Virtual Reality: Fad or Future?

— Laura Gillen, Sr Director, Technology & B2B 

Day two at Web Summit was all about the rise of Virtual Reality (VR). Walking around the halls we saw some great speakers on the topic and tried a ton of VR experiences from various brands - from TAP Portugal, the tourist board of Holland and Discovery Channel.

I am unashamedly a bit obsessed with it all. Ok, I admit it might be because it’s all a bit shiny and new, but I also think VR takes me back to my life as an 80’s kid where my brothers and I were huge fans of films like Flight of the Navigator and Back to the Future Part II. For me, VR and Augmented Reality (AR) brings this 80’s fantasy to life.

The immersiveness of it all fascinates me. If you haven’t tried it, you should. You truly feel part of a journey – and I’ve noticed many of these VR experiences offer an on and offline convergence. One of my favourite examples was on offer a few weeks ago at Heathrow Airport. Bombay Sapphire had a pop up giving a gin VR experience. Within five minutes of spotting it I had a headset on showing me how and where Bombay Sapphire was made, inviting me to visit its home and then my own personal mixologist was making me a cocktail with their newest gin. Did I feel special? Yes. Did I walk away thinking more positively about the brand? Yes. Marketing win for Bombay Sapphire? Yes!

My point of this post; what I love about VR (and similar types of future technology) is the opportunity this brings to us as communicators. I’m lucky enough to work with some brands that are keen to experiment with VR, even though we don’t yet have proof that it will work, we’ll test and learn.

When used in the right way, it is being said that VR is the next best form of engaging content and as communicators and storytellers we should be seriously considering it as an engagement tool.  With that, here are a few bits of VR advice from one of my favourite talks at web summit ‘Virtual Reality: Jump into the Story’ by Maureen Fan from Baobab:

  • Content is king: Ok, we are all a little bored of this term, I’ve been hearing it since at least 2007, but many people yesterday argued that the real challenge about VR now is the availability of good content. It said quality content is now actually lagging behind hardware development in terms of VR progression. The piece advice given was make the quality of your content your priority.
  • There are no rules, yet: Secondly, Maureen said if someone is telling you how or what to do in VR, don’t listen to them. She is spot on. Right now no-one really knows what’s right or wrong, or good or bad, there’s just this feeling that this could really take customer experiences to another level.
  • Experiment: To the above point, it’s time just give it go! It’s really about seeing where we can go with VR for now. Back in real world reality, it’s still a long way off from being a mainstream platform like mobile, but who knows? You could be the company that figures it all out.

You can probably tell I’m a little excited about it all, and if we’re honest who knows where it will go, but aren’t we lucky to work in roles that can be at the forefront of trying all this stuff out?