If you have not played around with an Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard, you should—and soon. These two devices are the most popular in the Virtual Reality (VR) segment that is soon to disrupt on the level of the iPhone.
To understand this medium, it’s important to understand the subcategories that are defining it: Virtual and Augmented Reality (AR), which modify our vision, and Blended Reality, which enhances the space around us.
VR is about experiencing total immersion through opaque “goggles” that block out users’ field of view and replace it with tiny screens directly in front of their eyes. The result can be captivating, and the experiences range from the ultra-real to the fantastic. When done well, no matter how surreal the experience, the user believes they are there. This belief is what is going to drive consumers to a religious-like devotion to the medium.
Heads Up Displays
AR is about enhancing the world around you, which is done by projecting a layer of digital content within your field of view. If you have seen the movie Minority Report, you have an idea of what AR can do.
The two players in the AR space are Microsoft and Magic Leap. Microsoft has released a beta version of their HoloLens platform, which provides a user with a clear visor through which a wealth of information and visuals appear. It could be as mundane as a plumber walking you through a sink repair—actually being able to use a virtual marker to highlight areas you need to focus on. It could also be as fantastic as having a living video game world appear on your living room table.
The Magic Leap device (by company of the same name) is similar in vein to the HoloLens, but perhaps even more advanced. The Magic Leap visor is said to “paint” an image directly to the user’s eye, but thus far the company has been very quiet and protective of their platform. However, the technology is disruptive enough that Google and Alibaba have put forth close to $1 billion in VC investments.
Amazon’s Alexa platform is a great example of Blended Reality. It is by far the best of the “voice assisted” technologies, similar to Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana.
For the most part, Alexa is out of hands and out of sight. It uses microphones to listen for its user to ask a question or give a command. It can answer questions based on Internet searches, add items to your Amazon shopping cart, play your favorite album on Spotify, and even schedule an Uber driver. Alexa blends the Internet of Things with artificial intelligence to create a virtual home assistant.
Now is the time for savvy marketers to believe in the opportunities in the Reality space. Some waves have already been made, but the true killer apps and experiences have yet to be defined. It is up to us to determine how brands will strike a relationship with their base in this new world.