Google Is Right On VR Bandwagon Jumping -- And Cardboard Fans Are The Worst

Too many people are doing VR just to say they are doing VR. Those were the words of the Aaron Luber, head of Google VR partnerships, when he spoke in Cannes yesterday. Although i can't say i've been inundated with VR content I can readily imagine how many brands are currently investigating or rolling out their first VR efforts. The technology is going to be huge but it does need careful consideration.

My alarm bells started to ring for Jaguar when it unveiled the Andy Murray #FeelWimbledon experience. It hasn't really been explained what this is, possibly because it's being unveiled at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week. However, quite aside from what on earth a tennis star has got to do with a car and how that translates to a link up with Wimbledon is beyond me. I can only assume participants join Andy on a drive to the Wimbledon courts in a Jaguar? Perhaps they get to go on court and see how hard he can hit a ball?



We will see on that one, but what really grabbed my attention was that Jaguar is offering consumers the chance to watch the VR experience by handing out 20,000 pairs of Google Cardboard.

If ever a marketing manager wants to earn a vote of no confidence, in my book, an order for nearly a quarter of a million pounds worth of pointless technology will do the job nicely. The boxes are, of course, cardboard -- and so bend and flex rather than pass on instructions to the smartphone inside. When it comes to the smartphone you can put an elastic band around it, which remains visible, or watch as it slips and slides away inside the box.

Ironically, i suspect Luber didn't have Cardboard-supporting Jaguar in mind when he called out brands for jumping on the bandwagon, but mark these words: there will be thousands of people wondering what on earth all the fuss is about if their first immersion in to celebrity endorsed, branded VR is watching Andy Murray slide around in a cardboard box.

Probably one of those tech revolutions where you can say the early bird may catch the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese. The better experience is just down the line as the likes of Oculus, Sony and HTC launch more expensive dedicated VR headsets that offer a customer experience a million times better than an empty cornflakes pack and elastic band.

If you are among the many who are using Google Cardboard for a launch and think it will be a bit of fun, I implore you to actually try the technology first. Actually set one up from scratch and then struggle to get anything working, and then wonder why the phone sliding around with your head movements isn't supposed to be a deal breaker.

Google is right. Too many people are looking into VR at the moment just to tick a box, and ironically, if it's a certain cardboard box they are instantly guilty of bandwagon jumping and offering an experience that will turn customers off -- not on.

This column was originally published in the London Blog on June 22, 2016.

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