Virtual Reality: Science Fiction Realized

Photo Credit: Marc Wathieu via Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Marc Wathieu via Creative Commons

Yesterday’s virtual word experiments, like The Sims and Second Life, taught us that consumers will interact with brands in simulated environments if the value proposition or unique experience is compelling enough.

The Google Glass Explorer program launch taught us that consumers are attracted to the proposition of augmented reality, but only if privacy and fashion concerns are addressed.

Meanwhile, social networking has reached the mainstream, and consumers expect brands to leverage this rising connected culture. But in a world where every brand wishes you a Happy National Doughnut Day, brands are struggling for ways to connect with consumers on a level that’s genuine, offers real value and rises above the noise.

That’s why we’re excited about recent strides in blending immersive technology with the real world.

Simply put, Virtual Reality (VR) is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
After a lull in consumer-facing VR products thanks to the flop of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in the 1990’s, a handful of companies are working to make virtual experiences accessible to the masses. Although we may be far off from the Star Trek holodeck in every living room, we believe forward-thinking brand managers should be thinking about VR today.

For example:

  • Oculus Rift is a virtual reality head-mounted display, launched via Kickstarter with a focus on gaming, that was recently purchased by Facebook for two billion dollars. With Rift, the field of view is more than 90 degrees horizontal, 110 degrees diagonal, and the real world is completely blocked out, which creates a strong sense of immersion. Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to keep the consumer price of Rift as low as possible.
  • Google released an app called Cardboard that lets users slot their Android device into a do-it-yourself cardboard viewer. When looked through using special lenses, consumers can interact with various Google services like a VR headset. Supported apps include Google Earth flyovers, tour guides, and immersive photo and video experiences.
  • AdAge: Virtual Reality: Advertising’s Next Big Thing?

Where do we go from here?
Like Google Glass, today’s brand opportunity for these exciting hardware advances in VR is in building first-ever pilots and proof of concepts that demonstrate thought leadership and spark interest among stakeholders.

Existing software for these platforms have a strong focus on gaming, which leaves the opportunity to build creative and practical applications that inspire, educate and amaze across all categories — consumer marketing, education, science, healthcare and more.

Also like Google Glass, we expect that technology will continue to advance the general public will not all be wearing giant black VR helmets with an Oculus logo (or Cardboard cutouts with Google logos!) anytime soon. However, as part of our role in pursuing innovation, exploring consumer behavior and sharing helping brands really stand out, we know investing in emerging technology has proven to pay dividends in the short- and long-term.

Time to “jack in” and see what this is all about.