The Future of Oculus Rift

With there being a lot of hype over virtual reality technologies in the world of advertising since CES last month, I figured it was time to jump into the fray and put out my thoughts on the subject.

When Oculus’ story first popped into the top page of /r/futurology a year before the first developer’s kit came out, I was intrigued. A wearable device that can make you visually immersed into any setting, this thing could take you places you’ve only dreamed of. I wasn’t alone in thinking that, their Kickstarter gained its funding and now with thousands of developer kits now sold, Oculus is preparing to release its third iteration in just a few months.

Of course I wanted one, but I was only fantasizing about its use for consumer purposes until I stumbled into Jeff Vermeersch’s office at DDB Toronto. I was taking an agency tour at the DDB/Tribal offices. Jeff is the technology director there and at the time of my visit, he was playing with the device.

I have to say, it looked like a pretty cool job.

We discussed briefly the idea and importance of leveraging of Oculus, or rather, VR technology for brands. This got me thinking about a whole new use for the VR technologies that I am sure we’ll see emerging on the scene in less than ten years.

What’s more is what comes after.

Right now, the Oculus is the leading trailblazer of innovative VR technologies and the Rift is their flagship product. If you haven’t heard already, the device is a head-mounted media platform, allowing users to view content in a VR setting (a projected display in an enclosed peripheral unit). How you tilt your head, move your arms, or even walk around can be relayed to the software to create a visually immersed experience.

While consumers think video games, advertisers and marketers alike are dreaming up other innovative experiences that use the device for branded purposes. In the future, in-home VR technology may become as mainstream as the television today. The devices may eventually rival some internet companies for presenting integrated advertising content. As the technology is adopted, consumers can expect to receive more innovative content and immersive experiences will be dreamed up by programmers and advertisers.

This makes me wonder what will come first, VR content or ad-driven storytelling?

VR is just fine for an in-home experience, but I don’t think the human race is destined to live like the dystopian futures portrayed in Hollywood productions. I believe that once Oculus and any other VR technology finally get their go on the mainstream market, the devices will be destined to stay inside the home similar to how gaming consoles are gathering dust currently.

What presents out-of-home potential is AR, or augmented reality technology. Remember those QR-code-looking things from 2006? Google and Microsoft have been tinkering with peripherals that could really change the game and evolve in-home VR experiences and present content in a new form out of the home.

Maybe you've heard of Google Glass, a wearable device which Google has recently halted the manufacturing and selling of in order to overhaul it. Or Microsoft, who announced earlier this month that they’ve been developing the HoloLens since AR really hit the scene eight years ago. With these devices, tactics that have been originally developed for VR could be adapted to present advertising and other experiences in an AR setting. This could take experiences from VR to the outside world.

AR also presents advertisers with the opportunity to do what they could only dream of doing right until now; track traditional ad channels. A user’s eyes have to be tracked to be able to present content in 3D space. Unlike digital advertising, traditional advertising cannot track or measure traffic and impressions, but since AR technology has the potential to track eyes and real-world objects, it’s theoretically possible to track media impressions in real-time. This would greatly change the media playing field. With the ability of tracking traditional channels, advertisers will have actual figures for traditional media channels to base figures on.

Advertising and technologies like the Oculus Rift will always have a tight relationship but VR is just the tip of the iceberg people. The potential for marketing truly lies in out-of-home AR devices.

To stay at the top, advertisers have to continually consider leveraging emerging technologies. They are in essence, a media platform and where there is media, there is the opportunity to present content, tell stories, and evoke action.

My name is Spencer MacPherson and I am an advertising and marketing communications professional.

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