VR tunnel lead imageI just saw a video that blew my mind. Its not JUST that its a great idea, nor just looking like lots of fun, nor REALLY great combination of xbox tracking and gearVR to allow room scale VR, but the APPROPRIATENESS of the marketing event!  Get ready for some serious gushing over the best VR marketing experience ever!  There are a few levels from where we can look at this video, lets go through some of them. (video at the end)

Technical

vr tunnel systemThe obvious thing is technically what they pulled off.  Using multiple xbox sensors (I’m not sure how many) they are able to do full body tracking.  Because the user’s vision is completely obscured by the HMD, they can place the xbox sensors and light it to provide the maximum effectiveness for body tracking. Hand and head position most likely are sent via closed wifi to the gear.  From there its rendered in (Unity?). As you can see in some of the shots, not only is head positional tracking going on, you can see your hands on the rope as you walk across!

vr tunnel middleThis is great. Now add wind, cold air and sound (notice there we saw no headphones so the sound was most likely piped in), and you have a very deep immersive experience,  Because the Gear VR is wireless, the user is not restricted by cables.  In fact, once you are immersed, and given all the other sensory input, your brain can have a real fight deciding what is real and what is VR.

vr tunnel prepEven better is the fact that you put on the HMD outside the room, (again as best I can tell) the user never saw the real bridge that was constructed, so the bran has no other cognitive interpretation of what is going on except for what they see. BTW, don’t misunderstand me, with exception to perhaps one person, they KNOW its a simulation and short of flinching and perhaps lowering one’s body, they are enjoying it for what it is.

Marketing

I would guess most people who watch this video, especially those in the VR world would mostly be thinking about how great of an immersive simulation this is, and move on. But what really caught my attention, and what I like and admire just as much about this concept, is how well this works from a marketing point of view. Remember, they are releasing a (new?) instant latte. The sell point for this product is you can enjoy a cafe quality latte anytime, simply by using a microwave.  Ok, so what are the customer scenario where they may want this?   Most likely at home and perhaps the office.  I think most offices offer coffee and if not, typically there is a cafe near most large office complexes.  But at home, not so much.

vr tunnel fallingIn the experience we saw in the video, you are asked to cross this long dangerous bridge on a distant exotic mountain top in a blizzard!  Many dangers face you on your trek to get to the other side where a microwave waits for you.  Each step on this old decrepit bridge becomes more dangerous as the winds increase, and rocks start to fall all round you!  Somehow, through perseverance and a bit of luck, you make it to the end where, you find a microwave, (yes people do randomly leave microwaves in the Himalayan Mountains, just go with it). You open the door and a wonderful hot beverage is waiting for you to warm you up, body and soul.

vr tunnel microwaveNow, think about a long snowy winter train ride come where you have to walk the last 3 or 4 blocks.  Not too different eh?  And if you like lattes then knowing you have a nice warm drink waiting for you could be that much better.  So the sell point here is to associate a tough trek with a warm reward.  This experience drives this idea to the customer is a very real and tangible experience. An experience they will not soon forget, and share with their friends, including the idea of the microwave latte and the branding that goes with it.

Execution

I have not experience this but having been doing VR for so long, and having tried everything from the CAVE to the wind bird simulation, its not hard for me to put myself there and have an idea of what this would feel like.  I love the fact that this experience really allows you to ‘walk’ through it.  Yes we have plenty of simulations where you can walk, but typically its flat ground.  But here you have a bridge, you have rope to grab.  As the wind starts to push you back, the IMU on the headset reflects the sublet changes in head position because of it.  As you walk, the scene walks.  With the xbox sensors and the very well lite room, body tracking can be very precise.  I’m sure a dedicated local wifi was running allow the fastest possible update time that can be done with current technology.  Based on the headset graphics it looks like Unity is running this, but again, because of all the various sensors being reinforced with the same cognitive interpretation; you are on a bridge, in a cold wind storm, with the proper sounds, the less than realistic graphics does not matter so much. For some people, its too much!

BTW< this could have been staged, not sure.

BTW< this could have been staged, not sure.

 

A small note here.  Notice no gloves on peoples hands.  They are asked to walk through this cold experience with no gloves.  What that means, and you can tell at the end when people come out, is that they are using the drink to warm themselves.  A GREAT bit a experience detail.  Even after the HMD is off your head, YOU ARE STILL COLD! The experience is still with you, and the reward of the hot latte continues to reinforce the benefits of buying this product.

Appropriateness

vr tunnel outsideSo here I want to reinforce something about VR and marketing.  Like I said, I have been around VR for a long time, 20 years plus.  I have seen MANY marking events that try to use a VR experience to create an association of “high tech” or “cutting edge” or “next generation” to a product, some successful, some not so much.  In all cases however the VR experience has little to no association with the value of the product. Further, once the VR experience was over, that was it.  I typically remember what I liked or was annoyed by in the experience, to date I cannot remember a single product from one of those marketing campaigns. This is different.  Even though I did not experience it myself, the whole idea of walking through a blizzard to be rewarded with a hot latte seems to stick.  As the more real the struggle to reward is, the more likely you will have a favorable memory of the reward. What is appropriate about using VR here is that VR has nothing to do with campaign.  It is simply the best tool to achieve the maximum positive reward association with the product. Not trying to be ‘new tech’ or ‘cutting edge’ or ‘cool’.  well ok, a bit cool.  But instead simple marking 101, create a positive association with your product, and VR in this case, was a great choice.

Now, check out the Video.

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