5 reasons commercialization is good for virtual reality

You may have seen the recent flood of announcements from companies jumping on the virtual reality bandwagon. Movie studios, hotel chains, car companies are releasing virtual experiences at a furious pace.

Most people are either excited or confused by all the attention, but a few have been upset at the commercialization of virtual reality and the the way its been drawing attention away from the smaller developers who had been making unique, personal and idiosyncratic experiences.

And yes, it is true that there are people would prefer to check out, say, an experience based on a big-budget upcoming movie, than one made by somebody they never heard of.

While the big guys were still ignoring virtual reality, indie developers were the only game in town. And now they’re not, and it sucks to be them.

But it’s not necessarily bad for virtual reality in general.

(Still from "Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot" trailer.)

(Still from “Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot” trailer.)

1. The big brands bring in big audiences

Who wouldn’t want to visit the world of Game of Thrones? Become one of the X-Men? Ride inside one of the giant robots from Pacific Rim? Or float through the spaceship from Interstellar?

Those exhibits really bring in the crowds.

Meanwhile, the last Oculus Rift demo I saw, an unfinished indie game where you got to swimming with some sharks, brought in a handful of people to a MeetUp, mostly other indie developers.

"Ascend the Wall" demo for the Oculus Rift takes users into the Game of Thrones universe.

“Ascend the Wall” demo for the Oculus Rift takes users into the Game of Thrones universe.

2. The big brands really pay attention to comfort

If someone gets nauseous while they’re trying out an indie game — like I did with those sharks — I blame the technology, or the developer. It might put them off virtual reality for a while, but it’s not actually going to cost anyone any money.

If people get nauseous while virtually test-driving a Lexus, it could cost the company some serious money. You really don’t want your brand to be associated with vomit.

So the folks making the demos for Lexus, for Volvo, for Marriott, they’re all extra careful about making the experience as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Which means that the folks experiencing virtual reality for the first time through these demos won’t get sick.

Marriott Hotels takes newlyweds to paradise honeymoon destinations.

Marriott Hotels takes newlyweds to paradise honeymoon destinations.

3. The big brands pay attention to quality

The folks doing the Ascend the Wall virtual reality demo for Game of Thrones have a mocked-up elevator and wind machines to make the experience as realistic as possible.

The brands want really impress their users. They put money into graphics and props and computer hardware — whatever it takes to make the experience really great.

By comparison, many of the indie demos out are unfinished “proofs of concept.” Yes, they’re clever, and innovative, and some really push the boundaries of development — but they’re most interesting to other developers and to the die-hard virtual reality fans who are rushing to get their hands on everything they can.

Volvo has created a virtual reality app to promote its new SUV.

Volvo has created a virtual reality app to promote its new SUV.

4. The commercial demos are usually short

Virtual reality is an acquired taste, and its best acquired a few minutes at a time over a long stretch. You don’t want someone’s first experience to be an hour in a headset — that would make anyone sick.

But a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and before they’re know it, they’ve pretty much they’ve got their virtual reality legs all set.

You can virtually experience what it's like to be Professor X. (Image courtesy Fox.)

You can virtually experience what it’s like to be Professor X for a brief time — then let the next person in line have a turn. (Image courtesy Fox.)

5. The commercial demos are usually heavily promoted

When a big brand spends a lot of money on a virtual reality experience, they’re going to want to get the most use out of it, getting it out in front of as many people as possible. Some brands, like Game of Thrones, and the Marriott hotel chain are taking these virtual experiences on the road.

Others, like Volvo, are actually giving away free headsets.

Marketing is one of the most difficult jobs there is — much more difficult than building the technology in the first place. If you don’t believe me, look at the all the great products that never got traction in the market.

But the big brands know how to market. In fact, you could say that, by virtue of having become a big brand, they obviously have marketing as a core competence. Now they’re using these powers to promote virtual reality.

Good for them!

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

7 Responses

  1. rt66@wanadoo.fr' Yichard says:

    Good news that companies come again in the virtual reality scene. Not that I am capitalist (not at all), but they bring with them fame, users and resources.
    This started some years ago with Second Life, but it failed due to the issues with Linden Lab.

    and yes, they want quality, not buggy platforms with absurd limitations.

    But there is an important thing you forgot, Maria: if companies want to attract people in a given world, they want it PG. No naked people wandering in the background, no colars, no vampires proposing bites, etc. If they do not see this criteria fulfilled, they will simply do their own world, and develop their own systems, where everything is under their control. And this will bring no benefit at all for our free worlds, our viewers, our platforms, our softwares. On the contrary they will drain visitors to their well chastised worlds, and our free worlds will remain marginal.

    Clarification: of course there can be non-PG worlds, but if we want to attract the general public we need PG worlds as a showcase and entry hub. This is a non-duality between freedom and discipline.

    • adam01time@gmail.com' Adam01time says:

      Sex and love and horror have been the tools of marketing. These companies will have there own grid with full control. More I look at the latest code and stuff that Rosedale is putting out the more I find I was wrong! in my earlier statments. This will allow a sim on everyone’s system and you will travel to anyone’s sim on their computer as easy as a skype or google hangouts. The money is advertising and customer service and always will be. in 5 years you will not have to worry about those things yachard. because your sim is on your system.
      and you will not have to throw money away on a dictator.

      • We ALREADY have the hypergrid system, where anyone can put up their own world — or any size, of any maturity rating — and allow people to travel to and from other worlds.

        And yes, we’ll have advertising on these grids. Soon, I hope! So people can start promoting their events, their products, their content, etc…

    • That’s the great thing about the hypergrid — lots of PG-worlds, that are safe to visit. And lots of adult worlds that people WANT to visit! LOL

      Don’t forget that, despite everyone’s protests to the contrary and despite all people complaining about the smut online — it’s the smut that really gets people to adopt a new technology! As the old song goes, “Give me smut and nothing but! A dirty novel I can’t shut — if it’s uncut — and unsubt – tle!”

  2. adam01time@gmail.com' Adam01time says:

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    The reason why large firms coming this way will demand this practice actually get noticed.
    Your website is truly the frontier for this type of actual representation of your customers.

    I truely do see a Hypergrid Bussines show on Youtube in the future. I believe you have that charisma and level head to have your avatar get 40,000 hits a day. Before that happens I will offer my services for free. 15 min a day will get you a few extra dollars a month to keep you liberated. You are at the gate looking at the future. be happy enough to write the script that captures it and makes it ready for upload if done live then uploaded. Simple as the enter button.