“WHEN PEOPLE PUT ON 360 HEADSETS, THEY EXPERIENCE FILM AS THOUGH THEY WERE THERE... IF PEOPLE ON CAMERA TALK TO THEM, THEY FEEL A HUGE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION”
The biggest USP of VR is the ability to place users in environments – real or fictional – that inspire awe and delight. Just as REWIND gave users access to the International Space Station in Home – A Spacewalk (see left), adam&eveDDB and MPC Creative developed the Buster the Boxer VR, where visitors to John Lewis’ Oxford Street store could don an Oculus Rift headset connected to a Leap Motion detector and Kinect camera and play with the adorable animals – including Buster the Boxer – from John Lewis’ 2016 Christmas ad. Set in a back garden, with lots of brickwork, foliage and fur, the experience was developed in Unreal Engine due to its strength in visual fidelity. Users can ‘conduct’ the animals to make them jump, accompanied by a subtle melody as well as ambient rustles and growls. Intuitive handtracking was key here to reduce the learning curve for new users. “John Lewis is a family brand,” explains MPC Creative’s interactive creative director, Andre Assalino. “We knew the audience would include kids and grown-ups of all ages, so we didn’t want a complex controller system.”
Another challenge was rendering such rich content at 90 frames per second per eye – something essential in VR to avoid motion sickness. “If there’s any lag, it’ll make you feel really sick,” says Assalino, who also suggests thinking beyond the headset. So other shoppers could understand the experience, MPC Creative developed a 3D camera that captured the player and transposed it on-screen onto their experience in real time. At the end of the game, the player received a receipt featuring a URL of their video. “VR traditionally isn’t shareable, so that was really important to us,” Assalino adds.
On the more fantastical side, Framestore worked with Warner Bros to develop Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them VR, an interactive experience with mind-bending VFX for Google Daydream based on JK Rowling’s latest tale. The experience is set within protagonist Newt Scamander’s shed, where players can flick through his books, cast spells using a wand (in reality, the Daydream controller) and even meet magical characters from the film. The project pushed the boundaries of what can be done with mobile VR, and is an excellent example of what’s to come. The team invented techniques to combine realtime interactive elements with an environment rendered offline, increasing the visual fidelity of the experience and making it all the more believable. Similarly to Buster the Boxer, the strength of this project lay in its strong integration with other marketing strands. “It’s important not to create a VR project in isolation,” states Assalino.
PROMPTING REAL FEELINGS
But VR’s power to inspire needn’t just be about spectacle – its ability to generate empathy with real world situations is one of its biggest strengths. “When people put on 360 headsets, they experience film as though they were there,” says Henry Stuart, CEO and co-founder of VR studio Visualise. “If people on camera talk to you, you feel an emotional connection. There’s huge value in that.” A Walk In Their Shoes, a recent project by AT&T and Mycoskie for ethical shoe brand Toms, involved creating a 360° film for Google Cardboard that follows a Toms customer to Colombia, where the viewer sees how his purchase has helped a child there. The inexpensive viewer was given to Toms customers when they purchased the shoes. Another Google Cardboard project is #prideforeveryone, a global VR Pride parade made for Fundación Sergio Urrego that allows anyone – even in places where homosexuality is illegal – to join in the fun and know that they’re not alone.
This sense of closeness also allows us to explore historical events in an unprecedented way – something sure to interest brands with a strong historical narrative. Excellent recent examples include Remembering Pearl Harbor, a collaboration between TIME’s LifeVR, HTC and Deluxe VR,