The concept of Immersion technology has been in the works for decades now. Immersion is simply the sensitivity of being physically present in a virtual world. An immersive digital environment is an interactive, computer-generated reality which provides an illusion of being in a different world.
Immersion hardware comes in various configurations, and the most sophisticated ones often provide an excellent experience. The resolution, field of view, optical calibration, low latency, and high refresh rate are some of the factors that play a huge role in the performance of the immersion device.
Advances in Immersive technology birthed Extended Reality (XR) which refers to all real and computer-generated environments. Extended Reality features the following:
Virtual Reality is an extension of Extended Reality which immerses users in a fully computer-generated environment. One could imagine him/herself riding on the back of a dragon or living underwater in Atlantis. It is no surprise that the early adopters of this technology were notably the gaming and entertainment industries.
Unlike Virtual Reality which is fully simulated, Augmented Reality is an overlay of computer-generated content one real-world environments. An example of Augmented Reality environments is the Snapchat filters which overlay digital figures such as glasses, animal filters on one’s head. Furniture giant IKEA developed a platform that lets you see how different furniture looks like in your house before purchase. AR glasses, smartphones and tablets are some devices that make it possible to experience Augmented Reality.
Mixed Reality is a bridge that connects Augmented and Virtual Reality. You can think of it to be a hybrid that lets real and computer-generated environments to co-exist. MR requires a headset and more processing power than standalone VR or AR. A great example of Mixed Reality is Microsoft HoloLens2. The HoloLens2 enables you to place objects in a room and interrelate with that object in different ways.
What might pique the interest of most minds is the rapid adoption of XR, most notably Virtual Reality in the gaming industry. Virtual Reality headsets were mostly introduced to the market by early 2016; since then, there has been a massive upscale in the numbers demanding for XR gaming. People can get to enjoy the thrill of experiencing XR through the use of headsets like the Oculus Quest, HTC Vive Pro, and Oculus Go.
Here are a couple of reasons why XR is fun and great for gaming:
XR gaming would not be achievable if not for the evolution and advancement of technology. This advancement led to the possibility of Natural User Interfaces (NUI), which makes human-computer communication a pleasant experience. Examples of NUIs are touchscreens, gesture recognition systems, speech recognition which are key features in most XR wearables.
In fact, according to TechRepublic, Microsoft’s August de Los Reyes said at a 2008 conference that NUI was the “next evolutionary stage in computing from the Graphical User Interface.”
Another feature that enhances and gives credence to XR gaming is the first-person perspective. Imagine yourself as a pilot in the cockpit of a British Airways aircraft flying from London’s Heathrow to Paris’s Charles De Gaulle.
All decisions ranging from flight pattern, altitude, and so on are to be decided by you (and the control tower), but hey, you’re the one in charge. If the plane faces an unfortunate and imminent crash, you get to feel like you are the main character in the plane.
Such experiences make gaming memorable and are possible as a result of first-person perspectives. The first-person perspective is rendered from the player’s point of view. It is no surprise that adventure, sailing and driving games incorporate mostly the first-person perspective.
The first-person perspective in XR incorporates avatar game mechanics in which the player’s avatar sees with its own avatar eyes. As such, it allows for easier aiming, better game immersion, and inclusion since there exists no representation of the avatar blocking the player’s viewpoint.
Games that are not avatar-based, on the other hand, make it tough to understand timing and distances essential to jump between platforms. A game without avatar game mechanics can also cause motion sickness in some players; an almost non-existent phenomenon in XR gaming because of its low latency features.
The degree of Freedom implies the number of different directions an object can move in 3D space, and it plays a massive role in XR gaming. There are typically two types of degrees of freedom in XR:
3DOF headsets can figure out where you are looking, i.e. it tracks head orientation. 6DOF headsets, on the other hand, can also track orientation and position so they can also track your position in space.
The variation of 3DOF and 6DOF in XR technology is that 6DOF provides a platform to move freely and naturally in the virtual world. The concept of immersion is so reinforced because everything behaves as it would in the real world. Objects can be viewed from all angles while maintaining a position or moving in space. Gamers, therefore, get to enjoy a fully immersive experience when moving in a virtual world as they would in the real world.
Vive Focus, Oculus Santa Cruz and Pico Neo are examples of Standalone 6DOF headsets already in the market.
The last point to touch on is Haptic feedback. Haptic feedback is more of a mode of communication rather than a specific technology. Humans have five sensory tracts, but traditional electronics devices communicate with humans, mainly through hearing and sight. Haptic feedback simulates the sense of touch and bridges the gap between human-computer interactions. This means you can touch your computer or computer-generated graphics and feel them. Imagine playing Call of Duty using VR headsets, and you can feel yourself dragging a wounded soldier on the battlefield!
Advances in VR/MR headsets are constantly on the rise, with a lot of options to choose from. Talk about the PS4 VR to the PS4, Oculus Rift, S, Quest or Go; the days of few choices are more than over. The gaming industry is also experiencing the release of more VR, MR games to match up with the powerful headsets.
Defector, best enjoyed with the Oculus Rift and Oculus Rift S is showing a lot of great promise. No-man’s sky is an action-adventure survival game that has been one of the most anticipated game releases in the VR gaming world for the year. Other VR/MR games gaining steam are ILMxLAB’s Vader Immortal, Space Pirate Trainer which works great with the HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality and Oculus headsets, Astro Bot, Beat Saber and Tetris Effect to mention a few.
There are also lots of AR games out there. Talk of the Pokemon Go, Ingress, Harry Potter: Wizard’s Unite, Minecraft Earth, Temple Run: Treasure Hunters, Parallel Kingdom, Jurassic World Alive Augmented Reality games and so much more!
It is speculated that by 2021, US digital marketing spending will have hit $120 billion. In that same year, XR technology services are expected to reach a whopping high of $200 billion. To key into that data and reap its promising prospects, XR gaming and associated hardware vendors are stepping up their games to engage their audience with these exciting tech platforms. Effective branding and marketing, therefore, take center-stage in how the XR gaming industry gets to its teeming customers.
Here are a few reasons why and how the gaming industry incorporates branding and ads into their marketing strategies:
It has been found that VR/MR elicited ‘emotional engagement than in a 2D environment and 17% higher emotional engagement than a 360-degree video on a flat-screen’ according to a recent study. To deeply seize the user’s attention, XR branding teams create a flow of storytelling that users have come to associate with the XR experience and synergize these with the explanatory elements of the ad/game. This seeks to seamlessly divert the attention of the user to the brand itself without tampering with the user experience. The ability to capture user interest earns the brand and ultimate loyalty of the user.
XR is poised to massively disrupt how people shop! Take BMW for example. They created a VR app that uses the Oculus headset that offers a virtual product presentation of products and what more? Even take a test-drive! Gaming gets ahead in this industry because it is already the biggest adopter of XR technologies and so, XR branding teams in the gaming industry implement these in their products.
In fact, according to Forbes, XR technologies are already gaining traction in real estate for optimum buying-selling experiences. So, imagine you can go through a demo of Prince of Persia then decide if you’d like to buy the game. Awesome, right?
AR was relatively unknown to the general populace until Pokemon Go; AR adopting immediately took up steam after. According to Interactiveschools, the game took just 19 days to reach 50 million users!
What brands took cognizance of is the amount of data amassed in terms of locations of different users. Analysis of this data helps other XR gaming brands use data derived from their own products to compartmentalize differing locations and execute Pinpoint marketing. Pinpoint marketing involves pulling resources and knowing where to focus advertisements, gain more users, and generate optimum profit.
Extended Reality technology has been moving at a faster rate than ever, and the gaming industry has keyed into it more than any other industry. With the use of XR tech and wearables, gamers get to feel like the principal characters in a game while absorbing all the action like they would in the real world. We can then conclude that Extended Reality is the new point of focus for the gaming industry and everybody affiliated with it.