Oculus Rift began its life as a Kickstarter program, needing only $10,000 from the gaming community to get itself up and running. It captured their imagination quickly, and changed its target to $200,000. This too was easily achieved. The announcement a few months back that Oculus was being snapped up by Facebook for a staggering $2bn, came as a surprise to many analysts, but in particular gamers felt like it was a kick in the teeth. Protest cries that Oculus was now being geared towards something entirely different to its initial sell-in were heard throughout the gaming community. While arguably true, the fact remains that the opportunities to benefit from experiencing Oculus for consumers and advertisers alike are still huge. This may seem like a bold statement, but I genuinely feel that Oculus could be the most important piece of technology since the smartphone came onto the market.
In essence, an Oculus headset provides consumers with a 360 degree experience of a VR world, while also tracking the head movement of the user. VR is not new. It’s been around for years, with the promise of turning people’s (digital) life experience inside out. The truth is, with Oculus it’s the clarity and smooth motion it delivers which makes its tech so accessible, and has helped it succeed at penetrating the market where ‘mass’ VR tech has previously faltered. On top of this Oculus has huge potential because it uses both CGI and standard video.
How could it work in the real world? In the not too distant future, we may find ourselves wearing Oculus in the home while watching sporting fixtures – taking a seat in the actual stadium with the crowd ‘around us’, rather than watching as if through a TV ‘window’. Or maybe take a lap with Lewis Hamilton in his F1 car – giving you complete freedom to move your head and see everything around the Mercedes. From a marketer’s perspective, it means we can give experiences to consumers who would never have had the opportunity before. I said it here first, but no doubt RedBull will soon be encouraging fans to experience their extreme world first hand using Oculus.
Fancy jumping from a balloon into Space, anyone? What does it actually feel like? The staff at Rapport recently had a demo courtesy of Curb, and the experiences were telling for the future of the technology. At first you feel very aware that you’re wearing a headset, but within a few seconds the minds is tricked, and those using it really did feel like they were base-jumping from a cliff, or spiralling down a rollercoaster. One staff member in particular, who shall remain nameless, had to grip on to the person next to him for dear life, while the ‘roller coaster’ did a sharp bank! VR tech, whether it be Oculus, Sony’s recently announced Morpheus or indeed a future headset new to the market, will take the world by storm.
As was the case with Oculus, the key group of people driving the tech will be the gaming community, as they will help break down the barriers and drive it forward. In a few years, the headsets will be lighter, with sharper image definition and will be cheaper to buy. Perhaps the most telling and surprising outcome from the demo was not necessarily the experience for the user, but those who were watching, as they laughed and smiled at the reactions of the people wearing it. It occurred to us quickly that the Oculus Rift was most definitely not a solo experience but rather one that could and should be shared. You’ll see what we mean when you watch the video – the ending is worth the two minute wait!
Craig Barber, Head of Innovation & Emerging Media