Are we moving towards a VR version of Skype? This is the basic idea behind the Posture platform created by a team in Montreal, Canada. The marketing and advertising sectors are already looking to use this new approach as a communication medium.
An Oculus Rift headset plus three Kinect cameras – the Posture platform presented at the ‘Futur en Seine’ digital festival in Paris in mid-June is basically as simple as that in terms of hardware. So what does it do? It communicates using Virtual Reality (VR). You can use it to immerse yourself in a 360° universe where you and others are digitised as avatars and can see and hear each other. The Posture platform was originally developed by Professor Luc Courchesne at the Montreal-based SAT (Society for Technological Arts). The project started off as an immersive 360° screen in the form of an upside-down dome. As it developed, Courchesne added a social dimension by integrating telepresence functionality. The latest advance has been to link up Kinect cameras so as to obtain a digital avatar of each participant in the conversation.
The system as installed at the Futur en Seine festival
A new way to converse?
Emmanuel Durand, one of the project leaders, has a vision of telephone booths equipped with this VR version of Skype. However the project is currently still at prototype stage. The first journalists to test Posture seemed disappointed with the quality of the digital avatars of the interlocutors. But might we really start conversing this way? Realistically, simple conversation can hardly be the main goal, given that the dome, the three Kinects and the Oculus Rift headset are expensive and take quite some time to set up. The more likely objective is to add a social dimension to video games that have been developed for VR – as confirmed by Luc Courchesne’s description of the project. He underlines that the aim is to ‟vastly enrich the social experiences of Virtual Reality".
The Posture inventors are not the only ones looking to incorporate a social angle into new VR tools. It is well known that Facebook has been investing heavily in this area. Now marketing people are also starting to dream about using this new medium. The social aspect is bound to appeal to advertisers wishing to develop new ways of interacting with consumers.
Brands are starting to invest in Virtual Reality as a communication channel. This example is from Coca-Cola.
At the ‘ad:tech’ conference in San Francisco in May, speakers stressed the need for marketing departments to plan ahead for the huge audience that is going to be reachable through the medium of VR. Some journalists and startups have already launched VR initiatives for relaying information in a new way. A number of 360° advertising initiatives have already appeared, in line with the work coming out of Texas and California-based creative studio Reel FX who, according to Forbes magazine, are currently shooting a commercial in Virtual Reality.