Extended Reality (XR) technology, a blend of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), is an incredible opportunity for targeted engagement with an advertising audience. But, while the potential is undeniable, there is still a long journey before we reach widespread adoption, let alone mainstream usage in outdoor public activation.
XR technology holds immense promise for transforming outdoor advertising into immersive experiences that capture audience attention in ways not possible before. Currently, the pricing of XR tech is a hurdle to mass consumption, primarily limiting initial users to those who are willing to invest in luxury brands' activations within restricted locations. We see this a lot with new technologies -- high costs restrict access to a niche demographic at first.
Luxury Brands Paving the Way
In the early stages, it's likely that luxury brands will lead the way in adopting XR outdoor ads. These brands have the resources to experiment and create activations that showcase the potential of XR technology. For example, a brand like Mercedes or Rolls-Royce could design XR driving experiences that cater to their high-end consumer base, not only attracting their target audience but also helping shape the narrative of how XR can be used for brand engagement.
Apple's entry into the XR space with the Vision Pro headset has generated significant buzz. The company is known for strategically timing its product releases to gauge demand and refine its offerings. With the Vision Pro, Apple has given itself a year to assess the market and gather insights before a potential broader rollout. While the initial production numbers were scaled back post-reveal, it's evident that Apple is positioning itself for a significant impact on the XR landscape.
Navigating the Transition from Home to Public Space
As with many new technologies, XR will likely undergo an initial phase of adoption where users first experience it in the comfort of their own homes. Carrying around $3,500 worth of equipment on one’s face is a bold step that may take time to become normalized in public spaces. But history has shown that norms can evolve rapidly -- just look how quick the shift from basic mobile phones to smartphones with immersive screens and functionalities was.
One avenue where XR technology could flourish is within sports and entertainment. Organizations like the NFL could accelerate adoption by offering supplemental XR feeds during games. This would provide viewers with a comprehensive experience that combines the excitement of the game with real-time stats, interviews, historical highlights and more. As audiences get used to this enhanced layer of engagement, XR could become an integral part of their viewing experience. It wasn't that long ago that filming a performance with your phone wasn't a common part of public viewing behavior.
While the current pricing may limit early adopters, the evolution of technology and consumer behaviors suggests that XR's influence will expand over time. As luxury brands experiment with XR activations and Apple refines its Vision Pro offering, the landscape of outdoor advertising is poised for a transformation that merges the digital and physical realms in unprecedented ways. We may not be too far from a time when XR headsets become as ubiquitous as smartphones.