Exoskeletons are real. Movies like Iron Man, The Matrix Revolutions, and Aliens feature characters manning mechanized suits, but they aren’t just an element of science fiction anymore. Exoskeletons are available to the public–albeit at a hefty price–and they are enhancing people’s abilities in everyday life. Their clearest application is certainly in the medical and industrial complexes, but advertisers will still be able to get in on the action.
There are two types of experiences that exoskeletons can impart on the user. The first is physical augmentation. Suits that increase a user’s strength and stamina have industrial and military applications to help create better workers and stronger soldiers. They can also have a huge impact on the lives of those missing limbs or unable to walk. In fact, many of the exoskeletons being developed today are trying to make mobility possible for the handicapped.
The second type is experiential, which will help brands harness powerful user experiences to help them connect with their audience. Brands are constantly looking to make memorable connections with their potential customers, and what better way to craft an extraordinary moment for them, than to slap their customers into a mechanical suit and have them walk around in it? Pair this technology with virtual reality and you have a fully immersive experience that no one will be able to forget.
An experiential exoskeleton paired with VR technology can make incredible strides for awareness campaigns, allowing the user to experience the world as someone else would. By increasing the authenticity of the experience, users will be able to understand the effect certain medical conditions have on the body. Advocates want potential donors to understand why their causes are important, so what better way is there then to have them experience firsthand the type of limited mobility and adversities people life with every day?
In the video below, an exosuit was able to mimic how it would feel living with rheumatoid arthritis by limiting the mobility of the user. Applying virtual reality also allowed the user to experience changes in their hearing and vision. It’s not hard to envision other campaigns working to teach users what it’s like to live with any number of physical limitations.
There is also exoskeleton technology that can simulate physical experiences in a video game world to create a completely immersive environment. AxonVR is building a body suit designed to provide haptic feedback to the user within an artificial game world, allowing them to feel all types of simulated sensations through in-game stimuli. Others, like As Real As It Gets, can simulate battle damage and other sensory experiences that can help create a more authentic form of gameplay. As the user’s in-game avatar takes damage, the suit uses corresponding vibrations to make them feel like they have been hit as well.
Virtual reality technology was developed to create immersive experiences, but products like Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard only affect the user’s vision while ignoring the other senses. Suits like the PrioVR were designed to interact with the other senses in order to create a fully immersive environment where gamers have a sense of freedom not seen anywhere else. The suit allows them respond to the game’s stimuli in a way never before possible, giving them full range of motion in order to put them right in the action.
Just as VR is becoming the next great advertising platform, the use of exosuits could take these ads to a previously impossible level of immersion. Brands are using virtual reality to craft worlds for their audience to explore. Introduce a connected exoskeleton into the mix and a fun experience suddenly becomes a full-fledged exploration. Gamification has been a growing trend in advertising for years as brands want to show their audience more ads without them realizing it. By making advertisements into games, they can seamlessly get potential customers to interact with their messaging.
Right now, virtual reality is like looking through a window at a whole new world, just waiting to be explored. Introducing exoskeleton connectivity would finally allow users to step into these worlds and immerse themselves through first-hand interactions. A platform like Facebook 360, while innovative now, is just a stepping stone on the way to fully-interactive virtual reality. The huge application for exosuits in gaming could change advertising on platforms like Twitch.tv by turning an ad into an immersive game. There is no end to the application of exoskeletons in advertising.
Unfortunately, there are many issues that have kept exoskeletons from becoming household items. Exoskeletons used for augmentation, which generally require the units to be free from connecting cables and wires, need a large power source that can sustain the unit without weighing the user down. Immersive exosuits haven’t caught on yet because the cost to the consumer after production is way too high, but with the advances in VR, the demand for more immersive experiences will increase. This will pave the way for major advances in exoskeleton technology before they finally hit the market.