March 11, 2016
Sources say Augmented Reality will be big for enterprise; Virtual Reality, on the other hand, is expected to have mainly entertainment/gaming applications. The following use cases of wearable technology may seem like consumer use cases, but they’re not. They’re instances of major enterprise organizations evaluating new technologies and finding ways to incorporate wearable tech – not AR glasses but this time VR headsets – to propel their businesses forward. The following companies are not putting wearable devices into the hands of employees who then interact with customers; they’re putting devices – however atypical and modest – into consumers’ hands to build their brand and generate revenue.
Indeed, an emerging application area for wearable tech seems to involve major name brands using AR and VR technologies to engage with consumers. Marriott, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s are among the latest brands to turn to AR/VR in their marketing strategies—to excite and entertain customers, appeal to new and younger audiences, and generate business.
Marriott has been testing out VRoom Service – a first-of-its-kind, in-room Virtual Reality travel experience – for guests staying at specific locations. The cutting-edge guest service was created in collaboration with Samsung, and is one of the first business applications of Samsung’s Gear VR technology.
Last year at certain Marriott hotels, guests were able to order a Samsung Gear VR headset to their rooms for up to 24 hours. Once delivered, guests could use the device to view inspiring “VR Postcards” from places like Chile and Beijing. To create the postcards (available on Samsung’s Milk VR service), Marriott filmed the journeys of three travelers across the globe using state-of-the-art cameras. The result: an adventure-inspiring virtual reality travel series.
VR is not entirely new to the travel and hospitality industry. You may have read our blog post about Royal Caribbean’s foray into VR to promote a new line of cruise ships. Travel and hospitality brands see VR as a medium for consumers to explore destinations and make decisions like where to travel, what hotel to book, and which attractions to see.
At first glance, the Marriott case is about using VR headsets to enhance the guest experience; but it’s not all entertainment. It’s actually a great marketing strategy: Guests on vacation for business or pleasure at one Marriott hotel are able to virtually travel to other destinations, which feeds their desire to travel and encourages them to book rooms at other Marriott locations.
Coca-Cola and McDonald’s
VR headsets are not cheap. The Samsung Gear VR Powered by Oculus is about $100, but it needs to work with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The Oculus Rift headset will likely cost around $600, yet the accessories and computing power required to run the technology should rack the price up to over a grand. As a big name brand, how do you leverage wearable technology that not everyone can afford? How do you seize upon the latest advances in virtual reality technology and still hit multiple demographics? Well, if you’re Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, you go the “Google Cardboard” route and bring VR to the masses…cheaply.
Both the beverage company and the fast food chain are considering new retail packaging that can be turned into makeshift VR headsets by consumers of their products. In the case of Coca-Cola, the packaging is just a prototype (it hasn’t yet hit stores); but in the near future when you buy a 12-pack of Coke, you may very well have the option to fold the cardboard box into glasses or goggles, which will open you up to some kind of virtual reality experience – of course curated by Coca-Cola – when paired with a smartphone.
Coca-Cola has toyed with VR before: At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the company staged a virtual reality experience for fans, in which participants wearing Oculus Rift headsets were “transported” from a replica Maracana Stadium locker room to the pitch. For the multinational beverage corporation, such VR experiments are about more than brand awareness; it’s about giving consumers early (even first) access to new (cool) technologies and experiences—all “thanks to Coke.”
Just recently – as in the first two weekends of March – McDonald’s launched a limited run of special Happy Meal boxes, which could be deconstructed by children (with the help of their parents) into Google Cardboard-esque VR displays dubbed “Happy Goggles.”
McDonald’s trialed the idea with 3,500 convertible Happy Meal boxes at 14 of its restaurants in Sweden. Each meal came with a pair of VR lenses; perforated lines in the cardboard containers instructed kids where to tear and fold to build their own VR headsets – in iconic McDonald’s red, of course – and where to insert the lenses. Borrowing a parent’s smartphone, the children could then play a Sportlov- or Swedish ski holiday-themed virtual reality game called “Slope Stars.”
As McDonald’s considers a global rollout, you might wonder, “What’s the point?” More than a gimmick, the fast food chain believes the promotion is about connecting families in these digital times we live in: Spend $5.00 on a Happy Meal and have the opportunity to build a virtual reality headset with your child. And while the cardboard goggles must smell strongly of chicken nuggets, McDonald’s is successfully aligning itself with an emerging technology, doing its part to introduce virtual reality to an audience of millions and potentially begin to normalize the format for the world’s youth.