Navigable, immersive content has been used to digitally showcase products for some time. A choice marketing method of estate agents, big brands, luxury goods and large property portals, content beyond that of the ‘flat’ image or video, or stereo audio, is becoming more commonplace.
The following immersive content types are now used across the internet to add variation, stickiness and immersion to the user experience:
Interactive, panoramic photography, which perhaps immerses the user within 360 degrees of ‘surrounding’ imagery whereby the user is intended to the centre-point of the circular motion, with ‘hotspots’ added for additional click through options.
Products photographed numerous times, with the product as the focal point, with an algorithm then applied to stitch the photos together allowing the user to orbit the object.
Google Streetview or Matterport methods applied internally within a structure or building, or externally to an area or space, to provide interactive wayfinding within a 3D mapped environment.
360 degree video content (a slightly newer method we explore more below) with multiple options for viewing, be it in browser, with or without touch and gesture control, or in a stereoscopic viewing device like Google Cardboard. ‘Gaze’ or touch options are used, again via hotspots (areas of the content defined as ‘clickable’), to allow the user to navigate from one piece of content to the next.
During the past decade, as some of these immersive techniques require a non-native browser extension not to mention quite a bit of cash, more often than not, content creators, businesses and brands have shied away from mainstream distribution.
More recently, however, as the options have been further pioneered by Facebook, Google and the like, native browser support has grown and content has become more accessible. This in turn has driven down the cost of production and increased the appetite of content creators for the technology.
Case in point is Google Cardboard. Now with a few years under it’s belt, this VR-enabling, low price-pointed product has emancipated and facilitated the growth of immersion design and therein, has pushed optical, AV manufacturers such as GoPro to further enable content production through production kit (check out the GoPro Fusion). When 360 degree stereoscopic content is viewed through the Cardboard devices, especially when the immersive content in itself is three-dimensional or motion-based, the experience feels impressive.
Interactive evangelists would argue that the requirement of a secondary device negates true content immersion, that immersion should be through the narrative and purpose of the content itself, but I for one feel that given the multiplicity of ways in which 360 degree content can be deployed, it is now more of choice of how immersed the user wants to be, rather than whether or not immersion is an option at all. A recent second screen article adds additional testimony to this.
HUB’s 360 degree VR immersive content creation for DLD College, one of London’s oldest independent colleges, is an example of how accessible these techniques have now become, and more so, how they can be used across industry, be that Education, Property, Retail or otherwise. The 180+ still example above is the London skyline at dusk and will become part of a Cardboard-based virtual tour highlighting the facilities of the college.
To accompany the immersive experience, custom cardboard VR goggles have been commissioned, which fold down in to a bag-able box.