In the 90s, Virtual Reality (or VR, as all the cool people say) was, along with the internet, supposed to be the future. Users were told to put on a clunky headset and in turn would be transported to a magical world that would allow us to live out fantasies without having to leave our home. And while this all sounded exciting, the harsh reality was that while being pitched as a Star Trek holodeck, it was more like a grainy, pixelated animated world. Now in 2017, the technology behind altered realities – both Virtual and Augmented – have advanced, and now it’s time to ask if VR and AR will finally have their moments.
WHAT IS VR AND AR?
VR, as mentioned above stands for Virtual Reality. VR is meant to make the user feel as if they are living in another space.The headset is still there, albeit a little less clunky, but the actual experience is startlingly realistic, so much so, that most of the time people need to sign waivers before entering the VR world as the transition from current and virtual reality is said to be particularly intense. Augmented Reality, on the other hand takes real life and adds enhancements to it. Holograms are a perfect example of this, and we have AR to thank for Tupac performing at Coachella a few years ago.
Augmented Reality has made a particularly grand mark on popular culture with the success of Pokemon Go. The idea of being able to transform a city into the world of a game is not only groundbreaking but also, heightens the concept of gaming in general. And while there has been some concern about the safety of being fully immersed in a game that you have to play in public, it has certainly been a cultural phenomenon that has caused the gaming world to take notice. The gaming world has also seen to be key for VR, as well as marketing related to the world of sports. Both are highly visceral experiences and allowing users to live the experience from the comfort of their living room is realizing the maximum potential of these worlds.
Both VR and AR have been successful in training. VR in particular has been used to for training of military and air force personnel, as well as with surgical residents. In fact, a controlled study found that VR trained residents came out 29% faster.
AR has also had great success in the marketing world. Most notably, Pepsi launched a campaign involving a bus stop where commuters would look out to see an array of images ranging from flying saucers to tigers.
While the marketing from Pepsi was an inspired viral moment, there is a novelty factor that could grow tiresome if it ran for a regular campaign runtime. Additionally, with both VR and AR, there is the issue of things becoming too invasive. There is already hostility toward overt advertising, such as curated advertisements on the Internet, as well as overt product placement. Having advertisements in a more interactive and explicit manner could cross the line of comfort for many users. While it may be great to feel like you are actually playing hockey from the comfort of your living room, it could also be alienating to also have advertisements interspersed into your immediate space.
The other major hurdle VR faces, at least for now, is the headset needed to be worn for VR is a solitary experience. While that may be fine when hanging out on your own, it limits the social aspect that comes from gaming, or hanging out with friends and watching a movie together.
Beyond the fun, the evolution of AR and VR can have a real positive societal impact, specifically in the mental health arena. These technologies have already been used to treat PTSD, and could help battle phobias, using methods such as Systematic Desensitization.
While VR and AR are interesting technologies that are showing an importance that extends beyond instant gratification. Arc + Crown Media is excited for the opportunity to help companies that are looking to innovate and gain a competitive edge on competition. Much like how Social Media has been deemed a time waster, Twitter is integral to the news cycle, and Facebook and its “live” options have allowed for movements that may not have gotten press coverage go viral. While its uses may vary, this technology has a lot of potential, and will hopefully continue to evolve.
Written by: Jason Rayner