Mobile First: The Future Looks 3D
The next game-changer in mobile technology has arrived. Marketers looking for the newest interactive experiences are finding it in 3D environments and 360-degree experiences.
With hardware and software tools available now, and the promise of even more on the horizon, the applications are limited only by the imagination of marketers and the skill of developers. One thing is certain: We’re quickly moving toward the practicalities of virtual reality.
At Trekk, our developers and designers are busy exploring new development tools we can use to serve up a new generation of engaging and immersive experiences that take advantage of 3D technologies and devices.
One track of development is panospheres. Using 360-degree cameras and software tools that precisely stitch the images together, we’re creating virtual panoramic environments that can be explored in all directions—left, right, up, down, all around.
We recently used the technology in an automotive application that places would-be buyers in a virtual automobile. Using an iPad, they can explore the entire vehicle inside and out, virtually kicking the tires. In the driver’s seat, the controls, dashboard, instrument panels and audio system are within reach, with clickable icons that provide supplementary features and selling points. The always-accessible, immersive experience gives visitors a true sense of the vehicle, helping to drive them to the dealership.
With the rapid advancement of 3D technology, critical components like cameras and sensors are increasingly being embedded into the devices themselves. That integration solves a lot of problems for developers, making it easier to create interactive, virtual experiences on today’s phones and tablets, as well as the mobile devices and wearables of the future.
One development we’ve been following is the much-talked-about Google Project Tango. Its prototype is an Android smartphone-like device with sensors inside that track motion to create a 3D model of the environment around it. For example, it could accurately replicate your living room to help you pick out new furniture or it could be used in-store to change the entire shopping experience.
Google was quick to get the device and its accompanying software development kit into developers’ hands to see what the technology is capable of doing. Currently, Walgreens is working on a pilot test to create an immersive in-store experience. Shoppers using Tango-enabled smartphones or tablets can select an item on their shopping list and be quickly directed through the store to find its place on the shelf. Along the way, they’re exposed to sales and special offers that virtually pop out as they walk down aisles. Passing through certain aisles can even earn shoppers loyalty points, creating a video game-like reward experience.
Virtual Reality in a Box
An even more recent Google project is called Cardboard. And it’s just that—a cardboard viewer that holds an Android phone. It looks low-tech, especially compared to Google Glass. However, its stereoscopic 3D technology holds significant promise as an alternative approach to virtual reality.
Unveiled at July’s Google I/O event, the project offers inexpensive virtual reality tools to whet developers’ appetites. Its open-source software toolkit makes writing VR software as simple as building a Web or mobile app. By making it easy and inexpensive to experiment with VR, Google hopes to encourage developers to build the next generations of immersive digital experiences and make them available to everyone.
Developers have taken the bait and are building apps and demos—for iOS, as well as Android. Already, you can watch MP4 videos in 3D, take a virtual tour of a faraway place, fly a plane or take a ride on a virtual roller coaster. And they’re just getting started.
There’s no doubt that there are many more 3D experiences to come. As the technology advances, consumers will come to expect these types of experiences on the mobile devices they can no longer do without. As the tools play out in the market, I’ll keep you updated on how marketers are using the opportunity to engage and interact with target audiences.
M.J. Anderson is CMO at multichannel marketing firm, Trekk, Inc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.