“Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones.” — Mark Zuckerberg announcing the acquisition of Oculus in 2014
Where do virtual reality (VR) and its cousin, augmented reality (AR), stand today? You can read Digi-Capital’s take on the AR/VR market, which forecasts mobile AR dominating and nerdy-cool smartglasses not taking hold with consumers until the next decade. eMarketer also projects a slower adoption in the U.S. due to the high cost of VR headsets.
VR/AR Webinar with EM Marketing
Recently, Jessaline Tuason moderated a panel of four speakers to share first-hand experiences and their perspectives on the state of VR/AR. Here’s a summary of the discussion with Sipra Thakur, David Stone, Luis Vera, and Sean Dekkers (see their bios at the end of this article). Or, if you have an hour, you can watch the full webinar below:
What Is VR/AR?
According to the panelists, virtual reality transports you to another place, using “captured” real-world or computer-generated content, or a combination of both. Augmented reality is more accessible due to readily-available mobile apps and makes real, live experiences more powerful. Here’s a more nuanced reference for jargon in this emerging industry.
How Are You Seeing Companies Utilize VR and AR?
The panelists admit there is a chicken/egg situation. Content production is challenging and expensive and the market penetration of VR gear is not there yet. As so, content providers have a hard time justifying content costs when few will see it. But if there isn’t content available, few people have the incentive to buy gear at its current costs. Nevertheless, companies in different industries are starting to provide more compelling VR/AR experiences.
The gaming industry leverages the technology well and gets VR into people’s homes. Witness Pokemon Go’s success with its innovative AR gameplay that convinced users to spend more time walking around engaged with their mobile devices. And Playstation VR promises a good selection of VR games at a more affordable price.
This holiday season should see more consumers embracing the technology. In retail, look for a better shopping experience with Gap’s Dressing Room app and Pottery Barn (and other furniture stores) letting you see what pieces would look good in your living room.
Additionally, healthcare institutions are using VR to help burn victims cope with extreme pain. The real estate industry is using VR in more “expected” ways, such as 3-D walkthroughs of open houses or showing what a building would look when it’s finished. And with VR in the travel industry, you can see inside hotel rooms when planning a trip or simply satisfy your wanderlust from an armchair.
How Can Companies Create a Good VR Experience?
Virtual reality is great for emotional storytelling and relationship marketing. Brands need to make you feel something and relate to their story. This requires thinking differently than traditional filmmaking. Instead of quick cuts from one shot to the next, spend more time immersing the viewer in one place. Going to another scene quickly can be very disorienting. Brands have to balance the content being long enough to get the full experience, but also keep it in short form to hold users’ attention.
Most viewers do not look past 180 degrees around, so you need to make things interesting. Some activity should be happening in each third of the screen. You must direct the viewer using video and audio cues. This can be complicated from a development and production standpoint. Ultimately, you need to decide what your message is, how you want the viewer to feel and look where you want them to look.
What Are Obstacles to Gaining More VR/AR Adoption?
The panelists mentioned four main factors that hold back the pervasiveness of VR/AR:
- Nausea. When your senses disagree with what you’re seeing, it can have a negative effect on your body. Your eyes and spatial awareness have to re-adjust after wearing a headset for a period of time. Brands want to avoid getting subconsciously associated with a nauseous effect.
- Cost. At launch, the Oculus headset alone cost $798. Add a required gaming PC at $1,000+. (But in October this year, Oculus Go has been offered at $199 and does not require a phone or PC.)
- Content. As referenced above, there is not a plethora of high-quality content available in the market which makes it challenging to justify the cost of VR equipment in its current state.
- Basic Human Need. Currently, the VR experience does not satisfy any basic human need. Suspension of disbelief can easily be achieved through traditional media. The industry needs to figure out what the underlying need is to gain faster adoption.
Meet the Speakers
Sipra Thakur: Marketing Consultant, One Thousand Suns. Sipra is now an independent digital marketing consultant. Previously, she worked at IMAX, leading initiatives for VR experiences with major Hollywood studios like The Jungle Book, Interstellar, etc. She was also the lead on digital marketing initiatives for IMAX VR.
David Stone: Partner & Creative Director, The Human Expansion. David is a co-founder and director at The Human Expansion Co., an end-to-end film and content creation studio based in Santa Monica, CA. He previously served as Head of Film for Ogilvy West. His work has been recognized by the Emmy’s, Addy’s, Webby’s, PR Week, and more.
Luis Vera: Founder, VadaBing. Luis is in the process of launching VadaBing, a V-commerce platform to revolutionize the end-to-end retail shopping experience.
Sean Dekkers: Visual Designer. Sean is a product and experience designer having worked with IDEO, Fjord & McKinsey with a decade of previous experience in 3D, Visual Effects and design for gaming, web & feature films. He has produced content and applied technology for VR, AR, Computer Vision, Drones, WebGL in a variety of verticals.