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In the marketing industry, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality were celebrated as a revolution a few years ago. Today, the entire industry has adopted a more sober view. We met with Daniel Sack, Managing Director of 361/DRX – a start-up and spin-off of Avantgarde – and talked about the technologies’ genuine use values and their meaningful integration into the customer journey.

Daniel, a few years ago everybody was talking about virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). What became of all that hype?

Rarely before had technological progress fired the imagination of marketers so much, rarely before had expectations been so great. Reality looks different though: on the one hand we are looking at a 1.4 billion dollar investment in the controversial hardware specialist Magic Leap, and on the other at sales figures that were never able to achieve the dizzying heights that had been predicted. Disillusionment has settled in within the industry. However, I believe the advertising industry would be well advised to start taking a more differentiated look at the topic.

What do you mean by that?

This starts with distinguishing between VR, AR and MR. Usually all technologies are mentioned in the same breath, which totally ignores the fact that the potential of VR as a completely artificial reality is inherently limited. The expansion of our reality by AR and particularly MR, on the other hand, offers nearly endless possibilities. What we lack to ensure we to get beyond the hype are applications with genuine use value and the necessary reach, which can be achieved by making the technology more accessible.

Could you give us a concrete example?

The automotive industry is predestined for the application of mixed reality: with the proper hardware, potential customers could virtually discover a car prototype or a new model, at almost any touch point, for instance, at a trade show or dealership. Different body shapes may be combined with variations of the interior to provide an extremely impressive and at the same time helpful experience for the user.


The crux of the matter is the moment when the user takes off the glasses: true, they continue their customer journey, but if they don’t happen to possess a mixed reality headset, they no longer have adequate access to the content they have experienced. After all, when the expensively produced 3D content is played in conventional, two-dimensional media, the desired effect evaporates. Consequently, the decisive impact on the users – the WOW! moment – does not occur.

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How can this be resolved?

The challenge consists of creating another, non-stationary touch point which allows for a consistent and seamless user experience without spectacles or a headset. This is the only way to make sure the three-dimensional storytelling can continue once the user leaves the trade show stand or the car dealership.

What does this mean in concrete terms?

It can only succeed if you use Web-AR, a form of augmented reality which requires no elaborate hardware devices or even a special app. With web technology and a simple URL in their mobile browser, the prospective car buyers can use their smartphone or tablet to put their dream model into the garage driveway. With its Into the Spider Verse campaign Sony, for instance, gives us a taste of what this kind of solution might look like in the future.

Web or social media AR, the direct integration of augmented reality in, say, Facebook, offer users the chance to keep following the story of the digital reality experience on their own terminal. When this is rigorously implemented it could open up fascinating possibilities for consistent 3D storytelling across several touch points that ideally lead the user into the world of e-commerce.

What does this mean for marketers?

Thanks to their great reach, web and social media AR give you the option of integrating stories into the customer journey in a technologically sophisticated and meaningful way, thereby telling them to their conclusion. Mixed reality, too, is making rapid progress, especially since the future hardware generations open up entirely new possibilities for application. Marketers looking for ways to charge their consumer touch points with innovative experiences will recognise the potential. Mixed reality and augmented reality should not be isolated highlights but must be integrated into the customer journey in a meaningful way. This is the only way to tap the full potential of these technologies.

You can get more info on the subsidiary 361/DRX here.

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