What is Virtual Reality? Why does it seem like you’ve been hearing that phrase a lot lately? How does it affect you? What does it have to do with your business? And (better yet) why should you care?
Virtual Reality (VR) is the stuff of science fiction, right? Not anymore! The future is now, and you can try your hand, or at least a finger or two, at the exciting adventure of VR with little more than a Smartphone.
Here’s how it works: the VR tech or app creates and projects images onto a display or viewing platform that appear to be 3D from the perspective of the user. VR has the ability to track a user’s motions, particularly head and eye movements, and correspondingly adjusts the images on the user’s display to reflect the change in perspective. The result is an immersive “virtual” reality.
Virtual Reality as a technology has been quietly building for the past few years, but 2017 will be remembered as the year it landed in a big way. Already this year, we’ve seen the launch of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR. Those projects are all high-end gaming systems that rely on connecting to a powerful computer or games console to run.
This doesn’t mean VR is just for hardcore gamers. It’s becoming an intrinsic part of our popular culture, and advertisers are not wasting any time implementing it in their marketing efforts. After all, VR offers brands a unique and interactive way to communicate with their target audiences and, at least for now, set themselves apart from the competition.
What Is Virtual Reality?
Let’s back up a bit. What exactly do we mean by Virtual Reality, anyway?
Virtual Reality (VR) is all about giving the user the feeling of being somewhere else. VR technology hides the real world from view: instead, presenting the user with a slightly different image or video that also gives an impression of depth. The result, when it’s done well, is that the user sees a realistic, 3D representation of a simulated world. A virtual reality.
Mobile VR is a great entry point into this world. Google and Samsung are already making their own VR hardware, and though Apple has yet to officially support the technology, the App Store is starting to promote and feature a number of apps and games designed for virtual reality experiences. All you need to participate is a Smartphone.
When the phone is in VR-mode, all movements are tracked via the phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer, meaning when looking through the phone’s screen, if you look to the left or right, the simulation follows suit.
Virtual Reality Is Not To Be Confused With Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) overlays imagery onto live footage of the real world; such as the monsters in Pokémon GO, or the chicken that was suddenly laying an egg on our office printer thanks to a particularly fun Snapchat filter.
Based on the theme and coverage of recent news around the Marketing/Advertising circuit (check it out in our latest Best of the Biz), many believe a mix of Virtual and Augmented Reality will eventually become a part of our everyday lives, even creeping into the workplace.
Imagine conference calls, marketing presentations, or product prototyping in a virtual space. Even today, Virtual Reality is sophisticated enough to allow users to witness breathtaking panoramic vistas, see the world through the eyes of a plummeting skydiver, or wander around the surface of the moon. Potentially, it could take you court-side at the NBA or to the front row of a Broadway show!
It’s a whole new way to absorb media, in which you’re free to look around and focus on whatever draws your attention or catches your fancy. Scan the skies, examine the edges of your vision, or spin around to see what’s behind you. It’s cool stuff, and the barrier to entry is low!
Google Spotlight Stories is a platform for VR storytelling, focused mainly on animation and interactivity, and offers a glimpse of the future of virtual storytelling. If you’ve grabbed your Smartphone, now’s the time to whip it out and watch the video below. As the video plays, turn your phone any which way you want, and experience the 360 storytelling of VR.
Time will tell whether today’s Virtual Reality will be a fleeting fad or a sign of our increasingly digital future. With the amount of heavy investment from so many of the world’s biggest tech companies, however, all evidence suggests that VR is here to stay.
Don’t let it pass you by – grab yourself a VR tech, app, or expert and get in the loop today!