There may not be a better vantage point to the rapid advances in VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) than being part of the tech community in Seattle. This community has been on the front lines of the next generation of interactive technology that is just about to be released to the public after years of anticipation.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to experience the HTC Vive VR headset first-hand: I was face-to-eye with a giant whale, then using a painting app to draw images that floated in the air around me, and then mocked by GlaDOS looming only a few feet in front of me (she’s much bigger than I expected her to be). All of this was absolutely amazing … but this wasn’t my first foray into VR.
Just weeks ago I was given a demo of the Samsung Gear VR and then given my own Google Cardboard to explore with. And months before that, Subversionz Media was onsite to document an Oculus demo run for a client testing new use-case scenarios for the VR technology. And years ago I had the opportunity to be one of the first people to experience a very early demo of the Microsoft Hololens.
Watching the world of augmented reality and virtual reality expand over the past several years has been incredibly inspiring, as the technology comes closer to real-life applications. As the capabilities of the technology expand, the opportunities for a more diverse variety of content expands as well.
Games are the most immediately obvious application for VR, with film as a close second. However, architecture and real estate are already diving headfirst into leveraging the possibilities of this new technology for their industry. The medical world is also developing innovative VR and AR applications. How soon before amusement parks are providing VR sneak peeks of their latest rides to their most passionate fans? Or, just imagine a series of VR test-drives in your hunt for your next car. Tour a new stadium before it’s even built. Experience a sold out concert from home. Take augmented reality for a spin on your next retail therapy session to get product information and demos as well as customer reviews streaming live to you right as you pick up some new running shoes off the shelf.
A few companies, such as MindRide, are dabbling in some fascinating experiential installations and applications of the new technology that take the ideas of VR and AR to a whole new level by placing the participants in what they are calling “transcendant human experiences” that let you fly like a superhero or give you virtual mind control over your environment. Immersive theater experiences are already a reality that will only become more interesting as the technology continues to evolve.
Looking ahead to the immediate future, Oculus Rift is launching on March 28th, with the HTC Vive following quickly with an April 5th ship date. With these incredible systems finally within the grasp of the general public, our demand for new VR content and experiences will surely explode in the very near future. As for AR, the Microsoft Hololens has an expected developer release of March 30th, which will open up the AR landscape in new and innovative ways.
Is your brand planning any content for these new platforms? What new experiences can you provide for your audience using these new tools? How can your content move beyond traditional media platforms to provide your customers with a more immersive interaction?
As for me? I can’t wait to play the VR version of Portal (hint, hint Valve).