Looking At VR/AR Through A Brand Lens (Or Headset)
It was at the Launch Festival in San Francisco last week that it became clear how easy it is to begin drowning in the size and scope of the emerging Virtual and Augmented Reality industry. Similar to television, where the physical hardware is only a shred of the whole, a developed VR/AR industry will include studios (and their production tools), content distribution channels and platforms, advertising infrastructure, an entire gaming industry, conversion projects changing old-format content into new, and almost assuredly a slew of processes and functions that have yet to be established. It is further complicated by the fact that thus far, no two VR “screens” are created equal, and each requires its own set of software and hardware for usage. Google Cardboard only needs a smart phone to work; Oculus VR needs a headset and a dedicated computer. Because of this a single piece of content often needs to be optimized, or even recreated, specifically to play on each set, be it Cardboard or Oculus (or on HTC Vive, Samsung Gear, PlayStation VR). Augmented Reality, with much more immediately available application implications and often only needing a mobile phone and an app for delivery, brings in its own additional levels of complexity.
A screenshot from Immersive Entertainment's Grand Canyon VR experience. Photo provided by Immersive Entertainment.
For brands willing to work with nascent VR and AR companies to test the industry waters, there are huge opportunities in advertising and sponsored content. Many companies, like Immersive Entertainment (seen at Launch Festival), are focusing on creating completely free form worlds for people to roam through at their leisure. Imagine coming home from a stressful day of work, throwing on your VR set, and spending some time riding a bike through the Purina sponsored dog park to relax. Other companies are looking to replicate the idea of TV’s “30 second spot” in novel ways: instead of just a video during a VR football game stream’s commercial break, imagine a cat nestling on your lap and giving you a stern heart-to-heart about the importance of food quality.
The stories of Virtual and Augmented Reality are only just beginning to be written, and the implications they will have on brands’ constant missive of looking for new ways to connect with consumers on a deeper level are huge. The brands that will emerge as tech pioneers in the years to come will be those willing to take a leap with young companies and nascent technologies in their moments of creation. In this race to the forefront of innovation, as in so many things, we must consider the wisdom of Ricky Bobby: “If you’re not first, you’re last.”