Samsung now offers VR headsets that consumers plug into their phone, which they are promoting heavily in the run up to Christmas. YouTube has just released a new VR app that turns its whole platform and every video into an immersive virtual reality experience. While just this week Norwegian Air has been encouraging consumers to test out its new trans-Atlantic Dreamliner service through Virtual Reality in a shopping centre in London.
You see our point, it’s everywhere and the experts say popularity is only going to continue booming next year. According to noted market research firm Gartner, VR hardware will see major growth over the course of 2016 and 2017. Apparently a whopping 6.3 million units will be shipped next year alone.
So with the next wave building momentum, and early adopters already making good use of the technology, what should those trying to stay ahead of the curve be considering and preparing for?
1. Incorporating consumer senses
According to Microsoft, by 2027 we will have virtual reality systems that provide rich multisensory experiences which incorporate “haptic” systems, which simulate touching or being touched. We actually tried this out for ourselves last month with FundamentalVR at Wired 2016, where we experienced what it felt like to inject medicine into a patient. Working with Pacira Pharmaceuticals Inc the company has developed an immersive VR training program for surgeons, where the user can feel the different tissue types at each stage of the procedure. We can verify that it felt very realistic! Tesla Studios is in the process of taking this even further by developing a full-body haptic VR suit to put people well and truly in the game, which is ultimately the pinnacle of any virtual experience.
2. Emotionally responsive experiences
Of course a truly immersive VR experience should incorporate emotional responses from the “player”. Forrester has long been saying that involving emotions in the consumer experience is vital to business success. We want to feel something, because that’s what engages us. Netflix’s Black Mirror pushed this idea to the darkest max in its recent ‘Playtest’ episode, which saw a gamer scared out of wits in an immersive, and emotionally responsive, horror game. Taking a step back into the light for a moment, the technology required to build emotionally responsive VR experiences is already here. It’s what we use day in day out here at Sensum. We actually pioneered our own emotionally responsive horror film several years ago at SXSW. And we’re currently working on a top secret project with a world-leading content creation company to take this to the next level in an extreme sports environment. We’ll be making an official announcement about this early next year so keep your eyes peeled.
3. Making people feel ‘well’
In a world where people feel increasingly busy, stressed and financially pressured, wellness continues to be key. Most of us want to improve our physical, mental and emotional well-being, and will proactively engage with organisations who can help us do so. And Virtual Reality is an obvious way to help bring this to life. LUMEN is one of several new VR mindfulness experiences that aims to help people calm themselves with a self-guided meditation experience that evolves as you interact with it. What’s more, Jaunt has launched a series of experiences that allows people to travel to mountain tops, down waterfalls and soaring through the air...which sounds rather lovely doesn’t it?!
Whatever your feelings about Virtual Reality, you can’t ignore the fact that it plays a clear role in helping form exceptional stand-out relationships with consumers. According to a recent Forrester webinar we attended, they want to feel valued, respected and appreciated...and not just like a number. And it seems positive, physically immersive and emotionally responsive experiences are one of the best ways to achieve this.