By enabling us to enter a computer-generated interactive environment, virtual reality fulfils a human desire to experience another reality; a different place to the one we are in.
During the mid-twentieth century science fiction writers such as "Ray Bradbury" in his short publication "The Veldt" were already playing with this idea. But it was "Jaron Lanier" who coined the term in 1987.
However, despite starting as a concept, new technology has transformed this into a reality.
In 2015, Google made virtual reality available to everyone thanks to the launch of their "CardBoard" project. With a simple cheap cardboard box, that cost just £15.00, and an installed mobile app, any smartphone user could, for the first time, experience virtual reality from the comfort of their own home.
Since then many companies have developed their own advanced virtual reality systems:
- In 2016, Samsung launched its own virtual reality headset "Gear VR" as well as an app that allowed users access to large amounts of VR content.
- In March 2014, the social network, Facebook bought the company "Oculus" to develop their own system in which to experience VR.
- Microsoft has developed a powerful Augmented Reality system called "Hololens" targeting professionals in academic research.
- HTC has created a range of VR device called "Vive".
- Sony has also announced the launch of its new "PS4 Pro" video game console with greater speed and processor capacity that will provide a better virtual reality gaming experience for customers.
Now that virtual reality is more easily accessible, it is possible to successfully adapt it to marketing and advertising, giving customers a new and exciting experience.
Some recent examples can be found in -
- In its first September issue, TimeOut-London magazine launched a special cover advertising "Emirates Airline". Through which, by downloading the app "Blippar", the user could virtually visit the city of Dubai.
- The Spanish company "Houselab" has specialized in providing real estate services based on virtual reality on its website, the user can see the properties for sale virtually and take a 360 degree walk around the property.
- The company Coca-Cola made a commercial in VR for Christmas that was filmed in Poland and showed a sleigh ride.
The full benefits of VR are still being explored, however, it is clear that it has a strong position in the future of marketing and advertisement. Recent studies show the immediate benefits of VR, such as:
- Capturing: Customers who watch advertising in VR become totally immersed in what they see at 360 degrees. This reduces the likelihood of customers becoming distracted.
- Stronger: The responsive experience of watching a commercial in VR is greater than that of a conventional advert, increasingly the likelihood that customers will buy your product.
- Commercial: Customer's sensory reactions are strengthened, helping them to create a stronger association with your brand.
- Unforgettable: The human brain retains visuals for longer, making VR more memorable, and consequently influencing consumer behaviour.
Thus, VR has created a new challenge for advertising companies, measurement and content sales channels.
To fully understand the potential of VR, the market will need to develop new tools that can measure the actual impact of VR advertising on customers and consequently the direct percentage of sales it produces.