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

You Can Now Watch Jeopardy And The Lion King In 360-Degree Videos

What Happened
Following Facebook adding support for 360-degree videos in its iOS app last week, the VR-lite format continues to gain momentum in mainstream media. One of the longest-running game shows, Jeopardy, has announced its plan to create its own 360-degree video, which will let viewers experience the last five minutes of its Tournament of Champions as if they were on set. Similarly, popular Broadway musical The Lion King also created a short 360-degree VR experience which will let viewers watch the opening number from a front seat.

What Brands Need To Do
Considering that the median viewer age of Jeopardy is over 60, it seems safe to assume that the majority of the show’s audience won’t be too familiar with 360-degree videos, and that the show is aiming to attract a younger audience with this move. Along with The Lion King, this example shows that this kind of VR-lite 360-degree interactive video is rapidly becoming an entry point for marketers and media owners to experiment with virtual reality technologies. Some early-adopting brands, such as Marriott Hotel and Target, are already dabbling in producing their own branded VR content. And if Jeopardy can try it, so can your brand.


Source: AdAge and Wired

How Brands Can Make Use Of YouTube’s VR Video

What Happened
Yesterday, YouTube officially launched its support for virtual reality videos with an updated Android app, which enables users to watch stereoscopic videos in a ”virtual movie theater” with Google Cardboard. Early-adopters like Lionsgate and TOMS Shoes are already taking advantage of the new feature, putting out VR videos for the “Hunger Games Experience” and “TOMS Shoes Giving Trip.”

What Brands Need To Do
This is the first time YouTube is pitching an immersive video format as virtual reality, although it added support for 360-degree videos in March, and Google Cardboard supported playing them in May. With VR technology poised to break into the consumer market next year, brands that seek to engage consumers with immersive experiences would be smart to start developing their own branded VR content today.


Source: Marketing Land

Why Sundance Launched A Program For VR Content Creators

What Happened
Aiming to “empower artists on the cutting edge of storytelling,“ the Sundance Institute – the organization behind the famed annual film festival – is teaming up with virtual reality firm Jaunt to launch a residency program to nurture VR content creators. The program is set to run for six months with resources and VR production equipment provided by Jaunt.

What Brands Need To Do
One hindrance in the development of VR technologies has been the lack of quality VR content, and Sundance’s new program signifies the content industry’s recognition of this issue and is taking measures to fix it. Similarly, Facebook-owned Oculus also created its own in-house VR studio, which debuted its first digital short Henry earlier this fall.

With the $99 Samsung Gear VR coming this Christmas and Facebook’s Oculus shipping its first consumer-facing headset in Q1 2016, next year is poised to be a monumental year for virtual reality. Some brands, such as Marriott Hotel and Target, are also dabbling in producing branded VR content. Other brands that seek to engage consumers with immersive experiences should be mindful of the rapid developments in VR.


Source: Wired


NYTimes To Send Out 1 Million Google Cardboards For Upcoming VR App Launch

What Happened
As part of the launch for its upcoming NYT VR app, The New York Times plans to send out 1 million Google Cardboards – an affordable virtual reality headset that works with both iOS and Android devices –  to its print subscribers. The publisher has teamed up with VR content company VRSE to create a brand new VR documentary titled “The Displaced,” which lets viewers experience the lives of three homeless refugee children, to accompany the debut of its branded VR content app next month.

What Brands Need To Do
Just last week, InStyle magazine debuted their first VR-enhanced issue. While The New York Times isn’t the first publisher to create original VR content, it will be the first publisher to deliver VR experiences to its audience at a large scale. With the $99 Samsung Gear VR coming this Christmas and Facebook’s Oculus shipping its first consumer-facing headset in Q1 2016, next year is poised to be a monumental year for virtual reality. But as a nascent medium, VR development still suffers from a lack of quality content. Now with a media institution as influential as The New York Times officially entering the VR content market, it is time for brands to team up with media owners and content creators to explore the possibility of engaging their audience with VR content.


Source: UploadVR

Voxelus To Launch The Largest VR Content Marketplace In Early 2016

What Happened
Voxelus, a new virtual reality content platform, has announced its plan to launch the “largest VR content marketplace” in the first quarter of 2016. Last month, Voxelus launched Creator, software that allows users to build VR content without writing a single line of code. Now with this new marketplace, Voxelus aims to facilitate the sale of user-generated VR content as well as facilitate collaborations between content creators.

What Brands Need To Do
2016 is poised to be a monumental year for virtual reality. With the $99 Samsung Gear VR coming this Christmas and Facebook’s Oculus shipping its first consumer-facing headset in Q1 2016, virtual reality is nearing a tipping point of mass adoption. In preparation of this nascent medium, some early-adopting brands, such as Marriott Hotel and Target, already dabbled in producing their own branded VR content. This marketplace by Voxelus could provide an open platform for brands to team up with media owners and content creators to help produce their own VR content, and therefore is something that all brands looking to develop VR content should keep an eye on.


Source: PSFK

InStyle Magazine To Launch A VR-Enhanced Issue

What Happened
Women’s fashion and lifestyle magazine InStyle has unveiled its first-ever VR-enhanced issue. With the help of cinematic VR content studio Jaunt, InStyle created some complementary content that readers will have access to via VR headsets. The content includes behind-the-scenes footage of covergirl Drew Barrymore’s photoshoot, a closer look at the items she wore, as well as some makeup tutorials. The magazine is also open to exploring native advertisements and sponsorship opportunities in its VR content as a new revenue source.

What Brands Need To Do
With Amazon set to become the largest clothing retailer in the U.S. by 2017, fashion brands and clothing retailers need to think outside of conventional means in order to drive store visits and revenue. Virtual reality provides a new tool to do so through immersive experiences. Though typically associated with young male gamers, virtual reality is a versatile media platform that can be applied to many industry verticals to serve diverse demographics. With VR headsets on the cusp of going mainstream, now is the time for brands to start developing VR content that reflects the interests of their audience.


Source: Digiday

Hulu’s Virtual Reality App Coming Next Month

What Happened
Hulu is ready to step into virtual reality. The OTT streaming service has made a VR app set to launch next month, around the same time Samsung’s consumer-facing $99 Gear VR headset starts shipping. Hulu is the latest video streaming service to develop VR experiences to distribute their content. The app will provide users with customized immersive environments to watch Hulu’s existing non-VR content in, such as sitting in Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment for an episode of “Seinfeld.” Moreover, the company is also producing a VR short film called “The Big One,” and reportedly has more original VR content in the pipeline.

What Brands Need To Do
Virtual reality technologies bring a unique, immersive viewing experience to the audience, so it makes sense for the OTT video streaming services to get serious about VR for an extra competitive edge. And unlike Netflix or other popular OTT video services, Hulu is ad-supported for the most part, which opens doors for brands to get on board with their own VR content. As VR sits on the cusp of mass adoption, brands would be wise to explore this burgeoning medium to stay ahead of the curve.


Source: CNET

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 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

Partner Spotlight: WEVR

It’s no secret that Virtual Reality is growing in such a rapid pace, so much so that research firms expect demand for VR devices to reach 14 million units in 2016. This is one of the reasons why the IPG Media Lab made time during the craziness of Oculus Connect to meet with Ricky Ramsaran, Marketing Manager for WEVR – a Venice, California-based VR startup.

During the meeting the Media Lab had the opportunity to demo TheBluVR – originally developed for the Samsung Gear VR – but now on the HTC Vive. The second iteration called TheBlu: Encounter took full advantage of the Vive’s room scale system (the sensors on the headset) and joystick controllers, which allowed us to explore the aquatic environment and get up-close with the sea creatures and the 80-foot blue whale.

TheBlu: Encounter VR experience showcased the capabilities of the WEVR team and the possibilities of the HTC Vive. Because of the success of this experience, HTC decided to invest almost $10 million to enhance the HTC Vive VR content library.