Virtual Reality technologies may be new, but they’re definitely no joke.
Earlier this month, Time ran an exposé on the future of Virtual Reality technology featuring Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR. The cover photo depicted Luckey sporting an Oculus Rift headset, floating in front of a beach resembling an airbrushed backdrop of a 1980s photobooth.
In the following weeks, the image has taken the web by storm, inspiring a host of hilarious memes and spoofs, as covered by Time. But for many people, the photo was no laughing matter.
Members of the VR industry criticized the story, calling the cover “insulting” and a PR disaster. Some even went so far as to say that it “Killed VR” by making it seem silly, inaccessible, and unappealing.
The reality is that VR is expected mark the next big direction the consumer tech market takes. VR hardware and software generated over $90 million in U.S. revenue in 2014, and that number has already grown to $2.3 billion dollars this year and a projected $5.2 billion by 2018. In other words, so much for killing VR.
Following Facebook’s high profile acquisition of the company back in 2014, Oculus has arguably become the most recognizable brand to emerge out of the VR market.
The company has acquired over $93 million in total funding to develop a number of products, including the well-known Oculus Rift headset and the Oculus Touch, a controller designed for VR gaming. Both are currently in beta, but scheduled for a wide-scale release in the first quarter of 2016.
Oculus Rift’s initial focus is on gaming and entertainment, and if the initial positive response is any indication, it’s going to redefine the industry.
Oculus products employ advanced, immersive display technology in combination with extremely precise, low-latency constellation tracking systems, effectively leveraging technology to inject what they refer to as “the magic of presence” into the gaming and entertainment experience.
Not All Fun and Games
But the veritable explosion of VR revenue that we’ll likely see over the next four years won’t just come from gaming and entertainment. Oculus Rift is already being utilized for a wide range of practical applications — including virtual classrooms, military training, mental therapy, architectural modeling, and virtual tourism, according to makeuseof.
In medicine, VR has shown promise as an effective platform for things like exposure therapy, treatment for PTSD, pain management, and surgical training, as Tech Republic reports.
Doctors believe that the technology will allow them to expand their reach, providing a cost-effective means of providing more patients with the care they need, especially in remote areas.
Different Tech, Same Rules
While VR platforms like Oculus are certainly the next major channel for building meaningful, digital experiences for users, the underlying principle to your approach should remain the same: understand your users, identify ways to create value for them, and construct digital experiences capable of meeting those needs in an easy and enjoyable way.
What’s clear is that your omnichannel strategies will have to adapt and expand to include VR as an equally important platform in the multichannel marketing spectrum.
Companies like Samsung, for example, have already teamed up with Oculus to create the Gear VR, a Samsung-compatible device designed to enhance the gaming experience on the Galaxy Note Smartphone.
Companies that are serious about the omnichannel experience need to start thinking about how VR is going to impact their consumer experiences today, because before you know it, VR is going to be an eCommerce platform unto itself.
Imagine virtually touring a hotel room in Tokyo when planning an upcoming vacation, or walking through the aisles of a virtual store instead of picking out a product online. At the end of the day, the possibilities are only limited by the scope of our imaginations.