besides a few games. Video quality also affects the live action content to be low quality and uncomfortable, it will take some time for the industry to develop the right tools to create a wholesome experience.

There is also the problem with HMDs right now, they are uncomfortable, bulky, and hard to keep focus for a longer duration. We should see better HMDs later this year.

S: What were some of the insights you gleaned while leading Nokia’s VR division?

TS: At Nokia we did amazingly great, we introduced the first purpose built VR camera, we enabled content creators and distributors with the right tools to create and deliver offline and Live content. We learned a lot during the last two years, first; 3D 360 is the true VR experience, regular panoramic videos have little advantage over a standard HD or 4K video. We have to create content that makes people immersed into an experience, they have to feel that they are transported into a new place and only 3D 360 content can do that.

We also believe that people want to feel free to move within an experience. Having a single viewpoint limits the immersion. Now everybody is doing 3-degree of freedom (DoF) content, we need to move to 6DoF and to do that we need second or third generation of tools to create that. We will see this in the near future and this will drive adoption and attract consumers to VR.

S: What can platforms like FB, YouTube, Yahoo do to help better adoption of VR technologies and how can their partners help speed the process?

Oculus Touch, VR Gaming
Experiencing VR with Oculus Touch 2

They are investing in technology and this is great, but not enough.

TS: They have to invest in content, having a platform that delivers 360 videos is not enough. They generate revenue from revenue, the more the users stay on their platform consuming content, the more the revenue is. So, it is simple, deliver better and more compelling content will fit with their business models, and drive adoption.

They are investing in technology and this is great, but not enough. Many Silicon Valley companies including FB and google are very technology driven, success requires a combination of technology and business minds, Apple is very good at this. Even if Apple is being criticized as they are not the “First”, but when they do it, they don’t just do the product or the technology, they develop the ecosystem around it, content, partners and crafty marketing and that’s the winning recipe.

S: What does 2018 spell for interactive customer experience, brand engagement and digital marketing?

TS: In 2018, we will see better HMD, more comfortable, untethered HMDs and capable of Mixed Reality experiences, such development will drive adoption as HMDs will be more affordable, easy to use and do more.

The content creation and delivery tools and platforms will evolve, we started to see VR specific cameras, post production tools and encoding as well. We will now see VR enabled cloud delivery platform, video and audio technologies that offers better image and more immersive sound, this is on the technology side. On the content side, I believe producers and content creators will be able to produce better content. They have been learning and experimenting for almost three years now, they will apply these lessons and convey better stories – storytelling is key, by the end of the day this is entertainment and all about content and stories that engage users.

On the non-entertainment side, we started to see some enterprise use cases in health, education, simulation and this will also drive businesses. It will be more on the mixed reality side rather than pure VR. AR and VR can do magic when they are mixed together.  

S: Which brands are leading the way in interactive experiences and how does VR fit into it?

TS: When it comes to brands, they care about reaching the maximum number of consumers, since the HMD adoption is still low, we didn’t see viral campaigns on HMDs and in full VR. We see a lot of campaigns on FB and YouTube, as I mentioned before the panoramic 360 experiences are limited and the results were not that great, I mean those campaign didn’t wow the consumers and didn’t add a lot to their brand. However, many brands got some return on investing in VR just because they associated their brand to VR, they positioned their brand as innovative, young and future looking. I was impressed by the Hyundai campaign at the super bowl, it was truly amazing. They touched the core of VR, bringing families virtually together, they made the US troops in Europe feels as if they were sitting beside their loved ones at the NFL game stadium. Discovery, Samsung, CNN and New York Times also did some notable work.

S: Which are the most memorable VR campaigns in 2017

TS: The Nokia digital health “Healthier together” campaign was one of the finest and most effective campaigns. Nokia released a set of digital health devices and wearables and we created a VR campaign at Cannes Lions and beyond. The feeling of being together is something VR can deliver better than any other medium.

Interactive content creation, engagement and tech are some of the topics Savage Marketing 2018 will cover on 13-14 June in Amsterdam, through 60 of the most innovative brands and thought leaders who are shaping the way we engage with our audience.  

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