Limitless experiences and fantasy becoming reality are two of the most exciting prospects for us all. Imagine being able to be anywhere, with anyone, at any time – it’s a dizzying prospect.
Well, we may just be in luck. Tell our ancestors 100 years ago that come 2017 we’d be able to make video calls in real time, track friends’ whereabouts on portable screens and that flying cars are actually going to be a thing? The would say flying pigs would be more likely.
At the moment Virtual Reality (VR) is a phenomenon that seems more talk than action – merely a tease, or a medium inhabited by the hardcore gamer. Devices such as the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and the HTC Vive provide a VR experience that is pretty much accessible by all. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has already pounced on its potential and has described it as a social technology in addition to a gaming one, which is probably a fairly good indication of its future impact.
It seems this is just the beginning of what will be an almost unbelievable human experience, and many brands and entertainment bodies are getting familiar with how it can intensify experiences in unbelievable ways.
Last year, Biffy Clyro fans could immerse themselves in the performance experience by being on stage with the band in a virtual music video, which toured festivals around the UK.
Traditional media have also started to get on board – providing 360 imagery on their platforms, trying to keep up with what consumers are excited by and taking them closer to a story by giving it a completely different angle (literally).
It’s all very cool, but if you’re a fan of shows like Black Mirror, you might share my futuristic concerns; it’s not hard to see how there could be a more sinister, totally weird side to its development that could replace the beauty of real experiences. Can you really re-create or better the high of being on someone’s shoulders in a sea of people belting out your favourite band’s song, or bombing down a hill on a set of skis with the wind in your hair?! I can’t help but imagine this is the start of our devolution back to some prehistoric sea creature with no capacity for human interaction. Dramatic? Maybe.
Nevertheless, VR is just at the beginning of its journey. Experts are already exploring its scope for the treatment of conditions such as depression and phobias. It might also improve quality of life for the ill and immobile, giving them the chance to explore the world, or cycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. It’ll let people play or dance on stage alongside their idols at Glastonbury, and maybe inspire the next generation to pursue a particular education, career or lifestyle after giving them an ‘almost-real’ taste of what something is like.
VR is almost its own worst enemy as the technology enabling it is evolving so quickly that people don’t even know where to begin. A bit of scepticism is healthy, but for society, the media and brands in particular, the opportunities it presents are worth exploring.