There was one technology you couldn’t ignore if you were at South By Southwest: immersive video. Whether it’s virtual reality, augmented reality, or 360-degree video, vendors would make you think that this technology will be transformative, but marketers must take pause. Only a few short years ago, vendors made us believe that 3D was going to be the next big thing. They were wrong.
One of the coolest uses of VR at SXSW was putting moonwalker Buzz Aldrin on Mars. New Zealand-based 8i captured a fully body, 360-degree hologram of the astronaut and placed him on the surface of Mars for the VR movie 'Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways To Mars.' Since the movie had a computer generated environment, Aldrin needed to appear as a 360-degree hologram in order to make him look more lifelike. In a behind the scenes video, Aldrin remarked: “Leaving an image behind for others to see is like eternal life.”
While SXSW’s first VR Cinema is cool, it’s still just entertainment. Marketers who want immersive content, must take a much more measured approach.
Vimeo helped fuel the immersive video market with its announced support for 360-degree video. Vimeo is very late to the party, significantly trailing YouTube and Facebook’s support for format. 360-degree video is the most promising immersive format for marketers because it doesn’t require goofy goggles, which is part of the reason that 3D didn’t succeed.
Vimeo is trying to differentiate itself by supporting up to 8K resolution, offering a '360 Video School', and by letting creators sell their content. These are all important because the higher the resolution, the better the 360 or VR experience. It’s also important for a platform to help educate creators on how they can raise the bar for their own content.
360-degree, or spherical, video is where marketers should dip their toes for immersive content. The camera technology is relatively cheap and starts at a few hundred dollars for a 360 camera. More and more platforms support 360-degree video delivery as demonstrated by Vimeo’s new support, and the use cases for 360 content are beginning to grow – especially in travel and hospitality markets. For example, Delta recently showed off its upgraded cabins on Facebook with a 360-image.
For relatively low cost, brands can experiment with immersive content to differentiate themselves from the competition. If SXSW is any indication, there’s a flourishing technology market ready to support the growing army of immersive content creators.
Nick Barber is an analyst at Forrester who specializes in video technologies, including live and on-demand video within the enterprise and for customer experiences. Read more about Forrester’s perspective on VR transforming marketing experiences.