Oculus, Google Cardboard and Other Things Your Brand Needs to Know About Virtual Reality

June 5, 2015

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” – Western Union internal memo, 1876

With Facebook shelling out two billion dollars to purchase Oculus, the success of Google Cardboard, and other tech giants investing heavily in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the next tech frontier is upon us. Brands including Volvo, Patron, and North Face have created engaging, successful VR experiences using Oculus and Google Cardboard. Here is a quick primer on things you need to know about VR.

What is the difference between VR and AR?

VR is a simulated world that is experienced by a person. AR is a real-world environment with computer-generated graphics and information used to supplement and enhance the existing surroundings. Oculus is a VR headset while the new Microsoft HoloLens is an example of an AR device.

What is Google Cardboard?

Google Cardboard is a clever little device that puts VR in the hands of Android and iOS users.
The actual cardboard devices can be purchased from manufacturers on Google’s website for as low as $20, with more elaborate models topping out around $80. The blueprints are also available for free for the DIY type. Once you have a viewer, simply place your smart phone in the front of the device and you’re ready to go. Wired has recently called this the gateway drug for VR and Google has described it as perfect for snack-size experiences.

What is Oculus Rift?

Oculus Rift is a VR headset developed by Oculus VR. Facebook purchased the company in 2014. Currently only available for developers, the consumer version is scheduled to launch in early 2016. With the explosion of the smart phone market, VR hardware development became more cost effective and powerful, allowing the Oculus to become the most sought after VR device on the market. Originally only lusted over in the gaming world, globally recognized brands are using the developer version to deploy experiences with great success.

Thanks for all that info, but what do I really need to know?

Like most media, content is king. Content done well if VR is truly amazing and has the ability to make you feel present in other places. VR that is done poorly can be nauseating, literally. Because the medium engages the senses so thoroughly, anything that doesn’t jive with what your body holds true can make you sick.
Storytelling is a little different in VR. Unlike film or television, where the director tells the audience where to look, VR is truly an immersive and interactive experience. The user won’t always be looking right at the big shiny object that is the primary focal point. The participant controls where they’re looking. The designer needs to keep this in mind in order to make the VR truly memorable. Relying on cuts or transitions doesn’t work well in this medium either, so you’ll need a new way to move to the next scene. And don’t forget the audio. If you want the audience to truly be immersed, there shouldn’t be sirens or other distractions happening in the background.

Virtual reality is dependent on the experiencer’s brain thinking he/she is present somewhere else. Eyes can’t be looking at one thing and ears hearing another if you want to maximize the experience. Audio should be considered from the beginning of the design and not just as an afterthought.

While the technology is still out of reach for most in-home users due to cost, it is not expensive enough to put it out of the reach of businesses as seen by the recent run of movies and brands using the platform.

Google has even announced a new program for educators called Expeditions. This will allow teachers to transport their entire classroom on a virtual field trip using cardboard. The full on consumer VR rush is still a few years away, but organizations are well positioned to take advantage of this technology – and should.

Ready to embrace this technology with a VR project to further your brand? Email us at info@dimin.com and let’s explore the exciting world of VR together.