The age of virtual reality may finally be upon us.
After years of development, the technology is hitting the mainstream market and piquing the interest of consumers.
A recent survey conducted by Nielsen of 8,000 US adults ages 18-53 found 36% say they are already interested in VR; a higher curiosity level than in other new technologies such as drones, chat bots, self-driving cars, and 3D printers. Moreover, 24% of consumers say they’d consider purchasing VR tech in the next year.
This interest level is likely to jump as awareness increases further. Another survey of US adults found 91% of consumers have a positive response after learning more about VR, with 58% saying they think the the experience is “amazing” after seeing it action.
For brands, the rise of VR is both exciting and intimidating. It seems to have interesting possibilities, but understanding even the basics can feel daunting.
What exactly is virtual reality? How should you be thinking about using it for your business? Are there specific actions you should be taking to get ready for it?
To position your business for future success with VR it helps to take a step back and approach the technology with these three key things in mind:
Think about VR as a medium, not a feature.
The biggest mistake that a brand can make when it comes to virtual reality is to view it simply as a headset that makes video games more fun.
Yes, gaming will change because of the technology, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What makes VR so exciting and promising isn’t that it’s an flashy new feature, but that it’s an entirely different method of interacting. One way to think about it is that it is similar to the leap from radio to film and television: it is a fundamental shift in how we experience the world.
What virtual reality does at its core is make experiences more immersive. The right hardware paired with the right content adds a third dimension; it allows the user to shift perspective and to move within an environment.
This has a staggering array of possibilities for businesses. VR has the potential to transform how marketers showcase products/services; how doctors deliver care; how architects design structures; how educators convey information; how people communicate; and so much more.
What’s essential to remember is that these are just a few of initial ideas. As with any new medium, its uses are sure to evolve and expand in ways we can’t even conceive of right now.
Understand that the current tech is still early stage.
Over the past few months it feels like the market has been flooded with various VR technologies and formats.
On the hardware side it’s now possible to purchase everything from the Oculus Rift (a $600 headset) to Google Cardboard (a $15 add-on to mobile phones). On the content side, many of the major platforms, including Facebook (Facebook 360) and YouTube (YouTube 360°) have developed ways for publishers to present immersive pieces.
Despite this rush to release products, it’s important to remember that we’re still in the very early stages of VR. Given that, it’s probably wise to be cautious with betting on one specific approach.
That’s not to say that you should avoid diving-in completely. It’s still necessary to have a deep understanding of how virtual reality works. The best way to do that is to test the hardware out yourself and dip your toe in the water by creating a few VR experiences.
However, be cautious in wedding yourself to particular products and distribution channels. VR technology is changing rapidly and it’s still not clear which formats and manufacturers will win out. For now, it may be best for your brand to be cautiously experimental.
Invest in flexible platforms and hardware.
While this may not be the right moment to spend heavily on specific VR tech, it is the perfect time to invest in flexible hardware and platforms that will allow your business to rapidly embrace the technology when it does mature.
For example, if your brand purchases its own audio and video equipment, think about buying products that have the ability to capture both traditional and VR elements (such as 3D microphones and cameras that can be synchronized).
When it comes to platforms, bet on those that have a history of integrating new technologies quickly.
Something like WordPress, with its large and devoted network of third-party developers, is much more likely to quickly have a plugin for fresh VR technologies than a proprietary CMS.
Similarly, a video platform like YouTube, which has millions of creators experimenting with new storytelling methods, may be a better repository for your 3D videos than a closed system/format.
Ultimately, no one is quite sure where VR is headed and how exactly it’ll impact various industries. However, by investing in flexible tools you’ll be well poised for success no matter what direction the technology takes.