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One of the biggest trends at CES was, without a doubt, virtual reality and 360 video. Nearly everywhere you turned, someone was donning a VR headset in your line of sight. Chances are, even if you weren’t at CES, you’ve tried VR via the increasingly prevalent Google Cardboard.
In a short period of time, we as consumers and users have become amateur film makers and photographers. Beyond that, one of the most buzzed about films this year was filmed entirely on something many of us carry around in our back pockets, an iPhone. The content we can create and view is better and more accessible than ever before. That’s why the cliché phrase, “content is king,” isn’t being retiredanytime soon. So here we are, on the precipice of “the next big thing” in content, and VR wants it’s time in the sun.
On a consumer level, we are ready for VR.
Let’s look at how it could change the way we share and experience content on social media. Snapchat is quickly becoming the go-to place for sharing a snapshot of your experiences. Many times at CES, I witnessed people open Snapchat, stand in the middle of the show floor and do a complete 360 degree pan of their vantage point. People want to give their friends/family/followers a peek into what they are experiencing at that moment, from every angle. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a 360 degree, immersive video is worth a million.
Additionally, we want more “insider” access to the content we consume than ever before. Take the additional content created for The Golden Globes on Sunday, for example. There were slow motion and 360 cameras on the red carpet, golden Vine nuggets and an official Snapchat Live story showcasing non-televised moments. Sure, the TV screen was the hub of content but consumers are constantly searching for ways to get more from these events. Virtual reality has the ability to drop you right in the center of the red carpet -- to feel what it’s like to stare down a line of photographers, to hear the screams of fans and to rub elbows with JLaw and Leo.
But is VR technology ready for consumers?
Tthere are some major barriers to cross. The largest being the experience. To have a solid VR experience, you need to be attached to a bulky headset. Google Cardboard works in a pinch, but it doesn’t do it justice. With the full gear on, I literally giggled with delight during a demo of Discovery’s VR content and had to stop myself from attempting to pick up the puppies that were circling at my feet in the middle of The Puppy Bowl field. However, the feeling faded when I loaded the content on my phone and viewed it through Google Cardboard at home.
Wearing the gear has a limit of 15 minutes at most. People feel disoriented, dizzy and sometimes even anxious when wearing it. Your sight and sounds senses are immersed in the content, but you’re still very much aware that your body is not there and that someone is hovering over you for their turn. Maybe some of that will lessen if it’s brought into the home, but I doubt it. Think about how many people you know with home entertainment systems that feature 3D. I’m going to guess not a lot, despite the tech being widely available for some time. It’s not because they don’t want it (movies filmed in 3D for the theaters is the norm) but bringing in the extra hardware (the glasses) is a step consumers don’t want to take on. Again, we want the content but we also want the extreme ease of use. It needs to fit in our back pocket.
So, what does this all mean for marketers today? A lot actually.
While VR everywhere may be further into the future, the idea of an immersive experience is very much now. How can you create an experience for your customers or at very least integrate your brand with an experience? This line of thinking is easy for entertainment brands. We’re already seeing it during major events and concerts. But other brands can think like that too. Are you a hardware shop? Use 360 to show a customer how they can fix that leak pipe on their own. Are you coffee distributor? Show them how the beans are crafted and cared for. Are you a hospital? Put anxious patients to rest by showing them a 360 look at their scheduled procedure.
It is the age of supplemental content. Embrace it. All 360 degrees of it.