Virtual Reality: the new normal?
Virtual Reality (VR) is on the cusp of transforming the way we interact in both B2B and B2C environments. The immersive technology – which seemed dead and buried after a brief moment in the sun in the 1990s – recently enjoyed a Phoenix-like rise from the ashes and is now on everyone’s radar.
According to Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs Research, the VR market will become an $80 billion market by 2025. To put it into perspective, that’s about the size of the desktop PC market today.
Exponential growth is imminent, with new high resolution devices from HTC, Sony and others hitting the market this year. The launch of the Oculus Rift has already received a rave review. At the other end of the price scale, Google Cardboard is letting anyone with a little imagination leverage the VR hype.
To help us understand what it will mean for our clients, we invited in one of Australia’s preeminent experts in VR, Daniel Lind. Here, we share his insights with you.
W-B: Which industries are the first to benefit from using VR as a marketing tool?
D.L: It comes down to the proliferation of hardware systems.
When it comes to the high resolution, high performance VR headsets, we’re expecting a total global user base of only about 5-10 million within 12 months. In this narrow market, the industries that will benefit are those that use complex visualisation scenarios to their advantage – for example, luxury real estate agents wanting to do walk throughs of multi-million dollar properties.
The education and gaming markets will also be first movers in the new VR space. It is proving itself a valuable educational tool in schools and learning labs; and gamers love the ability to reach for a shield, say, or duck and dodge an arrow that’s coming straight at them.
That’s not to say that VR won’t be used by brands to reach the masses. Google Cardboard is already being used by astute brands to give consumers an immersive VR experience. Coke and McDonalds have turned their packaging – the Happy Meal container, for example – into VR devices.
So, should marketers think of it as another channel to sit alongside web, mobile, and the like?
Given that we expect a five- to ten-fold increase in VR uptake, compounding year-on-year, marketers should certainly be thinking about it now, as its own channel. In ten years, sales of VR will be higher than TV hardware.
For brands, the possibilities lie in creating persistent, branded worlds. Brands can sponsor quality VR content – and right now, given that the content pool isn’t very large, the first-movers will get great value from it.
So yes, it’s a new channel. And the same way that web or mobile disrupted, VR will too ... but even more so.
What about the users? Are customers ready for this?
I think so, although again it will depend on the hardware.
The HTC Vive, which is launching now, includes tracked hand controllers that you can see within the VR world. It’s got sub-millimetre accuracy and a natural interface. It will be very easy for new users to pick it up.
The launch model of Oculus Rift, on the other hand, uses the Xbox controller – so if you haven’t used an Xbox before it will take a while to learn the ropes. This hardware is targeting gamers.
What’s your advice to marketers to help them get ready for VR?
Everyone in digital marketing should spend a few hours immersed in a high-end VR system, to really get a sense of its potential.
Good quality VR hacks your perceptual system at a very low level – if you’re standing at the edge of a cliff in VR, it’s very difficult to step out off the edge. Some part of your brain believes that you’re there.