Monday morning not long ago, I received an email from a marketing manager working at a large energy company. She wanted to do ‘something with AR/VR’. The technology should be used to promote new consumer energy products on events throughout Europe. Here is how that project went.
I know, especially marketeers, are attracted to new technology. I am too. They see the potential of looking cool to the outer world, and, well, although they will not always admit it, having your own app running on VR glasses will make you look cool internally as well. It is not about a businesscase, it’s PR. And that is ok, as long as you agree on that. You can start a project just because you want to find out what a new technology can do for you. And, needless to say, since you are experimenting, you might fail.
I told the lady who wrote me, it is dangerous to take a technology as a basis for a project, rather then a customer or a problem, and then demand an immediate success. We are on uncharted territories and we should use it to learn. So either use such a project as a showcase or do user research and see which technology could be used best to create the solution. If its AR, or VR, then fine. Otherwise, use something else.
So, of course, I ended up doing a project with extremely high stakes and expectations. It could not fail because they already told everybody about it. It took about an hour with the development team to know we could never deliver what this marketing lady had in mind. She had seen movies on youtube with the most marvellous AR and VR experiences. She did not realise these are created with Aftereffects (so manipulated), rather than real life footage. Products like Hololens or Magicleap are impressive, but not really mature. And using these products in live settings, well, that does not happen all that much.
We found that interacting with augmented reality is rather hard. You need to navigate in a three dimensional space and make hand movements in mid-air, without haptic feedback. That requires some practice. And people visiting a seminar do normally not have this kind of practice. So combined with the low resolution images, the audience would not be very impressed with the MVP that was created. Also, our client needed to invest in 4 glasses, because the battery only lasts about 2 hours.
After months of work the marketing manager also found out this would not be the key to fireworks. What happened? A new pitch was arranged with 2 other agencies. My team was also granted a time slot to have a second chance. We kindly declined.
The lessons I have learned? All new technologies, like AI, IoT, VR, AR, chatbots and Blockchain (pff, remember blockchain?) have a scent of magic. But they are usually being oversold. Big consultancy firms keep on writing how it will change your business, nay, everyone’s live, nay, the universe! And so everybody gets nervous and wants to jump on the train. But new technologies come and go, not everything is suitable to spice up the lives of your clients. You will need to find out and experiment. And hire someone who can tell you in all honesty, without emptying your pockets what the possibilities and limitations are. Better yet, start with finding a solution to a problem, just like in the old days and see how new technology can be of assistance. It will save you some money. And a headache.