Oculus Adds Two New Social Features To Gear VR

What Happened
Oculus is adding two new features to the Samsung Gear VR headset to make a more social experience. The first is a voice-chat system called Parties that allows users jump into a voice call and talk with others while wearing the headset. The second feature is called Rooms, which creates virtual living spaces for multiplayer Gear VR experiences. This creates a space where Gear VR users can hang out with their friends, chat with each other, and even interact with the virtual objects in the room.

What Brands Should Do
These two new features offer an exciting glimpse into the vast potential virtual reality technologies have in advancing our concept of online engagements and digital interactions. Although virtual reality may still be a few years away from mass adoption (as we predicted in the 2020 section in our Outlook 2016), brands looking to stay ahead of the innovation curve would be smart to start developing their own branded VR content and figure out a robust VR distribution strategy today.

The Lab currently has five VR headsets — a PlayStation VR, an Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, and two Samsung Gear VRs — ready for demos. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood, so come by the Lab and ask for a VR demo to get a hands-on experience and figure out how your brand can use it to excite and engage with consumers.


Source: The Verge


Event Recap: Oculus Connect 3 Highlights

What Happened
Oculus kicked off its annual Oculus Connect Event earlier today in San Jose, California, where the Facebook-owned VR company unveiled a series of updates for its products and software. CNET has a good summary of all the announcements the company made, but two of them stood out as brand-related highlights:

First, Oculus introduced two new technical features called “Timewarp” and “Spacewarp,” which create synthetic frames that can keep the image smooth, enabling Oculus Rift to provide a decent VR experience on a PC that costs as low as $499.

In addition, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will invest $250 million in the Oculus developer community, on top of the $250 million it has already spent. $50 million of the funding is allocated for mobile VR content and another $10 million for educational programs.

What Brands Should Do
Lowering the minimum PC requirements to support Oculus VR headsets may help expand its user base, which in turn provides brands with a bigger audience to reach with VR content. And Facebook’s continued investment in VR content not only shows its commitment to the emerging medium but also presents brands with an opportunity to work with developers to capitalize on the impending VR content boom with branded VR content and experiences.

The Lab currently has four VR headsets — an Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, and two Samsung Gear VRs — ready for demos. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood, so come by the Lab and ask for a VR demo to get a hands-on experience and figure out how your brand can use it to excite and engage with consumers.

Sources: The Verge & VentureBeat


Best Buy To Push VR Headsets Into Mainstream

What Happened
Best Buy will be shining a spotlight on Facebook’s Oculus Rift during the upcoming holiday shopping season. The consumer electronics retail chain will be putting Oculus headsets in 500 stores nationwide in what is considered as the first mainstream push for consumer-facing VR products.  Best Buy started rolling out in-store demonstrations for Oculus Rift headsets in May and also has 200 demos for Sony’s PlayStation VR in rotation between locations.   

What Brands Need To Do
With consumers becoming increasingly familiar with VR and 360-degree video content and now Best Buy reading to push VR headsets into the mainstream consumer market, it is time for brands to start working with content creators to develop interesting branded VR content that appeals to target audiences.

The Lab currently has four VR headsets — an Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, and two Samsung Gear VRs — ready for demos. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood, so come by the Lab and ask for a VR demo to get a hands-on experience and figure out how your brand can use it to excite and engage with consumers.


Source: AdAge

VR Is Becoming More Interactive And Social

What Happened
Oculus rolled out social features and games to the Samsung Gear VR on Thursday, marking a great advance in VR development. Users can now create a profile and then easily search for friends by their Oculus username. Support for new multiplayer VR games such as Social Trivia and Herobound are being added to the platform as well, allowing users to play alongside each other in virtual reality. Moreover, Oculus will also be adding 360 video content from Facebook to its video section next week, allowing users to pull in the spherical videos from their News Feed to watch in Gear VR.

What Brands Need To Do
As virtual reality technologies continue to grow in capabilities, brands are also starting to experiment with some more sophisticated forms of VR content. One recent example in this regard is insurance firm Liberty Mutual, who launched its first VR campaign this week on Facebook. Created with Havas and Facebook’s Creative Shop, the brand’s VR spot is designed to promote Liberty Mutual’s 24/7 roadside assistance service through a choose-your-own-adventure style interactive experience. As Facebook makes a strong push for VR and 360-degree videos, brands would be smart to seize the opportunity and work closely with content creators to craft interactive VR experiences to intrigue and engage consumers.


Source: VentureBeat & AdWeek

Header image courtesy of Oculus Blog

JCPenney Brings In The Holiday Spirit With Oculus-Powered VR Experience

What Happened
JCPenney is getting into the holiday spirit by hosting a virtual reality experience that lets customers take a flight with Santa. Working with Reel FX, the retailer created a VR experience powered by Facebook-owned Oculus headsets, and it is available in four store locations across the nation for now. Product placements from JCPenny’s suppliers, such as KitchenAid and Nike, will be featured in the experience as gifts in Santa’s sleigh.

What Brands Need To Do
In the past year, we have seen more and more brands and media owners experiment with virtual reality technology. Before JCPenney, brands such as Marriott HotelBirchbox, and Target had started developing their own branded VR content to entertain and connect with their customers. Last month, the New York Times sent out 1 million Google Cardboards headset to its print subscribers to promote the launch its VR content app. With increasing momentum building in consumer-facing VR, brands would be smart to start developing their own branded VR content today to engage consumers with immersive experiences.

Source: AdAge

Fast Forward: What You Need To Know From Oculus Connect 2 Event

Your guide to tech-driven changes in the media landscape by IPG Media Lab. A fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

•  New Samsung Gear VR, the VR product with broadest consumer potential, in time for Christmas this year
•  Oculus Arcade, Video, Touch, Platform, and Minecraft all coming soon and with lots of partners
•  Get ready for commerce, interactivity with haptics, social experiences, and many experiments

What Oculus Announced
On Thursday at its second annual developer conference, virtual reality leader Oculus announced new partnerships across hardware, software, and content as well as updating ship dates for all but its signature product, the Oculus Rift. At the keynote, Mark Zuckerberg talked about how he and Facebook see virtual reality as the next big medium in the evolution of communication, even though we are essentially just getting started on video.

Oculus Star WarsThen, Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, Samsung’s Peter Koo, and others from the Oculus team explained their roadmap for the next 12 months:

  • Oculus Arcade, which will launch with dozens of games including Gunjack and Land’s End, from Monument Valley studio ustwo; and Oculus Video, with major studio and content partners including Netflix, Twitch, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Vimeo, and Hulu.
  • A consumer version of Samsung Gear VR, launching before Black Friday, for $99 and compatible with all 2015 Samsung phones. We think the key to consumer adoption is to power VR through the smartphone and the price point and timing announced at the keynote were big crowd pleasers.
  • Minecraft, the enormously popular 3D sandbox game now owned by Microsoft, is coming to Oculus in Spring 2016.
  • Hardware partners Asus, Dell, and Alienware will all ship Oculus Rift-ready desktop PCs next year for under $1,000, in time for the Oculus Rift launch in Q1.
  • No new information around price or timing for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift. Their signature product is still coming “Q1 2016.”
  • Oculus Touch, the handheld controllers that make interacting with a VR world possible, will launch in Q2 next year. We tried these in the Toybox demo and in Epic’s VR game Bullet Train, with great success. They make interactivity in VR real, both as a personal and as a shared experience with someone else, anywhere in the world.


What Brands Need to Do
We came away from the event with a much deeper understanding of the timeframes around the virtual reality industry and market. We expect that strong consumer adoption is still a few years away, though the types of experiences that are possible now are extremely impressive. There are two main paths to a successful VR experience now. The first is an immersive, powerful experience developed for an event where dozens or hundreds get to share the experience but the point is PR value. The second is a mobile-based experience driven through Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR in which greater scale is the goal. Either way, virtual reality is as Mark Zuckerberg said the next big communications and storytelling medium. Connecting with your customers and fans with the right VR experience can cement the relationship in a way never-before possible and in a way that’s impossible to understand without experiencing. The Media Lab can help strategize as well as connect you with the right partners to make a vision reality.

•  Auto brands can create virtual test drives that jump from the mundane traffic near a dealership to s-curves in the Alps. For example, Lexus created a fully immersive driving simulator to promote the 2015 RC F Sports coupe, complete with racing seat, pedals, and steering wheel. They showed the setup off at multiple events. With a different take, Chrysler put together a virtual tour of the Chrysler 200 factory. The 30-second video, available on laptop and mobile devices, takes viewers through the five million square foot factory.

•  Education brands can connect students with teachers or visualizations in seemingly impossible ways. For example, Google built a virtual field trip product called Google Expeditions, which uses Google Cardboard and any smartphone. Google says that “now, teachers can choose from a library of 100+ virtual trips to places like Mars, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China.”

•  Entertainment brands have unlimited possibilities, from exploring side-stories and changing perspective to interactive experiences that make the viewer part of the story. For example, HBO created an installation centered around the Oculus Rift for Game of Thrones fans. The experience gave users the feeling they were scaling the 300 vertical feet of ice known as The Wall in the show.

•  Fashion brands can strut their stuff in a variety of new ways. For example, Elle magazine created an experience for a 7 For All Mankind’s fashion show in February. Greatly expanding the possibility of feeling like you’re in the front row for the show beyond a select few, the experience was distributed a few weeks after the show. Rebecca Minkoff also distributed a look at their Fall 2015 runway show, designed for Google Cardboard. They even sold a branded Cardboard unit through their website for $24.

•  Healthcare brands can train practitioners, help patients in new way, and more. For example, USC’s Bravemind helps assess and treat PTSD through exposure therapy and they created another project that helps amputees rehabilitate.

•  Retailers can finally create the shopping experience of Alicia Silverstone’s dreams. For example, The Line worked with SapientNitro to develop a virtual tour of their flagship store in Manhattan, designed for Samsung Gear VR. Viewers navigate the store by locking their gaze on “hotspots” designated by a diamond icon, then can complete a purchase with a tap on the headset.

•  Travel brands can tease potential visitors with a sense of presence that can only be beat by booking a flight. For example, Marriott tapped Media Lab partner Framestore to “teleport” users to virtual vacations in Hawaii and London last year and expanded to Chile, China, and Rwanda this year. Marriott referred to the experience as “destination sampling.” They set up events around the US for visitors to try the experience.

In the meantime, Facebook also announced that 360 video is already available in News Feed, with Star Wars, Discovery Channel, and Vice early partners. Content developed for an immersive VR experience can now be viewed by everyone on Facebook, though on a flat screen. This is a great way to get additional scale and capitalize on press before your entire audience or customer base has access to a full VR experience.

How We Can Help
Please contact Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) at the IPG Media Lab if you would like more detail or to schedule a visit to the Lab to discuss strategies and tactics around developing VR experiences. The Lab also currently has VR headsets— Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR—ready for demo in the Lab. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood. So come by the Lab and get a VR demo to see just how engaging it can be, and understand why consumers would be excited by this technology.

For previous editions of Fast Forward, please visit ipglab.com. Please reply with any constructive criticism or feedback. We want these to be as useful as possible for you and your clients, and your feedback will help us immensely.

All images included in this post are promotional images courtesy of Facebook/Oculus

Facebook Works With Oculus To Bring 360-Degree Videos To News Feed

What Happened
Facebook has officially announced it is rolling out 360-degree videos in News Feed, in partnership with Oculus, the virtual reality company it acquired last year for $2 billion. The launch features content from six partners including Star Wars, GoPro, Vice, and SNL. Last week, news broke that Facebook was reportedly developing a separate app for 360-degree videos, which may still be in the pipeline, but for now,Facebook has made good on its promise from this summer’s developer conference to include 360 video in the News Feed.

What Brands Need To Do
As of now, Facebook is only allowing brands to post spherical video clips organically to their pages, but given Facebook’s heavy push with autoplay videos, it seems safe to assume that Facebook will package 360-degree videos into ads soon. We expect VR to be a niche market in 2016 in the same way that smartphones were a niche market in 2007, but building a library of 360 content which is accessible across devices will allow brands to stay ahead of the curve.  

For more VR news coming out of this week’s Oculus Connect 2 conference, follow our coverage here.


Source: AdWeek

Event Recap: VR Short “Henry” Demo

Live from Oculus Connect in Hollywood – it’s IPG Media Lab. We’re on the ground trying the latest demos and covering the latest news from the conference.

Today the IPG Media Lab had the pleasure to watch a new short VR film from Oculus Story Studio about a lonely little hedgehog who just wants a hug. As we sat on a red rug that matched the one in the film, we were transported to hedgehog Henry’s home hovering over a table during his birthday. The beauty of the experience was that, even though we weren’t part of the film, it felt as though we were physically there with Henry. At times during the emotional ups and downs of the film, Henry would look directly at us – at this point we were at eye level – and express his feelings.

Ultimately, VR filmmaking is still in its infancy. However, Henry may be the beginning of VR storytelling, some thing that will potentially change the way everyone experiences stories 5 or 10 years down the road. Furthermore, as more sensors become part the experience, it will be interesting to see how filmmakers will allow audiences to control character interactions and dictate outcomes of the VR films. ​



Header image courtesy of Oculus Story Studio’s website 

Event Recap: Oculus Toybox Demo

Live from Oculus Connect in Hollywood, it’s IPG Media Lab. We’re on the ground trying the latest demos and covering the latest news from the conference.

Today the IPG Media Lab went hands-on with the Crescent Bay headset and Touch controllers as part of the Oculus Toybox Demo, their multiplayer interactive sandbox. As the headset booted-up a holographic head wearing a Crescent Bay appeared along a pair of hands – a headless avatar named Oculus Mike. From there, Oculus Mike introduced himself and began to walk me through the Oculus Touch controllers which are ergonomically designed carbon joysticks with a thumbstick and trigger buttons.

As the demo started, a table appeared that had a number of different toys, blocks, and lasers to play with. The hardware sensors allowed for a variety of gestures and interactions, including grabbing, moving, flicking, as well as punching the surround toys and blocks, and even head-butting the hanging tetherball above.

Despite the inability to walk around the virtual environment with Oculus Mike, the combination of VR and social interaction was perhaps its most impressive feat. With VR headsets poised to hit the consumer market in early 2016, marketers need to start exploring the VR landscape in order to understand what game developers will do with the ability to have multiplayer virtual environments and how brands can seamless integrate to enhance and bring value to the experience.

Facebook Looking To Bring VR-lite To Mobile

What Happened
Facebook is reportedly working on a secret new mobile app that aims to bring Virtual Reality (VR) to smartphones. It will support spherical videos and allow users to change viewing perspective by tilting their phones and turning around. If true, this could be a big step towards consumer adoption of VR technologies. Facebook previously announced that it will start shipping a consumer version of its Oculus Rift headset in the first quarter of next year, and this app could serve as a user-friendly entry point for Facebook to familiarize users with VR experiences.

What Brands Should Do
Although no further details on the app have been made available, it will likely be open to user-generated content, which means brands like Birchbox and Marriott can easily onboard with their existing VR content. We expect VR to be a niche market in 2016 in the same way that smartphones were a niche market in 2007, therefore it’d be wise for brands to prepare a VR strategy to stay ahead of the curve.  

The Lab currently has two VR headsets—an Oculus Rift and a Samsung Gear—ready for demo in the Lab. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood. So come by the Lab and get a VR demo to see just how engaging it can be, and understand why consumers would be excited by this technology.


Update 9/23: Facebook has officially announced it is working with Oculus to roll out 360-degree videos in News Feed, launching with six partners including Star Wars, Vice, and SNL.


Source: Wall Street Journal