The Drum @ Cannes Lions 2018: Every Xmas stocking this year will have affordable VR headsets

As augmented, mixed and virtual reality are finding a home in every aspect of our lives (business, consumer and commercial), it's only natural for us to question how it will actually change the world. AR and VR are approaching faster than many realize and these technologies will be increasingly integrated with our lives. Are marketers ready for the roll-out?

During the Deloitte Digital 'Digital Reality: Ready or Not, Here We Come' panel, with The Drum at Cannes Lions 2018, industry experts discussed the big opportunities and challenges of exploring digital reality in the enterprise.

Breaking down the barriers

Over the past 24 months, the barriers have been knocked down - and there is a flight path to continue doing so over for the next 12 months, according to Deloitte Digital's digital reality business leader, Allan Cook. "If you want VR goggles, this time last year they were $800 to buy them and the $3,000 laptop drive it," he explains. "Now you can get fantastic VR headsets for $200. Anyone in this room has an AR device in their pocket. Smartphones at core are an AR kit."

There is now over a billion devices that are AR ready on Android or iOS. If you think you can't make money from these apps take a look at Niantic's Pokemon Go. The first company to make $10 Million a day using AR. "If anyone wants to make big money in AR, go talk to those guys. They have Starbucks and Bank of California sponsoring them. They have found the market in which to make a terrific amount of money," added Cook.

"At scale you can achieve what the consumer wants through mobile devices" explains Intel global content, policy and technology strategist, Ravi Vehal. "Scale happens when there is standardization, however, right now AR/VR is still going though growing pains."

Additionally, he says that we shouldn't wait to reach that state of perfection with AR/VR with the use of 5G.

"You don't want to have to wait and procrastinate to start something. The best way to test the water is putting your feet in it."

Diageo head of technology and innovation, Benjamin Lickfett however still has question marks around it.

"If you look at the different elements of AR, VR, etc., they are all driven by the same consumer demand, where they constantly have their mobile device on them. They view the world through it, which is here to stay. The experiences are different, more personalized, more integrated. These trends are there.

"If you look at Pokemon GO, it was the first validation point. If it's well done it's really intuitive and there are no real barriers to adaptation. But was there any real mass adoption after that?"

Don't jump the VR/AR gun - get the content right

There will always be consumers that jump in early and according to Sony Pictures Entertainment's senior vice president digital distribution, Pete Wood, that's absolutely fine. On the business side of things though, you can't afford to.

"The average production takes 9 to 12 months and to sell this sort of strategy it takes at least a year. Furthermore, you have to constantly adjust that strategy week in week out. It's really important that you do spend some time studying, understanding and being out at conferences to try and get an idea of what is out there.

But don't go and waste a ton of money producing bad content just because you think you need to tick a box. Really make sure you understand what you do and how you do it so that you are not left behind."

Beyond the hype and the gimmick

For content creators and brands, the hype of using AR/VR is big right now according to Lickfett. Agencies and creatives love the idea of new immersive worlds and all what you can do with it, but production still takes a long time and it is still very tough to get it right, he said.

He further explained: "In terms of how brands can use it in story telling, it's still in the pilot testing phase. However, the interesting part is the creativity in the sense of how to use AR to actually add value for consumers and drive utility, as well as within your business, using AR for training, engagement etc.

Organizations need to really push where the value is in AR and how we use it in a way that is not a gimmick innovation story."

Cook said he's really excited about how VR is going to democratize content creation. "We are going to be able to create 3DR situations which will dramatically drive down the price of creating content," he explains. "Suddenly you're not going to have to be a multimillion dollar business to create incredible content. You are going to be able to take this content at a fraction of the budget and create unique experiences to create unique executions."

To pull audiences fully into the VR/AR world, you can't just tell a 2D story, explained Wood. We must really understand the technology and create experiences only for that world. "If you do that right you can create a fully immersive experience with the consumer that you can't do in traditional storytelling.

The walk-in VR is a great example of that. In 20 seconds or so you get an emotional connection with the character that you couldn't achieve in an hour of traditional cinema."

Cook believes that the expected time frame of digital reality adoption is just around the corner. There are a billion devices capable of AR/VR today.

"VR is now very affordable," said Cook. "Every Christmas stocking is going to have a VR headset in it for $200 this year, because we all don't know what to give our teenage children, or our spouses don't know what to give us. Everyone part of the barrier are toppling downwards."

In regards to the interactive nature of the platforms, Wood expressed that if you really want to use these mediums correctly it's all about interaction. The challenge though, is producing something very different to traditional linear film making.

"You've suddenly got gaming meets traditional filming and it's blending together. From a creative perspective, there are a lot of film directors that would love do something in VR but it they don't understand the technology, how to create interactive experiences, or the tools that they need, they're not going to get anything a part from a 2D story in a 3D world.

The first major VR 'film' is not going to be made by someone like Spielberg, it's going to be made by some unknown kid. The youth approach storytelling differently because they have been immersed in tech since birth."

He concluded: "One size does not fit all. You're producing content for specific consumers and platforms on specific channels.

With the right type of content you can reach specific consumers and you don't really need to get to a mass scale of one thing for everybody."

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