What is the future of virtual reality?

Virtual reality has been around for a few years now, and at the start of 2016, we finally started to make some real progress toward what it might become. With VR technology becoming more and more accessible with companies like Google, Facebook, HTC and Sony all getting involved to become major players in the space, the question is: is virtual reality just a fad or is it the way of the future?

In our opinion, it isn’t just the virtual reality gaming future that looks bright (although we can’t wait for the release of the Oculus Go) as there are so many dazzling applications for VR’s unique technology. Whether it’s for retailers wanting to offer their customers a bespoke, customisable experience or for medical professionals who can learn new skills without touching a body, VR offers some genuinely exciting possibilities.

For example, an area that has gone more or less unexplored but where VR has definite scope to shine, is in the support of MOOC (Massive Online Open Classes), where students could have a truly immersive and bespoke learning experience. VR offers students the chance to customise their learning – there’s no need to be bound to a virtual lecture hall. With the use of VR, they can literally explore their chosen subject with an intimacy and immediacy that could help learners that have struggled to engage in more traditional environments.

We’re also looking forward to the uptick in the use of VR as a media channel. Former Oculus Studio producer Edward Saatchi (who has just premiered ‘Wolves in the Walls’, his latest Oculus experience, at the Sundance Film Festival) believes that the future of VR film as an artistic and financially successful practice lies in the intersection between the virtual and augmented reality formats.  In Saatchi’s mind, once users can have an interactive virtual experience and then port the characters they meet onto other formats (like Amazon’s Alexa), we’ll start to see the medium’s real capabilities. For our part, we reckon once Netflix is offering 360 films, we’ll know that VR truly has been adopted as a mainstream technology.

But when will this long-promised mainstream acceptance arrive? Many pundits have pointed to the high barrier of entry when it comes to purchasing VR accessories – it can easily run into hundreds, even thousands of pounds. However, the affordability of entry-level VR headsets like the Google Cardboard (which you can pick up for a couple of quid online) and even Google’s more high-end Daydream (a not-too-shabby price point of around £60) mean that there is a future beyond tech’s early adopters and the dedicated Oculus heads.

Here at Pebble Studios, we love our virtual reality innovations and we’ve made a video that attempts to track the evolution of virtual reality and also answer some of the questions that might have arisen. You can watch it at the top of this page or read the transcript below.

Video Transcript

If there’s one thing this industry loves, it’s a bit of new tech.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave recently, you’ve likely heard a lot about the development of virtual reality – the latest trend that’s going to revolutionise the way we consume media.

But haven’t we heard this all before? I mean, we literally have in the case of VR:

“There is a lot of work being done on VR, and the field is not only hot, but getting hotter by the month!” – this is copy from 1992!

So why should we listen when it failed to impress before?

Fair enough, in the 90s there just wasn’t the hardware to sustain the development – just look at the Nintendo Virtual Boy – but there have been plenty of ‘revolutionary’ advances in media consumption that have flopped in recent years too: 3DTV, Google Glass, Augmented Reality, Siri and the Apple Watch.

Were these products just tech for tech’s sake?  And do consumers really feel comfortable talking to their watch, asking for directions to the nearest cinema?

If that is the case,  how are people going to feel about wearing giant blacked-out ski goggles and headphones whilst they do their online shopping?

So – the real question is, is the VR bubble going to pop? Or live long and prosper?

Well, it has A LOT of backing from some huge tech companies; Google, Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Microsoft to name a few, so will they really let it fail?

So the real question is, is the VR bubble going to pop? Or live long and prosper?

Well, it has A LOT of backing from some huge tech companies; Google, Apple, Facebook, Samsung, Microsoft just to name a few, so will they really let it fail?

And with their financial support, software development is evolving rapidly, making it a lot easier for production companies to create fully immersive experiences.

And that’s great – we can create VR experiences with relative ease – but are consumers really going to care? Are they going to participate?

Where VR’s most likely to have success is where there is a genuine consumer benefit for its user:

  • Gaming
  • Porn (especially with the development of Oculus Touch)
  • Experiential marketing
  • Architectural visualisations.

And, there are some brilliant executions already out there: the EVE: Valkyrie title has the gaming world on tenterhooks, with pundits expecting it to be the benchmark for games in the future.

Or take the Marriott hotel’s ‘The Teleporter’ that transports viewers to a beach in Hawaii, a brilliant example of using VR as a powerful marketing tool.

And of course, our project turning an ordinary launch video into a beautifully immersive experience.

But, we can’t predict the future of VR in the long term.

Will producers be able to overcome the nauseating side effects that VR content sometimes has on viewers? Or will people refuse to live in the real world, because VR is just so much more interesting & exciting than their own?

Who knows?

But what we do know, with a small degree of certainty, is that, like with every technological advancement in the world of marketing, brands will be all over it.

And if you haven’t already been asked to create something in VR, you probably will be very soon. So make sure you know the process, the challenges, and the benefits before you start selling it in to your client.

If you want to hear or see more about VR why not give us a call on 02079935112 or get in touch.

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Liz Chai

Liz Chai

Originally heralding from sunny Australia, Liz has worked both agency side (at Leo Burnett and Pulse Creative) and now production. She's hugely passionate about creative content and has an infectious enthusiasm for the industry as a whole.

Content and Marketing Manager, Pebble Studios

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