Spotlight: vrAse, an Entry-level Route into Virtual Reality

vrAseFollowing Facebook’s $2bn (£1.2bn) acquisition of Oculus last week, the VR (Virtual Reality) headset maker has attracted a lot of attention. But the Oculus Rift isn’t the only device of its kind hitting the market – and it’s not necessarily even the only approach to VR.

I recently had the opportunity to try the vrAse headset, an entry-level alternative to the Rift which offers a similar immersive 3D experience. The demo sat me on a virtual rollercoaster, able to look around in any direction by moving my head. The visuals are simple but the screen fills your field of vision, and as the ride reaches its peak and I look at the virtual plunge ahead of me, I actually feel a flutter in my stomach and my legs go a little weak.

This isn’t an entirely positive thing. 10 minutes later, still feeling a little dizzy, I start to wonder if this isn’t the effect of a perfectly realised rollercoaster experience but rather a mild case of simulator sickness that would be turning my stomach regardless of which demo I’d seen.

vrAse 2However, it does go to show how effective the vrAse is. That’s why I’m so surprised when, after the demo, the headset’s display slides out and is revealed to be a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Its display is split into two halves, both showing an identical feed.

The headset itself simply consists of a frame, two lenses, and a removable adapter to fit the user’s smartphone of choice – vrAse recommends devices with a screen size between 5-6”, but a universal adapter can be used for any handset upwards of 3.5”.

All the computing work is done by the smartphone, meaning the vrAse itself is an entry-level device; while the developer kit for the Oculus Rift costs $350, vrAse is targeting a sub-$100 pricepoint.

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UK Mobile Banking Transactions Double in a Year

Natwest appThe number of mobile banking transactions in the UK doubled between 2012 and 2013, according to figures released today by the British Banking Association (BBA) in its debut Way We Bank Now study, the first in a series of publications highlighting how Britain is embracing technology.

The study, which covers the UK’s five biggest retail banks’ – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander – customers, reveals that these customers are now making more than 5.7m transactions a day using smartphones and other internet-enabled devices.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Customers have downloaded more than 12.4m bank apps
  • They used their mobile phones for 18.6m transactions a week in 2013, compared to 9.1m in 2012
  • When desktop PC transactions are added into the mix, the figure rises to almost 40m transactions a week in 2013
  • They signed up to receive more than 457.7m SMS balance alerts and other text messages during 2013.

“A revolution is underway in how people spend, move and manage their money,” said BBA chief executive, Anthony Browne. “This is not just about the phenomenal growth of mobile banking, which has already allowed millions of British customers to make billions of transactions from the palm of their hand. Consumers are also rushing to use contactless cards, text alerts and a range of other easy-to-use technology. This is innovation that connects us more strongly to our banks than ever before and gives us greater freedom to handle our money wherever and whenever we please.
• “The branch will remain integral to banking services in the 21st century – especially for those big moments in life such as arranging a mortgage. But the day-to-day use of branches is falling and part of that is because there is a groundswell of people who now find that banking on the move is fast, easy and convenient.”

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Justin Time: Talking Mobile with Kabbee CEO

KabbeDM: Justin, we’re looking forward to your presentation on Wednesday. Can you give us an idea what you’ll be covering at the event?

JP: I’ll be offering insights into the current size and status of the London Taxi & Private Hire Industry; our uniquely tailored mobile approach; the rise of apps, and our offering as the leading “Minicab aggregator” in London.

DM: What impact is mobile having on your business?

JP: Without mobile technology, Kabbee would not exist. Smartphone penetration and the reliance on apps to facilitate everything from your takeaway to your To Do list sees our customer base rapidly expanding.

DM: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from your experience of doing stuff on mobile to date?

JP: Multi-device usage and the competition of suppliers in the mobile space means that end-to-end user tracking is a challenge. The recent investment in products such as AppsFlyer shows that this is an area in which we should see great progress in the coming months.

DM: How do you think the Travel industry compares to others in terms of its mobile-readiness/firstness?

JP: At Kabbee, we think that the travel industry is at the forefront when it comes to mobile readiness. There is nothing more important than being able to access travel information and book journeys on the go.

DM: Which other presentation are you most looking forward to at the event?

JP: Martin Young, Avios. Retention and loyalty is a huge part of our business and we’re looking forward to hearing about this from a business that’s focused on it.

DM: What are your key mobile priorities/areas of investigation right now (e.g. apps, messaging, advertising)?

JP: We are focusing on the development of our product to make it as easy and simple to use as possible for the consumer and to make it the go-to app for London minicabs.

Justin Peters will be speaking at the Mobile Travel & Tourism Summit in London on Wednesday. You can see the full Agenda here. 


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Combining TV and Twitter Lowers CPA by a Third

Thinkbox's Neil MortensenTwitter and TV marketing body Thinkbox took to the stage at Advertising Week Europe today to unveil a “tsunami of data” from a joint research project.

The key takeaway was the largely positive effect of multi-screen behaviour for brands – especially when used in conjunction with TV advertising. Combining paid media on both channels saw a 36 per cent decresed in CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) for UK telco brands, according to the research.

The research looked at a Mother’s Day campaign from Sainsbury’s, which encouraged users to tweet about their mum using the #BestMum hashtag alongside TV advertising. Consumers who were exposed just to the Twitter content saw an increase in both positive emotional response towards the brand and purchase intent of four percent; compared to four per cent and eight per cent, respectively, for those exposed only to the TV campaign. But those exposed to both, saw an impressive increase of 21 per cent for both metrics.

No downside?
The research also found that advertisers needn’t be concerned about this behaviour impairing the viewer’s attention, as second-screening was found to have no impact on ad recognition.

Not only are multi-screeners primed and ready to interact with brands, according to Thinkbox research and planning director Neil Mortensen, they’re potentially more likely to stay in the room with the TV, and thus in front of ads – after all, even if your partner is watching a programme you’re not interested in, you can just switch the majority of your attention to the second screen.

A graph showing Twitter activity during two airings of The Shawshank Redemption – click to see full size

Peaks and troughs
TV programmes are undeniably generating a lot of conversation on Twitter. The 2014 BRIT Awards – which featured a live Twitter vote for the first time – attracted 4.2m tweets in February, making it the UK’s most tweeted-about TV show ever. But vitally, there are predictable patterns to this tweeting, which depend on the kind of programme being watched.

During an episode of Educating Joey Essex, tweets relating to the show continued throughout, peaking around the time of the first ad break. During a drama, however, the peaks come immediately before and after the show, effectively bookending it as viewers pay more consistent attention to the TV screen.

Most interesting of all was a comparison of two different broadcasts of the film The Shawshank Redemption, four months apart. On both occasions, tweets about the film showed almost exactly the same peaks and troughs (see image, above right).

This is a major opportunity for advertisers – it’s possible to anticipate these moments, where the most people are going to be using Twitter to discuss a particular programme, and respond to them accordingly.

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UK Cracks Down on Nuisance Calls and Texts

Supermarket Shopping Trolley Phone smallGovernment, regulators, consumer groups and industry have come together for the first time to tackle nuisance calls.

There were 120,310 such calls reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), between April and November 2013. Although fines totalling £2.54m have been handed out since January 2012, with rogue companies named and shamed on the ICO’s website, a recent campaign by Which? that gathered 110,000 supporters has called for even greater powers.

As part of the Action Plan, the Government has launched a consultation into lowering the threshold for when fines can be imposed, which currently stands at ‘substantial damage’ or ‘substantial distress’.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has also unveiled plans to impose fines up to 20 per cent of annual turnover for offences including using information gathered by unsolicited calls and texts, providing bad services or wasting time and money. This will mean fines that could run into the millions in some cases.

The Direct Marketing Association has welcomed the move. “The Government’s action plan is a welcome warning to the rogue companies responsible for the nuisance calls that cause misery for millions of people and severely damage the legitimate telemarketing industry,” said Mike Lordan, chief of operations. “As the industry’s representative, the DMA will play a leading role in implementing the Action Plan. This will not only benefit people at home, but also the tens of thousands businesses that lawfully use telemarketing to win new customers and drive sales.”

Ofcom, the ICO and the Insolvency Service will also work more closely together to share information about bad practice.

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ITV Announces Twitter Amplify Ad Partnership

V05 brit awards adITV has announced a partnership with Twitter to use the social network’s Amplify platform to offer branded in-tweet ads that take advantage of users’ dual screen bevahiour.

Brands will now be able to buy advertising across ITV’s traditional TV slots, as well as on Twitter, where they can promote in-tweet media like photos, videos and TV clips. ITV is also offering pre- and post-roll placements on videos, customised hashtags, in-video banners and promotional video tweets.

Twitter Amplify was trialled for the first time on ITV during the BRIT Awards in an exclusive brand partnership with V05. The #VO5music hashtag received 5,332 Twitter mentions during the event. Twitter’s Amplify programme in EMEA is being led by Theo Luke, who was previously head of digital for Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment.

Viacom is likewise rollling out Twitter Amplify in the UK following a successful trial at the MTV Music Awards in August.

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M-Pesa Comes to Europe

M-PesaVodafone’s SMS banking service is launching in Romania, where more than one third of the population do not have access to conventional banking.

M-Pesa, which enables users to top up their phone, pay utility bills, make deposits and withdraw cash, will go live for around 6m Vodafone Romania customers today, with a full rollout expected by the end of the year. Users can transfer anything from one new Romanian leu (0.22 euro cents) up to 30,000 lei (€6,715) per day.

Created for the world’s unbanked and first launched in Africa, the service now has nearly 17m users across Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, South Africa and India, with Egypt, India, Lesotho and Mozambique launched in the past year. Its users transfer €900m every month.

The development of M-Pesa has opened up new ways for people in these countries to access services they need. In Tanzania, an NGO has started transferring money on mobile in order for recipients to pay for travel to get vital medical care. In Kenya, people can pay for access to water services using M-Pesa, as well as accessing Vodafone’s saving scheme.

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Virgin Money Giving Launches iOS and Android App

Virgin GivingVirgin Money Giving has worked with Monitise Create to develop an iOS and Android app for people to ‘give on the go’.

The not-for-profit platform enables givers to quickly find friends that are fundraising and give them some cash without having to register. Fundraisers receive push notifications when they get some money and can share their page with friends and family on Twitter, Facebook, SMS or email to boost their total.

The app actually makes givers go out to the mobile-optimised website, launched last year, to complete their donation. Not the smoothest user experience. The payment process too, unless you’re using PayPal, is also a bit lengthy, with full card details required to make the payment.

30 per cent of Virgin Money Giving’s traffic already comes from mobile and overall donations made through Virgin Money Giving grew by 11 per cent last year to over £80.5m. Virgin Money Giving is free for individual fundraisers but charges a 2 per cent fee on donations and has a flat registration fee of £100 + VAT for charities.

Virgin Money is gearing up for the London Marathon, of which it is the main sponsor.

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tado° Smart Home System Goes on Sale in Dixons and Maplin

tadoThe smart energy monitoring device and app platform tado° is going on sale in 730 Dixons and Maplin stores, starting with a trial in 80 shops.

The company says it can save the average UK household up to 26 per cent or £200 per year with its intelligent thermostatt, which uses geo-location to understand when householders are on their way home so it can start warming up.

If every one of the UK’s 24.6m households bought one, the company claims, tado° could cut the cost of the nation’s £19bn annual household heating bill by £5bn. The system can either be bought for £249.99 or, rather neatly, rented for £6.99 per month.

Going head-to-head with British Gas’ Hive, and erring on the expensive side, the company emphasies the fact that it is independently owned. From tomorrow new Ofgem rules will require the utility companies to be more transparent around pricing.

The system went on sale online in the UK in November last year, 12 months after the device first went on sale in mainland Europe. The company expects sales to be worth around €30m (£25m) from the UK.

“We are responding to huge demand for tado° in households – and on their smartphones – up and down the country,” said Christian Deilmann, CEO and founder of tado°. “The future is bright for smart home-energy saving devices and in tado°, customers are accessing the smartest, most hassle-free way to heat their homes while saving on energy costs.”

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Marie Claire: ‘Over 2,000 Different Mobile Devices Accessed Our Site Last Month’

Marie Claire - AdWeekMarie Claire has been published in the UK for the past 25 years but has perhaps never faced a more difficult challenge as print ad revenues fall and mobile becomes the key way to access content.

Over the past four weeks, its website was accessed by people using upwards of 2,100 devices, registering 370 different languages, in 321 different countries. As the brand goes truly global, Justine Southall, publishing director, told the audience at Advertising Week Europe that the company will have to scale up its website offering accordingly. And “make mobile more valuable”.

The company is bracing for an “impeding explosion of content” but believes it’s a publisher’s job to help readers navigate that. They are also focused on segmenting audiences and creating premium content that people will come back for. “Good content is what everyone is trying to produce in order to service the most important audiences,” she said.

Marie Claire is keen on native ads and is dabbling in its own high-end content production, but Southall also said face-to-face experiential marketing could also help publishers stand out.

Today, the mobile-optimised site looks to have taken a leaf out of BuzzFeed’s book with heavy use of the ‘listical’ content option. It carries banner ads, no doubt to many mobile marketers’ distress, as well as video ads in-feed with the option to ‘buy now’ at the end. Not native, but it sounds like they’re working on it…

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