Back in the mid-90’s, I had already developed a keen interest in Virtual Reality. It started with the help of a schoolmate and his access to his dad’s bootleg VHS tapes of 90’s films and, the awful, but cult like (at least in my mind), Denzel Washington/Russell Crowe flick, Virtuosity. I then made it my mission to get hold of one of the worlds first VR Headsets, and no, I didn’t have to wait all those years for Oculus rift. I’m talking about Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. With simple graphics and the ability to make you incredibly sick in less than half an hour, this was not the VR revolution I was hoping for. I was still enamoured with the concept, and like many others, I was a big fan of the, also terrible, Stephen King brainchild, The Lawnmower Man. It’s now fitting that the time I write this blog about the future of VR and how it will change our world, and the world of communications, The Lawnmower Man Is about to get a new lease of life as a TV series. And, you guessed it, it will be delivered - at least in part - in VR.
Here, at drp, our latest Christmas campaign Elf Propelled (I know I work here but that is a corking pun), sees you enter a virtual world where you can hurl presents at expectant houses to win fabulous prezzies, all delivered in VR. So why did we choose, now, to deploy a campaign like this in VR? Well, it’s pretty clear to us that VR is here to stay, and now is the time to start thinking about how it can be incorporated effectively into your comms strategy. Download the game here (iOS / Play), whack your phone in your headset and get ‘propellin’.
We’re Virtually There
So, my main points of scepticism regarding VR as a fully-fledged comms tool was how isolating it is. Great for training? Absolutely. Great for delivering comms to large audiences? Not so much. So, the key has been the gradual development of shared virtual experiences. From Abba’s VR tour, through to the beta test of Facebook Spaces. We’re seeing the ability for people to share a virtual world, simultaneously, without much complication. And this represents a major shift in our ability to use it successfully in comms.
The chatter in the tech industry is that VR has reached that all important tipping point. The tech is mature enough and additions useful enough for it to be possible for comms pros to look to a future where VR can add value rather than just the “wow” factor. One key addition is the continued growth of Haptics. The ability to add sensory experiences to VR is the holy grail, and touch is a great way to start. We can now start to develop shared environments where you can actually touch virtual objects that aren’t physically there. This speaks to our ability to create collaboration and deliver laterally creative comms campaigns that truly inspire.
Virtually Not There
The technology aspect is also set to improve exponentially. Graphics will improve, development will be simpler, and the tech more streamlined. Our learnings from the smartphone revolution has enabled us to be more effective and accessible with the personal technology of our audiences, rather than rely on mass distribution. We are also starting to see fully fledged commercial experience with real impact like The Void. If we can harness this power in comms, we can create kinetic environments to deliver messages which will literally be unforgettable. I went through the void experience once, months back, and I could still narrate to you now every detail of the story and the experience. That’s real power in delivery.
"The tech is mature enough and additions useful enough for it to be possible for comms pros to look to a future where VR can add value rather than just the “wow” factor."
So, the ingredients are there for VR to finally be a real player in our comms arsenal. We’re just waiting for one final ingredient: the launch of the 5G network. It’s very hard to predict exactly what technology will spring up from the best mobile connection speeds we’ve ever had, but most experts agree that it will mark the start of a noticeable ramping up of both VR and AR activity. Effectively, we have the opportunity to now start formulating virtual comms strategies before mass adoption, and lead the way, rather than chase the heels, of the VR trailblazers.
By Callum Gill - Head of Insight & Innovation