The VR future: are we there yet?

Before I went to VR World in May, I was practically shaking with excitement over the possibilities of Virtual Reality, but now I’m absolutely certain it’s going to play a huge part in our future consumption of screens, screens and more screens — and it’ll be brave marketers and video professionals paving the way for what’s possible by creating immersive content and experiences.

Digging around in VR

It’s all well and good learning about someone else’s success story at an event that would never put VR/AR in a bad light, but there’s no way I was going to spend all day listening to industry experts tell me about dreams that have now become (virtual) reality without finding out for myself whether it’s true.

Are we really there yet?

Well, I did some digging around and came across some promising research on advertising in VR from Advir, a company that provides programmatic advertising in VR:

  • Engaged users: There was an 18% engagement rate for static display billboards in VR experiences, increasing to 23% for interactive placements that fit in with the story. They found an engagement rate of 2000% over web display. 2000%! That’s huge!
  • Brand recall: 67% of brands were remembered for display and video ad insertions, increasing to 100% for the interactive ads that people engaged with.
  • New measurements: Brands can learn things about users that can only be measured with VR, including gaze tracking, which enables you to see exactly where users are looking and for how long. Big Brother, step aside.

How big is VR?

It’s great for marketers and video producers that VR users remember the brands whose adverts they see, but how big really is the VR audience?

In a survey last August by YuMe, only 16% of internet users said they had used a VR headset, while only 9% said they had experienced augmented reality. Even more shockingly, 25% of respondents didn’t even know what AR was, even though the survey was conducted around the time Pokémon Go was at its most popular!

But it is looking up for VR. While sales of the higher-end VR headsets — Oculus Rift and HTC Vive — may be floundering, Sony announced in February that its less-expensive PlayStation VR headset had reached 1 million sales in the six months since its release.

Gathering dust?

But why buy a headset if it’s just going to sit on a shelf gathering dust? What can you actually do with one? The high-end headsets mentioned above have an obvious use — they were built for gaming, so people will use them to play video games.

It’s more than just gaming, though — I think VR (or, looking even further ahead, Mixed Reality) will play a big part in the modern world, which means it’s another tool video makers need to add to their belts. And brands have already begun to pave the way towards our VR future. Check out the great examples below to see for yourself.

  1. Volvo was the first automotive brand to create an experience for Google Cardboard. It lets users experience sitting in the Volvo XC90 Luxury SUV while driving along a scenic route.
  2. In 2016, the Whitehouse proved that VR can create greater levels of intimacy and engagement when they invited the Verge to interview Michelle Obama. It also features clever use of graphics to provide contextual information while drawing the focus of the user’s gaze to specific points in the video.
  3. And who says you can integrate Virtual with Reality? Watch how Old Irish — a new Irish recipe craft beer, takes unsuspecting pedestrians on a trip to Ireland right in the middle of Tbilisi, Georgia.

And remember, it’s still early days — just imagine what will be possible in just a year’s time: headsets will keep getting more powerful; they’ll eventually become so user-friendly that people won’t think twice about putting one on; and content creators, having learnt and got better at the craft, will be producing even more immersive experiences.

We’ve not even looked at what you can do by combining VR with drones (for a glimpse, check out how Patrón Tequila gave people the experience of being a bee in flight), or any number of other possibilities, that’ll crop up as the technology continues to develop at this crazy pace.

Yes, many video agencies and marketers will struggle in the jostle to keep up, but I see a revolution coming in this space. We just need bold clients with adventurous budgets to join up — especially in B2B, where great use of VR could help finally shake off the image that B2B videos are boring.

As you can see, I love talking about VR, so drop me a line and we’ll continue the conversation.