It is crazy to think just how far the world of technology has come over the past decade or so. The 21st century has given us MP3 players with plentiful storage, video game consoles capable of incredible graphics, multitasking smartphones and all-encompassing tablet computers. But it still amazes me that widespread adoption of virtual reality headsets and devices is almost here too.
One of the most talked about products in recent years is Oculus VR’s Rift – a virtual reality head-mounted display that creates expansive computer-simulated worlds. But the main reason behind such extensive exposure isn’t due to the device’s amazing capabilities; it is because Facebook bought Oculus VR for $400 million in cash and $1.6 billion in stock.
So along with the technology industry getting excited about the potential of this next-generation device, marketing circles are also starting to go a bit crazy. But could Oculus Rift finally be the immersive experience marketers have been waiting for?
Nowadays, we are being sold at from every different platform imaginable. Search engines and social media have only added fuel to the fire and are given advertisers yet more avenues of approach.
Even though these channels are an improvement on traditional outbound marketing techniques in terms of engagement and interaction, they still don’t give consumers a detailed and in-depth overview of a physical product. Pictures, videos and even animations only go so far, as it is difficult to gain a real life perspective from a flat and two-dimensional screen. But with virtual reality, things could change!
Let’s take clothes shopping for example. At the moment, you can browse shirts or dresses, see how they look on a near-perfect model and try to decide whether it would suit you or not. You can always send undesirable items back, but this is far from ideal.
With Oculus Rift however, you could ‘virtually’ try on clothing in a simulated world. It is an idea being explored by Cisco, who have been developing the concept of a “life-sized mirror that overlays the customer’s image with pictures of clothing they selected using gesture and touch-based interfaces.” But rather than just browsing an online store’s inventory, why not take it a step further and develop virtual reality stores that you can actually walk around? You wouldn’t have to leave the home, but it could replicate the enjoyable experience of shopping with all the benefits that online retail provides. And for those not so enjoyable trips, such as doing the weekly grocery shop, virtual reality could give marketers the opportunity to promote certain goods and services. With the help of Figure Digital, Tesco recently developed a 360-degree virtual store, which seemed to provide incentives to purchase particular products.
What else? Well how about discovering the car of your dreams without having to deal with the persistent and pressing sales patter of an annoying dealer. Instead of flicking through another brochure that resembles every other piece of promotional material you’ve read, you’d be able to see how interior materials and exterior colours matched up in a three-dimensional setting. You could also put the vehicle through its paces on the open road or even take it to a racetrack for a truly exhilarating experience. This would all be in the name of research mind you!
However, the idea of combining the world of video games and virtual reality is an interesting one, as there could be possibilities and potential for marketers here too. The impressive and expansive cities featured in Grand Theft Auto and upcoming Watch Dogs are so close to real-life it is staggering. So what is stopping marketers from including real time advertisements and calls to action in these virtual environments? With an Oculus Rift headset, you could be playing the game, receive a pop-up that promises discounted clothing for a limited period of time, enter a virtual store within the game itself, try on the items you like, pay for your attire using stored credit card information, walk out of the retailer and continue with the next mission. A bit too far fetched at the moment? Maybe, but in looking at how companies have been trying to get Virtual Reality right for over 30 years, Oculus Rift looks like it might be the first affordable solution that allows consumers to become immersed in virtual worlds, with tangible products.
Oculus Rift implementation
With a price of $300, the headset is much cheaper than our favourite everyday devices such as smartphones and tablets. But surely the creation of CGI settings and situations require incredible effort? Not exactly. Mike Woods, head of digital at content company Framestore goes into detail about how the use of real-time rendering games engines is “blurring the line between filmic and interactive experiences to create some incredibly innovative and soon-to-be-released marketing projects.”
But it doesn’t all have to be computer generated, as O2 has demonstrated with its unique England rugby competition. By using nine GoPro cameras, it has filmed a first-team training session and transferred this footage to Oculus Rift. As part of their campaign, customers could appear alongside players and coaches in a real yet virtual environment.
As for Facebook’s role in the future development and adoption of Oculus Rift, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has suggested that it could be used to watch basketball games, attend school lessons or visit the doctor. The social network seems intent on branching out from a simple communication network to providers of personalised content. With the addition of virtual reality, brands and businesses that advertise on the site could give fans preferential privileges that are not available anywhere else.
But before this becomes a real-life reality, you should probably start thinking about how you can provide customers or clients with more individual and tailor-made experiences, which offer added value to their daily lives. Why? Because they could very well be receiving something even more amazing in the near future.
Now all we need is a platform to be able to move on within Virtual Reality to make it even more realistic. Oh, wait…..