Warp speed and Teleportation may not quite be ready for Prime Time (or the Prime Directive), but the Holodeck appears to be gearing up for launch.
Last week, Evol8tion took one of our clients on a curated 2-day tour in Los Angeles of the Virtual Reality (VR) space. During this window, we visited various studio, tech companies and startups that are currently innovating from the front-lines and "imagineering" the future of VR.
- So does VR "change everything"?
- Will the VR industry ever get ahead of the perceived number 1 challenge of having to put on a headset (see: 3DTV)?
- How is this different to the failed attempts of the past (see: Second Life)?
Are any of these questions actually relevant?
My belief has always been: if you want to understand technology, you have to experience it yourself. You simply have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. You can't read about it in a book. You can't trust your agents or agency to deliver an informed "POV" (unless of course they are bona fide subject matter experts.)
So unless you've tested out the technology and applications yourself (and no, a quick demo at SxSW does not really count), you really need to park your opinion at the door of ignorance before opening your giant yap and passing any premature judgement.
When you look at progress and in particular with innovation itself, it's important to recognize the "failed attempts of the past" all played a part in paving the way for their successors. Timing and luck are both important contributors and factors in combining to deliver an idea that sticks or tips. In other words, Pokeman Go has Minecraft to thank, which in turn has Second Life to thank for doing the thankless job of pioneering.
(not your problem I know, but still...)
As for the headsets, I don't think it's a stretch to imagine a time where they don't exist or if they do, they are no more intrusive (culturally, socially, behaviorally) than reading or sunglasses. I'm actually not sure this is even a "thing" to be concerned about as a barrier to entry.
It might even be a necessary precursor to fool your brain into accepting you're somewhere else, which is a primary characteristic of the space.
In any event, Google Cardboard and the equivalent sells for around $10-15 on Amazon.com
For what it's worth, it's pretty insane to think of the sum total of the progress to date in a VERY well funded space as a hodgepodge of duct tape and chicken wire via cobbled together Samsung phones that snap into headsets or modified or hacked cameras that look like Battlebots and Go Pro had an unholy union...
We are literally at the infancy or dawn of a new era...
The transformative or perhaps a better word is transcendent experience that comes from stepping into a Futuristic kitchen (Job Simulator on HTC Vive), avoiding a Blue Whale under the sea, standing next to American Ninja Warrior's Vertical Wall or hanging out in a Tibetan hut is worth it.
These were some of my more memorable VR experiences. Oh, and also being teased by Nina Agdal as part of SI's Swimsuit VR Edition which was - ahem - fairly interesting (note to self: do not watch this EVER in front of other people, especially clients!)
I also enjoyed whizzing around a track with a fan blowing air into my face to simulate the whoosh of being in a racing car.
The list goes on. And that's the point.
Each time you experience a different interpretation or application of a narrative, evolved and adapted to an immersive and pervasive presence, it opens a multitude of possibilities for new use cases.
In some cases - such as travel & tourism - I would be as bold as to say that they should cut their entire advertising budget in favor of VR. I'm not exaggerating here. Hey, I did write "Life after the 30-second spot" and Z.E.R.O. Paid Media as the New Marketing Model after all.
In other cases, such as Consumer Packaged Goods, it's a little more challenging. I said, challenging; NOT Impossible.
And if all else fails, you can always resort to brilliant creative such as this one:
..or this one
I heard a great quote from the tour that sums up the world we came form versus the one we are heading towards: Create the Experience or Experience the Creative. It's not an either/or, but in fact an "AND" - so why wouldn't you proactively do both?
Perhaps this is why Robert Scoble jumped ship from reality to virtual reality.
Perhaps this is why Google has a Global Evangelist for VR
Perhaps this is why LA is a VR hotbed of growth and investment?
If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, perhaps you should take a tour (virtual or otherwise) to experience this phenomenon first hand and decide for yourselves if this is hype or hope? Perhaps you'll want to take a voyeuristic route and watch from the sidelines, which ironically is kind of the VR point, but not especially beneficial in terms of first mover or competitive advantage.
Every journey begins with a step and now you can take that giant leap for marketingkind. No really, you can actually step on the moon! Or climb Everest!
Whatever you do, I would caution against ignoring VR. You do so at your peril. I would recommend you frame your perspective against a blue ocean of possibilities versus searching for research or best practices. In a world of test 'n learns, it's time to focus on the learn part.
Sure you might have bigger fish to fry, so don't bet the farm unnecessarily on VR (especially if you're in the toilet paper business). For everyone else, there is a pretty robust and fertile sandbox to dream...or even daydream.
VR is not the next big thing. It's an evolution of the last big thing. And that is in of itself, not a small thing.