With the big players having already launched headsets to the consumer market, could 2016 be the year that virtual reality starts a new exciting chapter?
Retailers and brands looking to step into the world of virtual reality need to consider cost and scalability, and whether the narrative they have to tell really lends itself to this evolving technology. Needless to say, there are many that think it does. Thomas Cook Holidays, Qantas, Audi and Refinery29 are just some of the brands that have invited their consumers to don headsets and enter a world that bends to the brand’s every whim.
Virtual reality may have left the confines of the laboratory, but only just. Oculus Rift’s consumer model is now available but only to those with a powerful gaming PC and upwards of $600 to spare. While virtual reality waits to greet the masses, GDR recently attended an event hosted by VR agency Visualise where the design and creative communities were introduced to the likes of the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the new Google Tilt Brush (read our review here).
Visualise – experts in virtual reality technology – specialise in creating 360-degree video content. It aims to tell brand stories through engaging experiences where customers can explore virtual worlds simply by donning a headset and turning their head.
With a particular focus on full-body ‘presence’ to achieve greater immersion, Visualise uses VR to tell stories from a first person point of view. One project that illustrated this approach nicely was made in collaboration with The Economist’s film division. Passport is a documentary-style travel series filmed in 360-degrees. Viewers meet US-born tattoo artist Benny who has lived in Osaka, Japan for 13 years. Benny takes us on a journey through the vibrant city’s subcultures and offers us a unique view of his perfect day. The way in which Benny addresses the viewer directly, sometimes out of shot and sometimes in shot pointing out various things for the viewer to notice, guides the narrative of the story in a much more natural way.
Whilst we enjoyed our experience at Visualise and were very impressed by the quality of VR in general, one thing we observed was that the experience did seem fairly solitary. In contrast to a world where people are constantly sharing their every move on social media we are excited to see how – or even if – virtual reality evolves to become more inclusive of these social behaviours.
Visualise’s co-founder and MD Henry Stuart is certainly optimistic about the future of VR. “It’s going to be incredible,” he says. “It’s changing so quickly at the moment, and that’s hugely exciting.”