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Virtual Reality: Creating Brand Connection In Another World

Virtual Reality: Creating Brand Connection In Another World
If marketing firms could infiltrate our dreams with product ads, they absolutely would. The rise of Virtual Reality (VR) through Oculus Rift, and the Samsung gear VR is bringing them closer to it than ever before.

We have been searching for a medium to transport us to another world for centuries. It began with storytelling around the campfire, evolved into theater and then film, and has now arrived at Virtual Reality.

Branding & marketing have come a long way
A hundred years ago, we had upside down pictures of staged boxing matches on early film cameras, the short films of DW Griffith, and no sound. Initially, not much thought was given to figuring out a way to monetize technology for brand awareness. Today, film and media set the standard in the fashion world and rake in billions of dollars in branding and marketing. Though VR is in its early stages, people who have tried it report a strong sense of connection while experiencing a brand’s virtual world.

VR is a simple technology
It works by taking advantage of our depth perception abilities. The push towards modern VR was started a few years back by a Silicon Valley employee as part of his personal project. A smartphone rendered the same image, side by side, on a single screen from slightly different angles - similar to how our eyes see the world. A cardboard box was made into the shape of sunglasses with holes cut out in place of the lenses. When the phone was mounted in front of this box and placed close to the eyes, the two images blended together to form depth perception and create a virtual world.
 
VR is not new
I worked on the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) when it was introduced in the late 90s and at the time, it failed to have a life outside of the University research labs. All of the components necessary to bring this technology to the consumers were not well developed. The market doesn’t embrace technological leaps easily, and there is a time for every technology – it has to do with our sense of comfort. With the advent of the semiconductor industry and rapid progress in 3D computer graphics over the last few decades, VR is in a better position to finally take off. People at trade shows line up to try out a virtual experience and seem to reinforce the fact that we are finally ready to embrace it.

When you’re in a Virtual world, you’re fully there. The sense of presence is uncanny. Our eyes and ears work together to keep us balanced in the real world. When both of these senses are taken over by sound and sight extending above and beyond, the sense of physical transportation is unlike anything we have experienced with technology before. Master designers of virtual-walkthroughs can make you reach for the handle of your seats. As the camera rolls ever so slightly, your body in the real world will respond to regain a sense of balance. When you take your headset off, often times you may find yourself seating in a different posture or standing at a slightly different location than where you started.
The first consumer VR device: Samsung Gear VR. You can buy it at Best Buy! It is a novelty. People are having fun with just about any virtual environment. Hand tracking and gestures are not part of the technology yet but it probably will be by next year if not sooner. Hand tracking is necessary so people can meaningfully interact with the virtual world. In the next few years, headsets will get smaller. As battery technology improves, headsets will run longer, and cooler. Headsets will eventually be connected via Wi-Fi, and will probably be connected to your profile on the cloud.
 
Soon we will be able to share the virtual world with others
When communities start to form in a connected virtual world, marketing dollars will shift to this platform. It will demand higher production qualities for total immersive experiences. Production costs for building VR experiences will go up as audiences become more particular about what they want to experience.
 
The computer gaming industry has started production on VR titles
Valve, the maker of online gaming portal called Steam has partnered with smartphone manufacturer HTC to introduce the next-gen headset by the end of this year. Facebook bought Oculus Rift (an extension of the cardboard project I mentioned earlier), and has teamed up with Samsung to bring headsets to consumers for watching movies in a virtual theater. Films are coming out with their trailers for VR headsets along with short films that are projected inside a 360 degree dome. As the platform matures, third party VR apps will flood the market.

This technology has the potential to become a powerful platform to tell your stories and engage with your audience. It’ll be interesting to see how it will shape our lives and connection to one another.
 
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