Is VR The New 3D TV? Marketers, Excited -- The Public, Passive

Some interesting research in Marketing Week gave a glimpse into consumer attitudes toward virtual reality (VR), and it could be taken either of two ways. The optimist could come away, as the magazine did, that travel and entertainment were the primary opportunities. The less optimistic reader might have been more tempted to conclude that the public just is not as excited as marketers about Oculus et al.

The stats suggest that around two in three of those surveyed generally said the tech was too expensive and only really meant for gamers. Half of consumers claimed to not understand what VR is, and a further third claimed to know what it is but admit it's not something they're interested in.

The trouble could be that there is a mismatch here. Around the corner we have expensive VR headset launches that have yet to gain traction because, rather obviously, they have yet to launch. On the other hand, we have Google Cardboard which people may have trie, and if they are anything like me, consigned to the recycling bin. I mean, if i want my iPhone to rattle around a piece of cardboard i could just drop it in an empty cornflakes packet and try to watch as YouTube videos go in and out of focus as i move around the kitchen. That's how good Google Cardboard is.

I've seen gurus give very interesting talks about VR and I know a lot of brands are very interested in it. The niggling question, however, is whether this is all a bit of a gimmick that will soon fade. If you need to spend a few hundred pounds for one person to have some VR fun, the technology begins to lose its appeal beyond anyone who wants to feel like they are inside the stadium during a game of Fifa or hiding behind real walls in a Doom-style shoot-em-up.

I have no dog in this fight, but I'm struggling to see why I would get a VR headset or two for our household. However, I can happily see a VR headset adding to the customer experience at, say, a travel agency or a car dealership. Putting on a headset to take a tour of a resort and its sites or walking around the car I just helped "build" online sound like a lot of fun. I can only imagine that the latest VR ride at Alton Towers, Galactica, is a great deal of fun too. But these are all events or ways of improving customer service or experience within a business's premises.

As such, i'm reminded of 3D -- which many people, myself included, have on their television but very rarely use because it's not something the public was ever crying out for and there's not a lot of content. Thus, if there's an amazing new film, we might well buy a ticket for a 3D screening, but don't expect us to buy the 3D Blu-ray for home use.

I wonder, then, if this is how VR is going to be. An exciting new way of experiencing a theme park ride or taking a speedboat trip around the marina where we're considering booking a holiday -- but not something we'll see in the average front room.

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