The Advent Of Virtual "ROI" Reality

We’re on the precipice of a virtual asset revolution that will see many brands with physical presences building virtual incarnations of their products and associated branding experiences as surely as the advent of the Internet lead to brand Web sites.

In the short term, we’re seeing virtual reality hitting the mainstream this year. It started with the Samsung Gear VR, a virtual reality add-on device for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4. The device would allow any owner of the Note 4 to be able to snap their phone into the device and use the phone to power a virtual reality experience, ranging from floating in a virtual ocean to watching media in a virtual movie theater.

I expect we’ll be seeing more powerful virtual reality devices aimed at “core” gamers in the fall, with a device from Facebook-owned Oculus and Sony’s codenamed “Project Morpheus.” Why fall?

That’s the estimated release of a space exploration themed game called “No Man’s Sky” -- initially being released for PS4 only, and PC after. This game fits so nicely with the promises of virtual reality that it’s extremely likely it will be released in concert with a virtual reality device. We’ll find out at E3 this coming summer.

Virtual reality isn’t going to net an audience much greater than the console gaming audience any time soon though. So why my confidence that brands will be creating virtual assets? Because virtual reality sits alongside the push for augmented reality.

From Microsoft’s recently showcased “HoloLens”, to Google’s reported complete reworking of Google Glass and their investment in the augmented reality company Magic Leap, there’s some serious momentum into a future with augmented reality.

What’s been interesting to see so far in virtual reality is that, much like “No Man’s Sky,” the projects that get the most attention or warmest receptions (to the admittedly small current user-base), are extremely experiential in nature. Which makes sense, as the experiences “feel” real. Objects look the same size and distance away as if they were actually present in reality.

This experiential approach has much more practical marketing use than the previous digital worlds. Just as an example, Amazon can beat almost all retail stores on price and relevant product information (via consumer reviews), but falls short on only one issue -- being able to actually see the product in person.

But virtual incarnations of products, from furniture to oven pans, will easily remove the questions regarding dimensions from the eCommerce landscape.

While the “virtual” technology that will reach mass adoption will likely be an augmented reality offering that takes over the full range of display to deliver virtual reality, there will be a potent first-mover advantage for brands that develop their own understanding of best practices in this new virtual landscape with the predecessor devices.

As such, smart brands with big budgets should take a fresh look at the coming bleeding edge of media - it will be an exciting next few years, guaranteed.


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