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 In physical world marketing, product innovation & aelab, SXSW

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

It seems that augmented reality and virtual reality are dominating the SXSW space this year and have marketers and tech moguls drooling at every turn. With a plethora of beta testing and UX set-ups throughout the SXSW 2016 interactive sessions, these top trending concepts are shedding light on an even newer term – “mixed reality” or MR.

After attending one particular SXSW session, “Internet of Things: Wearables & Underskin Marketing“, the panel of career professionals immersed in this space kept eluding to this new MR technology. But what exactly is it?

Alanna Cotton, Samsung’s VP of Mobile Computing Marketing, started out with a little show-and-tell of their wearable tech the Samsung Gear S2 using this video.

Cotton mentioned how Samsung has been “bullish” in the wearable tech movement yet is delivering on the idea of a more “seamless experience” to the consumer. It’s no longer about how cool that gadget or widget is but how does it fit or work into my life – and does it do it seamlessly.

Establishment of “Mixed Reality”

Second to speak on the panel was Thom Gruhler, CVP of Microsoft who featured the Hololens – which is rising in popularity in the VR world. Expect Thom related the Hololens experience to more of a “mixed reality“. It isn’t fully augmented reality and it isn’t the fully immersive virtual reality either. The Hololens maps the world around you and places holograms using your current space. He demonstrated with one of their recent NFL commercials, offering a little joke about being a Seahawks fan to a Texas audience.

What was most fascinating about Gruhler’s insight was his introduction of this mixed reality concept – and it makes sense. Where and when will we ever have mass adoption of a virtual reality optical where we can’t see the actual world around us? But, if you can combine those two, then we may be on to something.

Gruhler’s explained that this AR to VR to MR concept is something to get in on fast, noting that Hololens is now in beta mode and available to developers. Three key takeaways from Thom was to:

  1. Get into it now – don’t wait or it’ll slip by you;
  2. Test early, test often – with whatever you’re looking to integrate into MR;
  3. Have fun with innovation;

Mixed Reality Innovation

Once the MR experience was well established, the panel then shifted to Under Armour’s Head of NA Media & Advertising, Doug Ziewacz. Doug focused this MR experience into something really relatable to all of us, Digital Health. This is among some of the more well-known apps a lot of us already use, including MyFitnessPal – which has 157 million registered users! Doug’s insight for Under Armour was taking on the notion of “how do we show we’re making athletes better if we don’t have the data to back it up?”

Under Armour’s marketing approach to this mixed reality is the 4 Key Pillars of Overall Health and Wellness:

  1. Daily Activity
  2. Fitness
  3. Sleep
  4. Nutrition

Ziewacz was quick to direct attention to their UA Band video to demonstrate how having the data is just the beginning and that to innovate they must think about how that information is making athletes better today. Doug even touched on the “connected shoe” soon to be further innovated down the road for activity tracking. They’ve already released the SpeedForm Gemini 2 which is growing quickly in popularity.

Each panelist gave superb insight into this emerging technology and its convergence with our realities today. Alanna Cotton said that this kind of technology is “ready for mass adoption and that it will grow and grow quite rapidly.” Then Thom Gruhler summed it up nicely saying that “Mobility is not about the devices we carry with us, but about the experiences that travel with us.”

If that’s any light into the future of this emerging trend, then it would seem mixed reality will be the new way to market to the next generation of technology.

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