Two months ago, I attended a local festival where a tourism company was promoting Japan as a skiing destination. They handed out a bulky box with two lenses attached and instructions on how to download a viewing app.
Once I’d downloaded the app and inserted the smartphone into the box, I found myself going down the ski slopes at a popular Japanese ski resort. Virtually of course! The app and lenses provided a panoramic view of the experience including a tour of the resort’s gift shop.
Here’s an example of a similar video of skiing on the pristine Austrian alps:
360° video on Facebook and Youtube launched in 2015 according to Wiredrive. Some experts are calling it the next big thing in marketing, others are calling it a fad. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic technology which is fun, interactive and cool for brands and businesses who like to experiment. It doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money either mainly due to the introduction of cheaper, user-friendly cameras by consumer brands like Samsung which can shoot a reasonably good quality video.
What is 360° video?
So what is 360° video exactly? It’s a video recording that’s panoramic, capturing every direction simultaneously using a fisheye lens camera or a collection of cameras. It also allows the user to move the phone or camera around to change viewpoints. It’s a two-way communication process – instead of simply watching the content, the viewer also interacts with it making it a powerful marketing tool.
So can 360° video work for your business and should you adopt it?
Experiential in nature
If you’ve got a product that lends itself well to experiences like travel, entertainment or hospitality, then 360° videos might be a good way to market your product. Users experience the rush of going down ski slopes, or bungee jumping or attending a concert while in their living room. The virtual experiences might entice them to book in for a trip and then share their experiences with their friends on social media.
For businesses like real estate companies or hotels, a 360 video can allow the viewer to see and experience that 24-hour spa before they book themselves in, or see the inside of a luxury home they might be interested to buy.
An inside look at a luxury property in Germany:
Having a video allows the viewer to feel more connected with your brand and what it feels like to buy and use it – increasing their emotional connection and impulse to actually purchasing it.
Great for short term
Experts believe that 360° video may not work for long forms of storytelling as the viewer might miss an important part of the story simply because they’re looking elsewhere. Because it offers a panoramic view, the viewer often looks all around rather than at one point on the screen.
However, 360° videos are great for a short term marketing strategy if you’re experimenting. There are cameras in the market for a few hundred dollars that come with software, if you want to create something cool as a once-off.
If you want to use it as a long term strategy for videos it’s probably not a great idea unless you are selling experiences that can’t be shown or shared in any other way, for example, tours of luxury homes in real estate, tourism, adrenaline activities like skydiving, unique events like concerts or places e.g celebrity dressing rooms or backstage at a U2 concert and campus tours for prestigious universities like Yale.
Here are some examples:
A waterfall between the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa (Source: National Geographic)
Riding one of the world’s stomach dropping mega coaster
It’s slowly taking off
Cost is a big factor in how quickly this technology will be adopted by businesses. Professionals use cameras with fisheye lenses which are expensive, heavy to carry plus videos need a lot of storage.
However, if you’re an amateur, there are cheaper cameras on the market like Ricoh Theta S ($489-$599) and Samsung Gear 360 ($380-$429). The quality of the video varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
So far, the best spherical cameras on the market under $1200 in 2016 are on this list by Gizmodo. If you want professional quality 360° videos they will cost you money until spherical cameras, 360° videos and its related technologies become more mainstream and higher quality.
Is there a future for 360° video?
National Geographic already provides these videos to its fans on Facebook which can be viewed on iPads.
According to Facebook’s immersive head, Eric Cheng, Facebook is working closely with camera manufacturers and Oculus Rift, a virtual reality company (acquired in 2014 by Facebook) to make 360° videos work on the social media platform without users needing to wear a virtual reality headset.
Digi-Capital, an adviser to the AR/VR and gaming industries estimates that platforms providing virtual reality and augmented reality will top revenues of $120b by 2020 and immersive experiences will simply become a way of life – affecting even traditional industries such as healthcare and education and how they deliver services and attract patients.
Here’s how StoneSprings Hospital, Virginia USA is using 360° video:
Presently, 360° videos don’t appear like other 2D videos on Facebook because panoramic content is hard to view on small, digital screens according to Eric. While 360° video is a perfect fit for certain companies like travel publications or agencies, there are both challenges and opportunities around adopting this new form of storytelling and experiential marketing.
However, the future remains exciting for virtual reality and augmented reality.