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Augmented and Virtual Reality Get Real: A Look at Media Applications Happening Now

May 29, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are getting a whole lot of press lately. From Google and GoPro partnering on a new filmmaking ecosystem for VR to Apple’s acquisition of Augmented Reality (AR) company Metaio and Oculus’ (Facebook) purchase of AR startup Surreal Vision, it looks like this pair of technologies that enhance (or supplant) what content consumers see are entering primetime. In fact, PatentVue recently reviewed the patent landscape and found more than 2,300 US patents with claims related to AR and head mounted display (HMD) platforms and devices.

Early practical developments for AR have ranged from manufacturing and engineering to retail and medicine. And brands such as Heinekin, Toyota, Dominos and Ford have already embraced AR as a way to advertise, demo products and ease the path to purchase.

Virtual Reality (VR) is also making a big splash with the marketing community, with Forbes calling it “the next big advertising medium,” pointing to the work Hearst-owned Elle Magazine did with denim designer 7 For All Mankind. Spirits brand Patron offers educational seminars and retail consumer VR experiences to provide an immersive look inside the Hacienda Patrol distillery.. And Marvel teamed up with Samsung to promote the latest Avengers movie by giving people a taste of what it is like to be a superhero.

Not surprisingly, media companies are also experimenting with ways in which AR and VR offer new ways to tell stories.

Here are a few recent examples of how media companies are jumping into the VR fray:

  • Gannet Digital leveraged virtual reality in its coverage of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championship. Not only could ski fans read about the events, they could don an Oculus headset and experience heart-pounding runs with some of skiing’s greats.
  • NBC used VR to give fans the experience of being in the star-studded audience at the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special.
  • Vice Media released a documentary at Sundance “VICE News VR: Millions March” which takes viewers inside the December 13 rally in New York in which 60,000 protesters gathered to demand greater police accountability.
  • The Weather Channel has just launched live VR weather which ”takes viewers in, and through, the science and wonder of weather.”
  • At this year’s New Fronts, Conde Nast announced that it has two original virtual reality series in the works.
  • ABC Family leveraged VR to market its new sci-fi program “Stichers,” by creating a smartphone app that promises fans an immersive experience.
  • Turner Broadcasting-owned Adult Swim also released an app-based VR experience this month called Virtual Brainload, which boasts a somewhat more psychedelic experience.

Here are some examples of the ways in which media outlets are leveraging AR:

  • National Geographic was early to experiment with AR—notably with its 2011 shopping mall experience that allowed shoppers to interact with dinosaurs. More recently, National Geographic has begun to leverage AR for educational experiences that enhance explorations of natural places.
  • Disney also offers an “edutainment” application of AR with its Disneynature Explore app, which offers kids a way to take adventures in their own backyards while learning more about nature along the way.
  • Disney-owned ESPN had an augmented reality-capable camera in use at this year’s NFL Draft and the company has leveraged AR in its broadcast media for some time.
  • Conde Nast Traveler uses GPS data location and augmented reality in its iPhone Apps to allow travelers to find things and learn more simply by pointing their phone in a given direction.
  • Conde Nast is also among several media outlets—including Time Inc., The Wall Street Journal and Warner Brothers Interactive—that are working with Shazam, which can scan physical objects for augmented reality and other enhanced content.

Virtual reality headsets and content will be “the next mega tech theme” and a market worth more than $60 billion in a decade, according to investment bank, Piper Jaffray Cos. And as we increasingly see, mega tech themes quickly become mega media themes, as the two are intertwined in the minds—and devices—of consumers.

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