Rag & Bone VR video


Google and Rag & Bone teamed up to show that virtual reality’s not just for gamers and geeks.

The two have created a six-minute VR documentary that will be available on the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s YouTube channel. Produced by VR firm Two Bit Circus, the documentary gives an inside look at the brand just before and during its New York Fashion Week show in September.

And although it is available to all YouTube users as a 360-degree video, Google is hoping that viewers will try watching with its new $79 VR headset, the Daydream View, which was released in November. The headset requires a Daydream-ready phone, which for now means a Motorola Z or Google’s Pixel.

Rag & Bone chief executive officer Marcus Wainwright said the show’s custom music and lights were designed to be immersive and created a “visual landscape” primed for VR.

“You can watch it a million times and watch a million different films,” he said, as VR allows the viewer to experience a full 360-degree video at all times. “Even if you set out to achieve something, depending on where the watcher is looking, you can see something completely different. I didn’t think about that at the beginning, but once I saw it, I realized it won’t be the same for anybody, really.”

Julia Hamilton Trost, who heads up business development and content partnerships for Google VR, said Rag & Bone was a good fit for the collaboration since both the brand and the high-tech headset seek to be both chic and approachable.

But VR films can be expensive to make. To that end, Google funded the project and supplied the GoPro Odyssey camera, which used Google’s Jump camera technology to enable stereoscopic 360 shooting. That helped give the documentary its depth. Jump automatically stitches the imagery together — a post-production process that typically would take days or weeks, rather than hours.

Although VR is still in nascent stages from a consumer-adoption standpoint, the technology exists and companies such as Google, Facebook, Samsung, Sony, and potentially Apple and Snapchat have or are expected to have a horse in the race. Google’s headset is far more affordable than, for example, the Oculus Rift that Facebook is promoting, but customers are still not in the habit of wearing a ski-mask-style headset.

Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder predicts that by 2020, 52 million headset units will be sold. Facebook and YouTube have already been actively promoting 360-degree video, but Gownder said that burden lies on the brands.

“Because most consumers and business leaders don’t have even a basic understanding of VR, device vendors must demonstrate and educate,” he said in a May report. “Prospective buyers must don the head-mounted display individually.” He said the retail challenge was akin to that of the Apple Watch, which required a 15- to 30-minute tutorial for new buyers.

“As early adopters experiment and probe the limits of this new medium, few have found a direct link from VR to business goals,” Gownder said.

Wainwright said that the main obstacle to widespread adoption is practicality. “Everyone is holding their phone and able to look at Instagram or 2-D imagery whenever they want, but it’s harder to sit on a train and put on a VR headset.”

Ultimately, the ceo is keen on creating a way to shop through VR.

“You could create a completely digital store and you just click on something and up it comes, and you can buy it and visualize what you might look like in it,” he said. “If the content is powerful enough, and the experience is beneficial, then it will go hand-in-hand with adoption.”

Chinese e-tailer Alibaba, for example, has begun demonstrating a VR store in which shoppers can walk around and speak with a robotic sales associate. Alibaba’s Chinese market sells 300,000 VR units each month.

For now, Wainwright said, there was no marketing or retail objective — other than hoping that the audience would be multiples of the 600 or so people who are able to attend the show in person.

“Our main goal is to create brand imagery that allows people access into what Rag & Bone stands for and what it thinks is cool,” he said.

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