Transforming And Personalizing The Customer Experience With New Immersive Technologies

New technologies are rapidly advancing and merging at the same time. Integrating these technologies to reinvent content can create new personalized business-to-consumer and workflow experiences that drive bottom-line growth.
— By Karen White

There was mobile technology and then augmented reality (AR) and then virtual reality (VR). Then came mobile AR/VR. There was analytics and then artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Then came dashboards in which AI presents analytics based on machines that learn through data manipulation and present optimal outcomes.

Content presentation is undergoing a transformation, whether talking about marketing content directed at consumers or content directed at the workforce. Merging content with new technologies is one element of what Accenture calls Industry X.0, a new digital paradigm in which businesses embrace a constant flow of new technology changes by combining them in different configurations to produce the best results.

Blurring the Lines Between Real Life and Digital Imagery
Anyone who has been to an updated theater to see a movie has witnessed what it means to combine creative content with new technologies in a big and exciting way. Computer-generated imagery is commonplace today, with seats synced to move with the screen action.

What the audience may not know is that technology like VR is used long before the movie hits the screen to help actors and actresses learn to perform in a virtual landscape, invisible without a VR headset. Now think in terms of advertising or employee training instead of entertainment, though knowledge transfer programs are increasingly merging learning and entertainment. The possibilities are literally endless.

VR is the most immersive technology used right now. Currently, it requires wearing a headset that creates a 360-degree simulated environment.

AR overlays a person's real-life physical environment with digital imagery generated by a mobile device (think of Pokémon GO).

There is also mixed reality (MR) which places a digital imagery in a real-life physical environment, but the imagery can engage with the real, physical world.

Redefining What's Real
One of the ways to understand the radical nature of new content creation is to look at what Digital Domain is already offering.

The company is a pioneer in applying technology to create transportive experiences, originally to entertain through films, but today, the company offers a variety of other services. Via VR, experience a tornado or interact with virtual humans.

Digital Doman is also producing advertisements for businesses. In one ad campaign for Intel, the "#PhelpsFace" ad highlights the speed of Intel's technology. The Olympic medal winner Michael Phelps watches race footage on a slow computer, while sitting next to him is actor Jim Parsons making fun of the computer. They sat together with no background or props. Digital Domain added in everything else – laptops, cars, city lights, screens, and set extensions. There are also ads for the Dollar Shave Club, Nike, Nissan, and many other corporate giants making use of new technologies for ad creation.

Adding special effects in advertising content is just one level of applied technology. Digital Domain is also offering advanced technologies for capturing, producing, and distributing live stream and video on-demand VR. Distribution is via an advanced, cloud-based system.

For example, the "Doritos Bold Stage" project let people feel like they were at the SXSW BoldStage. Using a Digital Domain mobile app, fans could watch the interactive 360 video streams and could also use in-app functionality to post directly to Twitter and vote for the next trigger of special effects, like lasers or fire.

Informing and Entertaining
The immersive experience is taking hold and promises to change the way people are entertained and informed. Though Digital Domain is ahead of the times in some regards, it is already showing what can be done. Think in terms of practical business applications. Marketing campaigns with special effects are already common. Marketing campaigns that enable the consumer to interact with products via mobile and VR technology is content that will attract the digital generations which crave fast-paced and entertaining content. Consumers can take virtual tours of a store or restaurant, for example.

If creative employees, like engineers or product designers, can access design ideas virtually and use AR/VR to analyze various results, new perspectives and ideas can flourish.
IKEA uses AR to let users of IKEA's Place app see what furniture would look like in a room. The Sephora Virtual Artist app or web version gives consumers access to a 3D live experience in which they can try on makeup without ever touching any.

However, think also in terms of training employees. They can put on a VR headset and experience work conditions or complete training, without a heavy investment in training materials. AR-driven job simulations could play a big role in employee recruitment, safety training or training in customer services, or teaching employees how to assemble products.

An example is Japan Airlines, which is testing VR technology to train maintenance engineers for two of its aircraft. This enables immersive learning even when the aircraft is not accessible. For several years, Japan Airlines has been training pilots in a virtual content.

Imagine content delivered to suppliers that enhances the supplier's ability to innovate or provide products and services. Present a problem using AR or VR, and let the supplier analyze possible solutions in cyberspace.

Now think again but in terms of what AR, VR, special effects, and mobile combined offers. Training can take place anywhere at any time. There is more coming too in the digital revolution. Extended reality (XR) combines the advanced technologies in a way that creates an immersive virtual experience while allowing the person to continue seeing and interacting with the real-life physical world.

AR/VR-Driven Bottom Line Improvement Through Innovation Discovery
Companies enhancing the consumer experience through content utilizing advanced technologies have the potential to experience results like improved customer engagement, increased sales, better marketing results, and enhance brand. Offer the immersive experience to employees, and potential results include cost savings and increased efficiency.

Now think yet again in new terms of generating innovation. If creative employees, like engineers or product designers, can access design ideas virtually and use AR/VR to analyze various results, new perspectives and ideas can flourish.

Delivering tech-driven engaging content is important today because it is what people expect. Hyper-personalized experiences were once thought of as the future, but they are here now, even if they have still not reached their full potential. The key is to think in terms of integrating technology to produce content, rather than adding technologies in a piecemeal fashion.

Accenture's Industry X.0 is all about taking a combinatorial approach. Combine technologies like AR and VR, big data, AI and machine learning, and mobile computing, and the results are bound to be spectacular.