Assuming that Virtual Reality devices become less bulky, faster, more sophisticated, and more available to consumers at an affordable price this year, the zeal among advertisers to test out the technology could grow intensely.
There are more and more new devices that promise to bring us closer to this new ecosystem of immersion (assuming that we can enrich our virtual experience with more than 2 senses –sound and vision–). But getting there is a matter of the imagination and putting it to practice.
We’re talking about a medium where, for example, the user can explore an online store in real time and be able to touch and feel the textures of the product, sharing it, perhaps, through new social media platforms, and, of course, the ultimate goal, purchasing it.
All of that is probably the big opportunity that brands are hoping for. If we talk about the mobile consumption trend, well just add Virtual Reality to that and… let your imagination flow.
Currently, the high-range headphones used by academic researchers and institutional laboratories can cost about $50,000. But there are other, more economic options available these days. The development of the Oculus Rift kit – targeted toward developers – costs $350 if you preorder it. And Samsung announced the launching of the virtual reality helmet Gear VR in December of last year. In the United States they are expected to be put on the market for under $300. Sony, of course, doesn’t want to fall behind in this race and is working on coming out with its own product.
The companies that are most likely to take the initiative in developing virtual reality experiences are General Electric and Audi, who have earned a reputation as the first to adopt the technology. However, the usefulness of this technology will be limited for other brands. JC Penney, for example, can successfully sell products online through its website and Pinterest without the need of a virtual store (at least until now).
Virtual reality may be transformative for the advertising industry. Instead of interrupting people with ads, sellers could sponsor virtual experiences to the people they’re really looking for. But in order for that to happen, the advertising industry must first understand this new medium.
The best virtual reality applications in entertainment and marketing have probably not been developed yet. But futuristic visions and concepts are already pointing to the possibilities. This is a new platform for art, games, storytelling and communication, science and sports, and all other areas. The goal, as I was saying in the beginning, is for it to be truly immersive and to give the consumer a sense of presence.
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