There has been a lot of talk around the resurgence of virtual reality (VR) as a viable medium for brands, but why is now the best time for it to take hold?
There are essentially three things behind the second coming of VR:
1. The unstoppable rise of the smartphone
In no time at all, smartphones have become the most important piece of technology in our lives. They are central to pretty much everything we do and they represent the perfect entry point for VR. Forecasts predict that the number of smartphone users will jump to 6.1 billion by 2020 (from 2.6 billion in 2014); that’s a massive audience capable of viewing and engaging with VR content.
2. Readily available high-speed Internet
The delivery infrastructure is there, both mobile and hardwired. As a result, more people have quick and easy access to online content. Furthermore, with companies increasingly competing on price – especially over mobile networks – the cost continues to come down. This is the gateway to the VR world.
3. Our always-on culture
This is driven by the above factors and means that there is an exponentially growing need for content. And this content – whether it’s bite-sized or long-form – needs to be engaging. With content becoming more visual – Facebook’s success speaks volumes to this – VR offers a way for content creators to take engagement to the next level.
However, the growth of VR has been far from an overnight success story. As a medium VR has been around for a long time. And there is a perception barrier – most people still think you need to put on a headset in order to access it, and enter a gaming environment.
The reality is that VR has come a long way from this perspective. We can now live stream VR-ready 360-video and interact with the content through augmented reality (AR) – this last addition means there is a growing e-commerce application for advertisers. Combining these elements means that VR has a substantial role to play in the content landscape over the coming twelve months and beyond.
The switch to VR is not as complex or expensive as you might think. Production companies that shoot live action can continue to lead the process, and VR can supplement what has already been shot – becoming a powerful part of the content package. One that offers exciting and compelling opportunities to brands, agencies and production companies.
There are challenges, of course. The biggest of which is that people need to be educated into how VR and 360-video filming works – what can and can’t be done. It’s a very different environment with very specific characteristics.
But the good news is that there is a developing market of vendors that have the technology and know-how to create and deliver top quality VR content; so there is no need for production companies to make huge investments in new kit. Instead they just need to plug in to a VR company that will complement the live action and animation skills they already have.
This ultimately will benefit both sides of the relationship as agencies and production companies can focus on what they do best; using VR to develop new ways of delivering narratives. It’s this new creative approach that will put VR firmly on the brand content map over the rest of this year.
By George Kapellos is Head of Marketing and Partnerships at Mativision
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