The virtual/augmented reality retail category in the U.S. had a very successful 2021 holiday period (Nov. 21 – Dec. 25, 2021), with sales up 180% and 153%, respectively, versus the prior year, according to new data from The NPD Group.
Based on NPD’s Weekly Retail Tracking Service data, sales growth of VR/AV products was slightly lower for full-year 2021, up 163% in unit sales and 137% in revenue compared with the previous year.
“This year’s holiday gains come as consumers continue to look for unique entertainment experiences and also likely benefited from challenges consumers faced in securing popular gaming consoles,” Ben Arnold, executive director and technology industry analyst for NPD, said in a statement.
CES exhibitor LG Electronics will create a physical and virtual experience at its booth during CES 2022, taking place Jan. 5-8.
At its traditional location — the 22,000-square-foot booth at the main entrance to the Central Hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center — LG will connect visitors from the physical space to LG’s virtual experience leveraging both virtual and augmented reality. Constructed of upcycled, recycled and recyclable materials, the space will feature a series of kiosks where visitors can experience LG products.
Visitors will take a self-guided tour using QR codes as they navigate through the physical experience, interacting with LG consumer electronics and home appliance products via AR. Other kiosks will feature immersive VR digital art, including LG’s immersive curved OLED video walls.
Audiences around the world will be able to access the same content and participate digitally in the LG CES experience.
LG has again been named official CES technology partner for the press rooms and member lounges, which will feature LG OLED TVs.
“We look forward to seeing what LG, a long-time innovation leader at CES, has in store for visitors in January,” Karen Chupka, EVP of CES at the Consumer Technology Association, said in a statement. “CES 2022 will enable attendees in Las Vegas to experience LG’s technology using AR and VR. Audience joining CES digitally from across the globe will be able to experience the same ground- breaking tech, through LG’s digital activation.”
Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog is the big hit of the coronavirus pandemic.
The animated feature is one of a handful of high-profile titles that received an early digital release, at a premium price, at the end of March.
It was subsequently released through traditional digital channels, as well as Blu-ray Disc and DVD, and has held onto the top spot on the weekly physical media sales charts, published by NPD VideoScan, for five weeks.
One of the more interesting aspects of Paramount’s marketing campaign for the film, based on the popular video game franchise, was an app that, through augmented reality technology, allowed users to create their own videos with characters and other elements from the film, and then post the results on social media.
The result was a flurry of TikTok videos in which fans appeared to “dance” or otherwise interact with Sonic — including one, with more than 125,000 likes, in which Sonic keeps appearing on a girl gamer’s Fortnite screen until she finally says, “All right, Sonic, you win — I’ll watch your movie.” In all, the campaign reached tens of millions of consumers in the United States in a few short weeks.
The augmented reality (AR) component of the Sonic campaign is the work of a company called Fuseit, whose patented AR platform specializes in brand content creation.
Partnering with clients that range from Coca-Cola to Old Spice/Procter & Gamble to the major Hollywood studios, the company’s AR technology lets anyone create a professional-looking video with whatever image or icon the client brand chooses — all in real-time, with just one click.
Fuseit was launched in 2017 by Liat Sade-Sternberg, an Israeli businesswoman and entrepreneur who now lives in Los Angeles. Prior to launching the company, Sade-Sternberg was the first Israeli woman to win MIDEMLAB, the leading startup competition of the music industry. She also served as the VP of sales and marketing at Babylon, an Israeli public company that provides translation software.
“The concept behind Fuseit is to utilize content in innovative new ways to significantly increase consumer awareness and fan engagement with brands, and generate a solid ROI,” Sade-Sternberg says. “While current consumer engagement on social platforms has sagged to 1% or less, we understand that advertisement methods must change, and augmented reality can boost advertiser results 50% or more while they gain a deeper engagement with their consumers/fans.”
Fuseit’s AR technology has been previously utilized by Warner Bros. to promote the theatrical releases of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
“It really comes from an understanding that marketing and social media have changed, and will continue to change, rapidly, and so much of the advertising is really not working,” Sade-Sternberg says. “Marketers are spending more and more money on Facebook and Instagram and other social platforms, but they’re getting less and less impactful results than they used to. Consumers desire real engagement. These days, when brands are boycotting Facebook ads, adopting digital innovations such as Fuseit is more important than ever.”
She also believes Fuseit’s technology is more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic since shelter-at-home orders, business closures and event cancellations have led to a steep decline in live engagement opportunities.
“If you want to really engage with your customers, and with your fans now,” Sade-Sternberg said, “the only way to do it is through augmented reality. Now you can meet consumers in their homes and on their social feeds, and do it fast, easily and cost-effectively utilizing the content the brands already have.”
The Regal theater chain, beginning April 15, has launched a weeklong, nationwide “Easter egg hunt” bringing movie posters to life via augmented reality.
Movie fans can use the Regal mobile app’s augmented reality filter to scan in-theater posters and unlock rewards, redeemable through April 30 at all participating Regal theaters.
“The race is on for our moviegoers with this one-of-a-kind promotion, which features incredible prizes hidden in posters of the year’s most anticipated movies,” said Chris Sylvia, VP of media at Regal, in a statement. “With the rise of augmented reality, we strive to stay on the forefront of cutting-edge technology to give our guests unbeatable entertainment experiences, as well as reward Regal’s loyal moviegoers.”
To discover the hidden rewards, consumers open the Regal mobile app and click on the camera icon in the top-right corner of the home screen to unveil an augmented reality platform that, when aimed at the correct poster, will reveal the hidden egg and its associated prize.
Prizes include free popcorn, bonus Regal Crown Club credits and 25 percent off an entire credit order in the Regal Reward Center. Supplies are limited.
SyFy channel along with NBC Universal March 5 announced they will bow the “Eleven Eleven” virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) series later this month at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas.
Produced in collaboration with VFX studio Digital Domain, “Eleven Eleven” will be available for both tethered and mobile VR headsets and related AR devices.
“With Eleven Eleven, we are pioneering an innovative scripted format for science fiction content that blends the best of theatre, gaming and cinema to create unique VR and AR experiences,” Steve Patscheck, EVP global programming at NBC Universal International Networks, said in a statement. “By creating an original piece of IP, Syfy was able to design specifically for VR and AR, all the while exploring how immersive technologies could heighten the thrill of storytelling.”
Sky will distribute the series through European regions (Germany, Italy, Spain) via Sky VR Studios.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Syfy and NBC Universal International Networks on Eleven Eleven,” said Neil Graham, executive producer for Sky VR Studios. “It is a truly innovative VR experience and a brilliant step forward in our growing range of VR content.”
Speakers discussed changes in digital entertainment content, stars, business models and more during the Digital Entertainment World conference Feb. 4 in Marina del Rey, Calif.
Digital Media Wire founder Ned Sherman noted that in the past year the industry produced nearly 500 original scripted programs, the majority of which for the first time came from streaming services.
“There’s almost sort of an arm’s race going on in this space,” he said, noting the billions being spent on programming by Netflix and other streaming services.
Speakers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of subscription streaming models (SVOD), ad-supported free streaming models (AVOD) and graduated spending models, such as Hulu’s, which has both ad-supported and ad-free services.
Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, extolled the virtues of free AVOD and his company’s pending acquisition by Viacom, announced last month.
“They have world class brands, well-known programming. They’ve got advanced advertising capabilities, and they are a global company,” he said, noting Viacom will help Pluto TV expand internationally.
The acquisition will “accelerate what we’ve already built,” he said. Pluto TV is “the leading free streaming television service in America,” with 12 million monthly users and 100 channels, he said.
Free AVOD fills an important need as “there has been a certain amount of subscription fatigue,” he said.
“The problem comes down to payment,” he said. “There’s only so many services that people will pay for.”
He mentioned a survey by Ampere that found the average SVOD home subscribes to 2.8 streaming services.
“You have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and everybody else fighting for that 0.8,” he said.
He said that, rather than creating channels that match those on traditional cable,
“we will create new channels that include content from Viacom.”
“I think AVOD content has been a big theme to start out this year,” said Ellation’s Eric Berman in “The Future of the Television Business” panel.
“There’s a big conundrum in the AVOD model,” said Popsugar Studios’ David Grant on the same panel. “Somehow the content has to be created.”
Viacom is buying Pluto TV, but the AVOD service is “not funding that content,” he noted.
“When is the AVOD system going to be able to fund the creation of television-sized content?” he asked.
The very nature of content is undergoing a transformation, speakers noted. Digital content isn’t constrained by the need to fill a half-hour sitcom slot or hour-long drama. It also can explore niche subjects.
As opposed to globalization, “for me the greatest power of digital is actually localization,” noted keynote speaker Gerrit Meier of the Red Bull Media Network, which creates programming around sports such as surfing and mountain biking, among other subjects. Through the internet, local communities around the world can find a voice, exposing sports “that I have never heard of before,” he said.
“Those are all stories that should be told,” he said.
Content, too, can morph to suit a mobile audience, noted Jesus Chavez, CEO of Vertical Networks.
In designing mobile content, “I’m competing with everything that’s on a person’s phone,” he said. It must be engrossing in the mobile space, he noted.
Digital stars, too, have a new style. They exude authenticity and communicate more closely with their audiences.
“We are always looking to populate our projects with people who have relevance in the social media space,” said Shelley Zimmerman, co-head of digital media company Awesomeness (owned by Viacom).
Studio71’s Dan Weinstein noted that the new digital stars are more relatable, as opposed to the “untouchable” movie stars.
Speakers also discussed augmented and virtual reality.
Hilary Hoffman, EVP, global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, detailed a Jurassic World campaign that used augmented reality to allow Facebook users to view dinosaurs that jumped out at them at retail and at home. She said the campaign was much more successful than anticipated, but that monetizing AR will require more ease of use.
“Right now, it’s more promotional,” she said, but it “has so much great potential.”
AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan will lead a keynote session titled “New Frontiers in Mobile”at CES 2019, the Consumer Technology Association announced.
Donovan will join MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan to discuss opportunities for 5G, the next generation technology for mobile.
Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2019 takes place Jan. 8-11 in Las Vegas. The keynote will begin at 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Park Theater, MGM Park.
Presented by MediaLink, the keynote will explore how 5G will open up opportunities for robotic manufacturing, AR/VR and mixed reality, sporting experiences and public safety, among other industries. After Donovan’s talk, a panel of industry executives will discuss how global companies are developing marketing strategies to best engage consumers in this mobile, data-driven world. Confirmed keynote panelists include National Geographic CMO Jill Cress, Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch, Magic Leap CPO Omar Khan, Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes, The Stagwell Group president and managing partner Mark Penn, and Ascential Events president and Cannes Lions chairman Phil Thomas.
“AT&T is a leader in the next-generation of connected mobility that will impact every aspect of our lives, and 5G is the platform that will enable that transformation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA, in a statement. “We are excited to have John Donovan and Michael Kassan lead this powerful CES keynote that will delve into the new world of 5G innovation and the next wave of connectivity.”
Donovan is responsible for the bulk of AT&T’s global telecommunications and U.S. video services businesses, including its Business, Mobility and Entertainment, and Technology & Operations groups, according to a CTA press release. Previously, Donovan served as chief strategy officer and group president, AT&T Technology and Operations, where he led strategic planning for the company overall.
Kassan founded MediaLink in 2003, a strategic advisory firm serving companies at the intersection of media, marketing, advertising, technology, entertainment and finance.
Data analytics company Algomus/Algo.ai has created an international division based in London.
The company has named Aodan Coburn, formerly EVP International at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, as president, Algo.ai International. Miguel Geli, previously division CIO for Sony Pictures and European MD of Sony Retail Services Europe, has been appointed COO, Algo.ai International.
Algo.ai comprises a team of software engineers, mathematicians, business analysts, machine learning experts and data scientists with extensive industry knowledge of manufacturing, distribution and retail supply chains to support the use of data to drive savings.
“This significant development reflects our desire to service our current customers on a broader territory basis and supports our ambition to expand both our geographical and industry reach,” CEO Amjad Hussain said in a statement.
“International expansion has been a strategic goal for some time, and with these two key appointments we are now well-positioned to repeat the tremendous growth opportunities we have seen domestically,” said John Daly, president of Algo.ai, in a statement.
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to play a part in the Algomus story as this innovative company continues on its journey of global growth,” Coburn said in a statement.
“Algo.ai is a company with significant global potential which I am thrilled now to be part of,” Geli added in a statement.
Algomus is headquartered in Detroit, with additional offices in Los Angeles and now London.
Algo.ai created Algo, the world’s first supply chain analyst bot. Algo connects artificial intelligence, augmented reality and automation to retailers, distributors and manufacturers. The tool helps with activities including demand and inventory planning, sales forecasting, new product lifecycle management, and assortment optimization.
Financial investment in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology in the United States is on the decline – and on the rise in China, according to new data from fiscal advisor Digi-Capital.
North American investment in VR/AR fell about 92% to $120 million in the third quarter 2018 from $1.5 billion in Q4 2017. The majority previously invested in smart glasses, video games, location-based entertainment, video, advertising and marketing.
Indeed, global shipments of AR and VR headsets dropped more than 30% this year, according to International Data Corp. A separate report found significant declines in sales of VR headsets on Amazon from Sony, Samsung, Facebook and HTC.
Digi-Capital said global VR/AR investment has declined about 10% per quarter after plateauing at $2 billion in Q4 2017. In China, VR/AR investment has approached $3.9 billion.
Goldman Sachs projects Asia – spearheaded by China – will be become the world’s largest VR market by 2021 with 45% market share.
“American and Chinese investment had an inverse relationship in the last 12 months,” Tim Merel, managing director at Digi-Capital, said in a statement.“American investors increasingly chose to stay on the sidelines, while Chinese investor confidence grew to back up clear vision with long-term investments. The differences in the data couldn’t be starker.”
Tethered VR headsets declined 37.3% as major brands such as Oculus and Sony were unable to maintain consumer demand following price reductions in the previous-year period, according to IDC.
The report said the two brands managed to ship 102,000 and 93,000 headsets respectively in the period. The category leader, HTC, shipped close to 111,000 headsets (excluding the standalone Vive Focus) thanks to the growing popularity of the Viveport subscription service as well as the launch of the Pro headset.
Screenless viewers, which enjoyed initial popularity when Samsung, Alcatel, and Google bundled the headsets with smartphones, has seen consumer interest dwindle. The category has shrunk from 1 million headsets in Q2 2017 to 409,000 units this year. This category was the largest contributor to the decline in shipments for the overall VR headset market.
“One of the major issues with the VR market is that consumers still find it difficult to try a VR headset,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst for IDC, said in a statement.
IDC expects this to be a temporary setback as the VR market finds its legs. The arrival of new products, such as the Oculus Go and HTC Vive Pro, and new brands, combined with the need for greater headset fidelity all point to a positive outlook for the quarters ahead.
“This is where the commercial market has an opportunity to shine,” said Ubrani. “HTC’s recent partnership with Dave & Busters or Oculus’ work with schools around the world stand to play an important role in educating and enticing consumers to use VR.”
Indeed, standalone VR headset shipments grew 417.7% in the quarter, largely due to the global availability of the Oculus Go/Xiaomi Mi VR, which managed to ship 212,000 headsets.
While the consumer side of the VR headset market remains the focus of attention, the commercial side is gaining traction. In Q2, roughly 20% of VR headsets were destined for the commercial sector, up from 14% last year. Along with the increase in share, average selling prices have also increased from $333 to $442 during the same period.
“In a market where mainstream VR content is still lacking, a growing number of vendors are looking to commercial as a way to build their business while they wait for the consumers to catch up,” said Tom Mainelli, VP, devices and augmented and virtual reality at IDC. “These vendors are moving beyond entertainment-focused deployments to real-world training scenarios in companies of all sizes, all over the world. IDC expects commercial buyers to represent an increasingly important percentage of the market going forward.”