The effect of 3D and interactive media on the consumer, the retailer and the internet

James Rees, technical director of Gemsta, explores how 3D technology can help boost digital marketing efforts.

3D is one of those buzzword’s that has been around for years. Every move forward is recognised as a huge leap in development, with people from all walks of life excited by its advances, and discussions regarding its progression are never far away.

It’s just one of those subjects that keeps coming up, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it. With awe inspiring films such as Avatar, showing the public exactly what’s possible, it presents new and exciting opportunities for marketers.

Judging by the overwhelming public response, it would be fair to say that everyone leaving cinemas after the showing would have jumped at the opportunity to don their polarised glasses once again before immersing themselves in another virtual experience. So how can we make this possible?

There are several different methods of 3D production and delivery. The technique employed in the film Avatar is known as steroscoping, which involves two cameras placed apart at the average distance between two eyes; then using two projectors and polarised glasses the brain processes depth.

Alternatively you have an approach called anaglyphic, which is a throwback to the cardboard red and green lens glasses of the past. Colour filters trick the brain to decipher the layers of depth on two split camera images.

Finally, we have the single camera rendering technique utilised by computer games and the ’3D Explore’ part of Gemsta, whereby computer lighting and models are pre-processed or processed in real time and outputted to normal screens.

These methods all have their pros and cons. Most predominantly and in brief, the stereoscopic technique requires glasses and specialist visual equipment to view, anaglyph has colour restrictions. Only single camera rendering can achieve a realistic 3D output without visual aids.

Dependent upon the situation, each of these techniques can provide an immersive and exciting environment to the consumer, and selected correctly can be combined to provide a package which could wow even the most discerning of viewer.

Adidas recently created a media storm when a 3D holographic projection of David Beckham acted as compère to the press. Was it just hype? Maybe so, but you don’t have to look far from hype like this to see where real world applications lie. Imagine a store where you could view virtual products or choosing the options on your dream car right in front of you, in real size. This sounds like something of the future, but it’s not, this is today.

Using 3D holographic projection, physical space and a computer, some of the most incredible user experiences could be generated: a world where physical boundaries hold no value, access constraints do not exist, and merchandising space is no issue.

Virtual store displays could allow consumers to view many product offerings in a central location, shop fronts could evolve organically from an online database generated by consumers in a virtual and physical respect.

The future could give rise to a reactive and subsequently adaptive store which responds as fast as people, and trends change. Alongside the growing importance of direct relationships between the real and virtual domains, techniques like this could ensure the cohesion is seamless.

So that’s right up there in terms of what’s possible, but how can we offer a more immersive experience to the consumer, without re-fitting stores with an array of projectors and some high powered computers? The computer gaming industry can and has been building 3D worlds, but requirements by online visitors to download and install software, create a barrier to entry which has the potential to alienate mainstream consumers.

Alternatively, to really make your website jump out of the screen and engage with both new and existing customers, you can use Adobe Flash or Java to create interactive 3D product tools, allowing users to rotate, customise, adapt, and experience your products like never before.

Programming with Flash to create in browser 3D viewers, allows you to tap in to 99% of all internet enabled desktops without the user requiring any specialist software installed.

Looking to the future, our general web experience needs to be improved dramatically to be on a par with the standards of presentation we are accustomed to in other walks of life. We experience sights and sound when we are out and about, or at home and watching TV.

We go to the cinema and watch 3D films, yet when we log on to a computer to do one of the most popular activities in modern life, all we get is a glorified catalogue. It is inevitable that this will change, the only question is, when?

Does that catalogue truly reflect the brand values of your company that were instilled before the internet was even created? Does your website really communicate with customers in the same way the painstakingly arranged physical store does?

To get back to true brand values, we need to embrace the identity of the physical environment, the user experience of shopping, and the immersive qualities of the real world. Successful marketing is about moving the emotions of consumers to make an emotional connection with the brand. 3D technology has the potential to achieve this online and allow it to move beyond its largely functional base.

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