VR: The New Wearable

In Tech by Amy Tribolet

If you have been skimming through news or headlines related to the world of technology and media, chances are you have seen the words “virtual reality” or “VR” in headlines or links to articles.  While the term itself might be self-explanatory, its application to the modern world and world of technology might not be so clear.

According to whatis.com, VR “is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.” While more simple and typical experiences of VR include the use of computer, now VR can be experienced with wrap-around display screens.

Also important to know is that virtual reality is an active experience, unlike the passive experience seen in 360 video. As an article on The Post explains, users in VR have the ability to “move around a space, interact with objects, and have control of where they go, what they see and what they do.”

Perhaps a headline pertaining to VR you have seen in the past relates to the time when Facebook bought Oculus Rift, which powers Samsung’s Gear VR headset.  Or headlines and articles linked to Samsung’s recent activity with VR. In an Adweek interview, Samsung’s Creative Chief, Jesse Coulter, said that Samsung believes “that virtual reality represents the next frontier of storytelling.”

All You Need is a Phone and a Wearable

Now that we have covered some of the basics of what VR is and why it is being pushed, you might be wondering how can you experience VR. Luckily, if you are a Samsung GALAXY smartphone owner, you can “just snap your phone into the Gear VR and you’re in virtual reality.”

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Picture from Oculus

The wrap-around headgear, Gear VR, sold by Oculus is available for Samsung Galaxy users for just as little as $99. According to Oculus, Gear VR allows the people the opportunity to play a game, take virtual vacations, or watch movies in the VR world.

These VR accessories and experiences are changing other technologies too. For example, when browsing Oculus’ website, you will find advertisements for “Oculus ready PCs” and gaming packages.

Not Just Oculus

Though I have mentioned Oculus heavily in this post, it is not the only company with VR gear. Competitors in this emerging world of VR include: Google Cardboard, HTC VIVE and the Samsung Gear VR (mentioned earlier).

Marketers, Get Ready

So while VR is a new major avenue for movies and games, what does it mean for the world of marketing, advertising or other communications related fields?

According to Digiday, the New York Times, CNN and USA Today Network are examples of companies that have dived into this VR world. According to Digiday, “CNN said it has a team of 20 people who ‘touch’ VR in some fashion and has produced a dozen videos since it live-streamed a Democratic debate in VR last fall.” The article goes on to reveal that as a result of the hype and draw to the VR world, advertising “agencies are dedicating resources to become more familiar with VR.”

Not only does VR allow brands and companies the opportunity to create more engaging content, but it is also argued that this content is both greater and more impactful on the way humans interact.

With regards to greater content, The Pulse says that it “is at the very core of a virtual reality experience whether it be for games, simulations, education, marketing, entertainment or training applications.”

In a relatively short amount of a time, virtual reality has created huge buzz and demand. It has also pushed agencies and news or communications organizations to start thinking of and producing VR content.

While the VR world is fairly limited to those with access to VR gear, what’s to say that this won’t be the next big product like Apple Watch of Fitbit? Could VR alter our expectations for the way we receive and engage with news, video content or other visually stimulating content? Only time will tell if these possibilities become reality, or should I say virtual reality.

About the Author

Amy Tribolet

Amy Tribolet is a fourth-year student with a major in public relations and minor in international development and humanitarian assistance at the University of Florida. She writes for the College of Journalism Distance Education Program and serves as a public relations intern for the Giving Foundation for Children.