While many people view virtual reality (VR) as a gaming-focused advancement, HP’s Joanna Popper sees it as an opportunity for brands to truly engage their audience.

“[It’s] much bigger than immediate entertainment, I see it as really the future of computing overall,” she said.

Popper, who is the global head of virtual reality for location based entertainment at HP, leads the integration of VR with studios, companies, start-ups, and content creators around the world. But it was her time at Singularity University in Silicon Valley that sparked her interest in creating consumer experiences through VR.

I really learned a lot more about where the future is going,” she said. “For me, VR was a perfect combination of the content that I loved and an innovative vehicle.

Similar to Popper, brands and companies are now adopting the idea, using VR-driven campaigns that enable consumers to engage with content and products.

You’re giving audiences the chance to be inside the content, interact with their favorite characters, be part of the story and even drive that story. And that, in some cases, is more unique from other forms of media,” she says.

When compared to other media platforms like 360-video, VR arguably has the advantage, Popper says. Although 360-video offers a higher level of interaction by allowing users to look in different directions, it doesn’t provide the same level of interactivity.

“It’s not just about looking around, it’s about walking and moving around.”

But sometimes, it’s also about riding on the back of a dragon. That was the case in a recent collaboration between Dreamworks, Walmart and HP for their How to Train Your Dragon 3 VR experience.

Using HP-powered technology, users experienced the How to Train Your Dragon world at Walmart stores across the country ahead of the film’s release. This tactic was used to spark interest and excitement for the movie while driving retail traffic for the department store.

“The combination of those companies working together created success, an amazing customer experience, and drove a lot of different KPI,” she said.

Other companies use VR to spark conversation, Popper says, using Amazon Prime Video’s “Jack Ryan Experience” as an example.

Placed at San Diego Comic-Con in 2018, it allowed attendees to experience the show’s dangerous obstacles, like jumping out of a helicopter and walking on a plank between skyscrapers. It was also used to influence attendees to subscribe to Prime Video to watch the show.

By putting audiences at the center of a narrative, VR can extend and engage audiences in a particularly unique way. And that’s the center of Popper’s upcoming session at the 2019 Promax Conference in downtown Los Angeles.

Check out Joanna Popper’s session, “Around the World in VR,” June 6 at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live.

Tags: conference 2019 virtual reality

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