Mainstreaming Mixed Reality

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Mainstreaming Mixed Reality
Mainstreaming Mixed Reality

For all of its impressive effects, marketers have been holding back to some extent from applying mixed reality to their campaigns. That made sense in light of the fact that most people were not equipped to view it properly. But that's set to change by the end of this year.

At the end of August, Microsoft announced a lineup of mixed reality equipment for the holiday season that is expected to put it in the hands of a lot more people, thanks to the triple appeal of an affordable price, easy setup, and portability. Mixed reality refers to the merging of virtual and real worlds; AR is one kind of mixed reality.

On affordability, Microsoft said: “Headset and motion controller bundles will start as low as $399 and will be compatible with existing and new PC models starting at $499. Along with our partners, we are committed to making mixed reality affordable. “

The offerings fall into two categories: for PCs, and for Windows Mixed Reality Ultra PCs. The former runs on computers with integrated graphics, and enables the immersive headset to run at 60 frames a second. The latter works on computers with discrete graphics, and allows 90 frames per second on immersive headsets.

Microsoft insists that even the slower version “will support today's immersive video and gaming experiences such as traveling to a new country, exploring space, swimming with dolphins, or shooting zombies.” 

While there may not be all that much marketing potential in shooting zombies beyond the sales of the games themselves, some of the other items described could be very effective marketing tools to sell travel packages that make people want to experience in real life what they've tasted in virtual form.  

Going the AR rather than VR route also makes it possible to show how the virtually represented products fit into a person's existing setting. That's very effective for selling household décor or furniture — something IKEA has already capitalized on.

A Techcrunch review of the AR experiences available for iPhone and iPad on Apple's ARKkit says that it will allow users to see as many as 2,000 IKEA products appear in their homes in what appears to be full size and 3D. It works off of the 3D scans IKEA made for its catalogs. 

Perhaps IKEA will also come out with an Android-compatible version, because Google just released  a preview of its new software development kit (SDK) called ARCore for Android devices. Here's a video showing some Wizard of Oz inspired effects:

Popular characters also be adapted to marketing in a mixed reality environment, for example letting people interact with personae linked to brands, like Tony the Tiger, or Mr. Clean. That would mean that anyone could have the experience shown in cleaner's Super Bowl ad last year (except for getting the actual cleaning done, of course).

Then again, maybe some things should not be brought to life. Marketers will need to do their own research and testing before virtualizing everything — just because they can.

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