Have you been able to catch the steady flow of 360° videos that Tourism Australia has been churning out over the last few weeks? It allows you to practically fly above any spot, choosing the direction in which the camera goes, and provides an absolutely incredible way to experience any location on earth.
Welcome to the era of virtual reality.
Once a pipe dream, featured more in fiction than it was seen in the real world, virtual reality is seemingly here to stay. Many experts did predict that 2016 was going to be the year where the technology blew into the mainstream. We’re only five weeks in to the new year, and looking around at all the hype, it’s hard to argue against that continuing.
But what exactly does virtual reality mean in this day and age? Is it akin to the big blocks that people used to shove over their heads that we saw pop up all over the place in the 1990’s? Or is it closer to a futuristic, science fiction movie? In this article, we’ll mull over what VR is in this day and age, as well as looking at some of the more interesting applications that you can now find the technology in.
From the past to the present
VR began its life as a concept based on the kaleidoscope, where several films were played simultaneously within the traditional goggleframe that we associate with VR. This very same concept became far too good for scifi writers to pass up on. Soon, virtual reality was described as everything from infectious hyperrealism, to a more simpler “experience theatre”.
With the increase in the popularity of video games came further exploration of the VR idea. Atari was one of the very first companies to dive into the virtual world, looking to enhance the look of their games through the concept. Come the 90’s, virtual reality was the biggest buzzword on earth, with many predicting that VR would be in every home by 1994.
Come the end of the 90’s, that prediction largely disappeared outside of airline or military applications. It roared back in 2007, when Google’s revolutionary Street View feature was launched, and has simmered under the surface of mainstream understanding ever since. So what’s brought it to the fore only just now?
2016 and beyond
It’s been no surprise that the marketing world has pushed (or been pushed, depending on your point of view) to embrace a greater user experience. We see this heightened sense of the experience taking priority on the internet almost every day, and it is with this global network where VR’s renaissance has thrived.
Without any surprise whatsoever, the first groups to notice the immense power that VR and the internet offered were marketers. Facebook quickly snapped up the now famous and mysterious Oculus VR company, who are gaining a ridiculous amount of publicity ahead of their March 28th product launch. Ironically, the main focus of the Oculus Rift is the same as it was when Atari pioneered the technology; gamers.
Whilst the target audience is outside of the marketing sphere, advertising agencies have had no problems adapting to the forecasted change. Given the Tourism Australia example at the start of the article, you can only imagine what other examples there are of the technology in use today. Of which, YouTube’s highly popular 360° videos are one of the major players.
Used by Apple and U2 as well, these videos offer greater scope and depth, as well as an interactive way to explore moving content. Rather than subjecting the viewer to simply hitting play, the viewer is invited to move at their own pace, whilst also allowing them to see things from their preferred perspective.
This is also true of Google’s 360° Business View technology, which is allowing people to move around stores and establishments before stepping a foot inside. It’s great for bars and restaurants with a pretty interior to showcase, and even benefits retail stores, where an object that is found can be clicked on for further inspection and details.
The future of marketing is bright, and in VR, we are seeing a greater interest paid towards the user’s experience. Whether it has staying power, and doesn’t go the way of the supposed 3D TV revolution we had a few years ago, remains to be seen. However, with really fantastic content coming out in these early days, VR looks to be a winner in these formulative stages.