By Holly Rees, Account Director
Virtual Reality or VR is nothing new but in the last few years it has been trying to break in to the mainstream market. But just how far away is it from reaching wider consumers? According to some in the industry, 2016 was set to be the year that would make or break VR. I’m not entirely sure where we stand now that we’re in 2017, especially seeing as I’m not a VR or technical expert. However, as a B2B tech PR person, I’m interested in its development in the market, as well as seeing the implications it has for use in PR and marketing campaigns.
The media is still full of VR news, so perhaps we’re well on the way to see its wider adoption, particularly in gaming. We also see It a lot of buzz at broadcast tradeshows around VR but the message from vendors seems to differ. Earlier, this month we were at BVE and saw some great VR demos but other vendors were saying the tech was going to the same way as 3D and wouldn’t take off.
Just this week, ITV announced that it will promote the broadcast of the Cheltenham Festival with the release of a daily virtual reality highlights package, its aim is to place racing at the heart of mainstream popular culture. Keeping with the racing theme, William Hill has also responded to customer feedback that all betting shop fronts look the same by unveiling innovative displays in its flagship shops featuring a hologram-style animation of a racehorse and jockey, which appear to gallop across the window before picking up pace and breaking through the glass. The aim here was to add a sense of theatre and get people engaging with the company.
VR is also being used in films, adverts and social media with more experiences being created as it makes its bid to go mainstream. Last week, Oculus unveiled Mission: ISS, a free VR simulation of the International Space Station for the Oculus Rift, produced with the help of NASA and the Canadian and European space agencies. It’s the most detailed, realistic space-related VR experience ever produced but you obviously need a Rift headset to view it, which does limit its audience.
But where does VR leave the marketers and PRs? At this year’s Mobile World Congress show, Adobe Primetime demonstrated how a brand could potentially interrupt a VR experience with an immersive advert. Although, industry experts still do not see it as a game changer for marketing professionals.
While, I don’t think as marketers we need to rush out and learn all things VR, it could become part of our working life in the next few years — especially in the B2B tech space where it would help us fully understand our clients’ tech and solutions a lot quicker. And it can be used as a strategic tactic in campaigns, from adding a more immersive dimension to storytelling, to better demonstrating products and features.
Working in tech PR we don’t have to be experts on all things tech but it’s fair to say we’re all interested in innovative advances stuff we can get quite geeky about. We need to be aware of the latest tech and digital transformations and how they are impacting our work and what advantages they can bring. It’s fair to say that whatever industry you are in, VR is creating a buzz and while it may take some time to become mainstream, it’s one to keep an eye on.