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Virtual Reality: The View from Here

Dennis Nobile

March 21, 2017
Dennis Nobile

Talking about Virtual Reality is like trying to describe a sunset. You really have to experience it. Which, of course, is the point.

From its funky roots in the arcades of the 70s and 80s, Virtual reality (VR) has evolved into a revolutionary medium offering endless possibilities for entertainment, education and marketing.

2016 witnessed a pivotal confluence of technology, content and platform accessibility. This ideal intersection is turning VR (and its offshoots, 360 and Augmented Reality) into a permanent player and, in time, the preeminent one.

Even if your VR experience is limited to PlayStation or iMax theaters, you can appreciate what a uniquely compelling medium it is. (How compelling? Try watching “Gravity” in 2-D.)

The statistics are compelling, too. In 2014, only 200,000 people used VR.

In 2016, there were 43 million users, an enviable increase of 21,500%. Keep in mind that most consumer experience with VR takes place outside the home, in high-traffic locations – movie theaters, shopping malls, theme parks and major landmarks.

For now, the high cost of consumer VR systems is limiting home use to aficionados. Nevertheless, just as arcade culture served to mainstream video games, consumer interest will turn to demand as high quality VR content becomes more accessible.

In terms of accessibility, social networks are leading the way, with Snapchat, Facebook and Google already heavily invested in VR content. Additionally, a wide range of brands are quickly adapting and adopting, rolling out immersive video content with interactive capabilities. They are connecting with consumers through VR installations at high frequency, foot-traffic locations. Moreover, VR content geared to B2B has become a standard at conferences and industry trade shows.

Clearly we’re at a watershed in modern communications more drastic than the change from silent movies to sound. The opportunities for marketers and storytellers are tremendous, as long as we avoid the “tech-for-tech’s sake” trap. Though immersive technology offers viewers a highly stimulating and detailed world unto itself, the question still remains how to make the consumer embrace your story as their own.