360 Virtual Reality: Demystifying differences between 360 & VR

A quick glance in to the tech-o-sphere and it’s appears that 360 video and Virtual Reality are two cosy peas in a pod, both offering different virtual pros.

Tech is constantly changing the way we communicate with our audience and as 360 catches up, there are some distinct differences to note. Maybe you want to know which best suits your brand or discover the variety of headsets available?

Whatever your interest, one thing that’s clear to see is that both are highly effective forms of advertising. But, how can they be utilised to make a more interactive experience and what’s the difference between them? Here at Pebble, we think it’s time to don the headset (or simply open up your handy 360 browser) and have a good old chat about how you could adopt them for your own content.

What’s the difference?

Before we delve too deep into the virtual world, we think there’s a little explaining to do. One way to think of the differences between VR and 360 video is by imagining yourself in the supermarket.

The isles of the 360-mart are tempting to look at but you’re not allowed to pick up any of the produce. Change over to VR-bazaar and the isles are still a delight but this time you can pick the produce, mess up that tin display and throw round some courgettes to your heart’s content.

But, when it comes to these techs, there’s still a myth to bust. For those among us who think 360 only works in film and VR’s reserved for the dizzying heights of CGI, you could be in for a virtual surprise. In fact, both are interchangeable.

Developments in 360

The style of 360 video that most of us are familiar with is real-life camera footage. But, you could create a great animated 360 experience.

In fact, the BBC did just this with their latest development in the medium. In order to advertise their new programme, ‘Italy’s Hidden Cities’, the BBC produced very detailed CGI 360 videos of Ancient Roman cities. Not only are these films visually stunning but offer the viewer the chance to escape to the historic streets of Italy in a fully immersive environment – taking storytelling to the next virtual level.

Developments in VR

Virtual Reality also offers this sense of immersion but as 360 development catches up, it has to look to new ways to engage the audience. This tech is traditionally thought of as CGI but it can also be real life footage.

A decent VR experience will convey emotion and tell a story through:

  • space
  • lighting
  • timing
  • sound
  • interactions

One thing worth mentioning is that due to the more technical nature of developing a VR experience, it is likely to be more expensive and time consuming than a 360 video – but with software like Samsung Gear VR rapidly becoming more accessible and open source platforms available to all, we could see more of a shift.

Emerging Tech

As it stands, each VR headset performs and is programmed differently – an annoying problem for both consumers and developers.

PC-Connected Headsets

You can roughly break virtual reality down into two classes of platforms. Firstly, the top of the range headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR – all of which are more expensive and require various other bits of tech in order to use them. These headsets aren’t owned by that many people, so any advertising requiring viewers to have access to them would have a smaller reach.

Smartphone Headsets

On the other hand, there are mobile platforms, such as Google Daydream and GearVR. These platforms may be better suited for 360 campaigns as well as the occasional VR project. They have allowed VR to become more accessible, mobile and consumer friendly.

Handheld VR Kits

Google Cardboard has taken this one step further, by providing accessibility and affordability, whilst still feeling immersive. A perfect example is AT&T’s 360 film “A Walk In Their Shoes”. Viewable on Cardboard, it manages to tell an original story, from a more unique viewpoint – whether you have a headset or simple social browser. For a film experience like this, a headset like Cardboard could be the best way to connect to the masses.

New ways to interact

Story telling is key to success when using either of these technologies. In fact, we recon 360 and VR could give the talented JK Rowling a run for her money. It’s not about bombarding your viewer with your product, but instead about curating an experience in order to promote your brand.

The more interactive and immersive your experience is, the better your story will be told.

A Virtual Reality experience provides the viewer with more choice in what they see and do. Born from gaming and entertainment, it makes sense that it is interactive.

360 2.0

Compared to VR, 360 can often be thought of as a little limited and classically, giving the viewer a passive role. Don’t worry too much though, those brainy tech-heads can still offer interactivity through software like Gaze Hotspots; much like we did in our 360 Bowmore project. Instead of simply showing our audience the oak aged casks of the Scottish Highlands, we offered them the ability to navigate their way round the distillery, simply by looking. As you gazed upon a cask, its history would unfold before your very virtual eyes.

Future of VR

Excitingly, VR could also be set to become even more interactive. The tech is still developing, but you may soon be roaming free, both physically and virtually. HTC are set to bring out a new upgrade kit for their Vive headset. This upgrade will cut all ties with previous headsets by allowing users to go wireless. The consumer’s headset will no longer tether them to one spot and have an awkward trip hazard attached to it. This being said, it’s probably best that you don’t run around near busy roads with the HTC Vive headset on. Caution is advised.

Channel Hopping

Taking all this into account, 360 does reign champion in one area; it is much more accessible and social media friendly. In this day and age, going viral or at least making an impact online is pivotal to a brand’s success.

   Did your campaign even happen if it wasn’t zipping round the twitter-sphere?

Mass distribution

Knowing how best to reach your audience is key. Most among us have access to a smart phone and social media channels, allowing us to view 360 video pretty much wherever and whenever we want. Google’s Rain or shine is a perfect example of 360 that increased viewership by targeting the right audience.

The advent of cheaper VR tech like Google Cardboard has helped to tackle VR’s accessibility issues, but the fact still remains that headsets are expensive and this tech is yet to reach the majority of people.

Netflix have attempted to break down the accessibility issue. Creating an app in partner with Samsung GearVR, it allowed its viewers to Netflix and roam. As well as providing a clever space saving solution, Netflix were able to reach the tech savvy millennial audience who are quick to adopt anything new and live almost exclusively online.

Exclusive experiences

VR may not be ideal for social media channels but it is becoming increasingly successful in other areas of advertising. One way brands seem to be using VR is by creating one-off exclusive experiences.

Coca-Cola did just this. We all know the famous Coke Christmas ad, the one that rings in the start of the season, but have you heard of the Coke virtual sleigh ride? Last Christmas, through Oculus Rift, thousands of people across Poland could take a walk (or should we say ride) in Old Saint Nick’s boots for the day. Whilst it’s not quite up to the same social scratch as 360, it’s a festive step forward in the right direction.

VR and 360 both have their benefits. They can be equally immersive and interactive if utilised in the right way and with new tech coming through all the time, the landscape of social and the way we consume content is changing. To help you keep up, we’ve pulled together some of our handy tips when deciding on whether a 360 or VR experience is right for you.


Our Top Tips

  1. Know your audience – Is your product likely to be bought by the type of person that owns a VR headset? Perhaps they’re a younger audience with a social media presence, in which case a 360 experience could be the best route to take.
  2. Always tell a story – Successful examples of VR and 360 always feature an element of storytelling. Whichever tech you choose; it should be an experience for the consumer not an in-your-face advertisement.
  3. Resources – Consider the medium wisely. For those time strapped among us, VR could zap more of your resources. As well as being less budget friendly, the development time of any VR experience is likely to be longer than that of a 360 video. Consider your budget and turn around period when deciding which tech is right for you campaign.
  4. Make it interactive – Make it as interactive as possible. Even if you’re creating a 360 video, you could use gaze hotspots to guide your viewer round the video and create more of an immersive environment.
If you’re looking to create a 360 or full immersive VR experience get in touch!
Toby Barnett

Toby Barnett

Toby is our very own in-house Virtual Reality wizzard. He leads the charge on directing all our large scale VR projects and is known for crafting stunning 3D, CGI environments for VR.

VR Guru, Pebble Studios

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