While it’s currently uncertain how this new media will affect advertising and brands, the potential is immense especially since according to analysts, it’s estimated that more than 12 million VR headsets will be sold by the end of this year.
Though the concept of Virtual Reality first appeared in the 1950s with Stanley G. Weinbaum’s Pygmalion’s Spectacles, the stereoscope was the first step towards the immersive experiences becoming available today.
The stereoscope emerged shortly after photography in 1839 and works by having two images side by side and looking through an apparatus that holds the images at a short distance. By simulating the left-eye and right-eye views, our brains automatically process the two images as one 3D image. The most popular example of this is the View-Master, introduced in 1939.
The VR headsets of today, from the crude but effective Google Cardboard to more advanced units such as Oculus Rift create a 3D image by having images side by side, similar to stereoscopes of old. Using this concept and augmenting it with the modern technology of HD screens and positional tracking sensors, developers have started to create a fully immersive experience.
But what does this mean from an advertising standpoint and more importantly, how can brands leverage this new, exciting medium to their benefit? While it’s expected that most early forms of advertising will be similar to existing mediums and be nothing more than 3D commercials, companies that really push the boundaries of what VR can do will no doubt benefit from the extra effort.
Linda Boff, GE’s global chief marketing officer says that VR is “a tool to tell a powerful story in a way that’s much more personal and up close than we’d normally be able to.”.
Imagine being able to visit a tropical resort before booking your hotel, or taking new hiking boots out for a test drive on a virtual mountain range? Merrell has already launched this VR ad.
It’s uncertain if VR will be around to stay, or if it will befall the same fate of past attempts, such as Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. However, today’s iterations definitely have more promising potential.