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Don’t Forget to Mix It

As VR stalls, a new hybrid approach, mixed reality, is emerging, says Matt Pluckrose.

2016 was billed as the big year for virtual reality (VR), with brands including Facebook, Jaguar and McDonald’s incorporating it into consumer marketing and promotions. However, ‘mixed reality’ (MR) is being heralded as the technology to watch for in 2017.

Statista, a statistics and reports site, has predicted active VR users will reach 171 million by 2018, from 43 million in 2016. It also forecasts revenues from VR software to increase more than 3,000% in four years.

Yet sales of VR devices have slowed rapidly. A recent survey suggests sales of the HTC Vive grew below expectations in 2016 and Oculus Rift sales were also slow. Google has claimed that “too many brands are doing VR just to say they are doing VR” and believes it will take much longer for VR to reach the mass market.

Although brands still believe it is important to incorporate VR into their storytelling or as an immersive experience, VR can be restrictive as it disconnects the brand or sales person from the consumer via the hardware.

This is where MR could steal the thunder. The combination of VR and AR (augmented reality) to make MR is starting to turn heads. Microsoft’s Hololens technology blends the real world and the virtual world together, so the user still can see the world around them, through special mapping sensors that create the mixed reality.

Brands can get information about what the user is trying to click on so they can update information and follow up opportunities for a better sales/customer experience. The technology also allows the brand to interact with the customer as they are using it via a salesperson.

Microsoft says this technology will change the in-store experience in many ways and allow businesses, such as automotive companies, to build showrooms in smaller, inner city venues rather than large expensive traditional dealerships. Customers will see and drive a virtual car, which they can adapt, while a physical salesperson talks them through the potential purchase. Microsoft says this prevents the brand from “losing the customer to VR”.

However, mixed reality does not mean the end of the VR craze or that marketers should stop investing in the technology. Whether brands deploy virtual or mixed reality comes down to sales and marketing objectives and will be specific to certain industries.

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