What is VR and why do I care?

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Back in 2012, a college student named Palmer Luckey decided to drop out of journalism school, pursue his passion for Virtual Reality (VR), and found a start-up to design and develop a VR-headset that targeted consumers.

That company was called OculusVR, and they launched with a 30-day Kickstarter campaign that promised to provide backers with a VR headset development kit. Luckey said would hopefully cover the “costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer“; much to his surprise, the campaign raised about $2.5 million USD, and in 2014, OculusVR was acquired by Facebook for a reported $2 billion USD – and that was before they’d even hit the market with a consumer-level product.

The jaw-dropping success of OculusVR, and the willingness of Facebook to pay a premium for the start-up sent a clear message to industry-watchers – there’s a huge appetite among consumers and tech corporations alike for products and services that bring VR to the masses.

So, What Exactly is Virtual Reality?

While there’s no single, universally agreed-upon definition of what exactly VR is, the general consensus is that a true Virtual Reality experience provides users with a blend of three-dimensional (3D) images that look life-sized, combined with technology that can track the user’s eye and head movements, along with stereo sound.

Right now, users need to wear a specially-designed headset paired with headphones to watch a VR video or play a VR game. The awkward-looking headset serves two purposes – it contains the audio, video, and motion-detecting hardware needed to deliver the VR content, and it completely blocks outside sights and sounds, resulting in sensory deprivation for the wearer.

The result? Users feel like they’re actually inside the 3D computer-generated environment – the scene shifts seamlessly when they cast their gaze in a different direction, tilt their head slightly, or even jump back quickly to avoid a virtual attack.

Virtual Reality is Here, Now

Despite the fact that VR is still considered to be an emerging technology, mainstream developers, film producers and marketers are currently creating VR content for everything from video games to training programs for medical students.

Much to the chagrin of traditionalists, VR has even made its way to the renowned Cannes Film Festival; this year, two of the short films screened at Cannes were produced in VR, providing a glimpse into the limitless possibilities of user-controlled experiential visual content.

The Future of Virtual Reality

In the near future, look for VR to continue to penetrate the entertainment space beyond the gaming world; think VR films, concerts and high-adrenaline experiences like skydiving, bungee-jumping and whitewater rafting.

We also expect to see significant expansion into the education marketplace with the introduction of VR content at museums, in classrooms and through virtual learning environments.

And of course, VR holds tremendous potential as a marketing tool – imagine providing car shoppers with the chance to test drive different models, all from the comfort of their own home? With VR, consumers will be able to ‘walk’ through a store, browse through shops, and tour real estate offerings, all through their own personal VR headset.

How Virtual Reality Will Impact Audience Engagement

VR is interactive by nature; the moment a user turns on their VR headset, they’re already actively engaged with the visual and auditory content.

With VR, content creators will need to focus on keeping their audience engaged, entertained and most of all, curious.

How?

By crafting a creative, fluid story that compels the user to keep exploring their virtual environment, leading to increased watch times, improved retention rates and an overall sense of feeling like they’re an active participant.

Because when it comes to VR, it’s not a question of whether or not audiences will embrace it – it’s a question of whether or not companies will be able to keep up with consumer demand for interactive, engaging VR content.

Just as a side note, here at Jumbla we have a dedicated room to our HTC Vive for those times when nothing really picks you up except for a little VR. 

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