Hello Reality, Let's Go Virtual

Blog Post
December 11, 2015


As marketers, digital savvies and media gurus, whenever virtual reality (VR) comes into conversation, it’s safe to say we can’t help but drop a bold reference to Minority Report, The Matrix or Back to the Future. These pop-culture films made technologies of the future sexy; or at least provided recognizable uses for them.

But what was once only a dream for the future, has become a reality for many of these technologies: gesture-based technology, video calling, social networking and mobile payments were all fantasy in Back to the Future but are now part of everyday life. And the latest to hit the headlines as 2015 draws to a close? Virtual reality.

Samsung Gear VR

Global mobile provider Samsung launched the Gear VR Innovator Edition last year to great success, which can largely be attributed to the fact it ran off the firm’s flagship Galaxy smartphones rather than housing its own built-in power unit. This design had two fundamental impacts on the market:

  1. With power driven by the Galaxy smartphone, the Samsung headset was significantly cheaper to produce. Its price was therefore significantly lower than rivals, who were building processing power directly into their headsets.
  2. Content could now be distributed through existing app platforms already established in the market.

And it’s the second point that makes the Samsung approach a success for today’s consumer. One of the smartphone’s earliest accolades came in Apple’s advent of the App Store which radically changed our notion of smartphones’ capabilities overnight. “Nothing like the App Store existed before, and it has fundamentally changed the world,” said CEO Tim Cook.

If we look at the evolution of media consumption over the years, we’re certainly in the smart era: smartphones, smart wearables, smart televisions – all have revolutionized the way we interact with content. And arguably fundamental to each of these technologies, are the content platforms they operate from.

It comes as no surprise therefore, that the launch of the latest Samsung Gear VR has been surrounded by a number of further content platforms springing up. Samsung’s own Milk VR store is just one of several platforms available at its launch; the popular video streaming service Hulu being the latest to join the likes of Netflix and Twitch on the Android platform.

In addition to content stores, one of the most exciting areas surrounding the launch has been the new optimized VR web browser, unique to the Gear VR. With 360-degree content, providers are now able to upload their content to Google’s YouTube and play live in Facebook’s newsfeed. Samsung’s latest move has further strengthened the Gear VR’s ecosystem, and positioned the firm as a pioneer in the mobile VR industry.

Virtual Reality 2016 and Beyond

2016 will see a number of brands launch their own VR products to rival Samsung Gear VR. But what Samsung has shown yet again, is their ability to build on what they’re good at; taking their flagship Galaxy smartphone series and expanding the universe in which they operate. To quote their latest video advertisement,  “Your Galaxy truly got bigger.” The technical evolution of these smartphones will continue, shifting to content creation, developing experiences that truly push the boundaries from the ordinary, to the out of this world.

What does virtual reality success hinge on for 2016? There are three key areas brands should focus on when pursuing the new realms of virtual reality:

  1. Pure simplicity

When everything is boiled down, consumers still want a product that simply (a) looks great, and (b) behaves as it should. Comfort, design, and quality of the physical device all factor, and their importance should not be underestimated.

  1. Compelling, personal and shareable content

As we discussed earlier, VR content itself must hit the mark. Users require quick and easy access to discover, view and share content with others. Content creators need to offer experiences that aren’t purely an extension of their smartphone or film experience. They need to provide access to truly revolutionary and immersive experiences that consumers have yet to witness anywhere else.

  1. Collaboration

What both Samsung and Oculus have done well is to open the VR window to a whole realm of content providers, making the technology openly available to those outside of their own respective worlds. Even Apple, probably the most notoriously introverted firms around, had to open their App Store to developers outside of their company in order to realize success; and the same applies to VR.

There is no question, this is an exciting time with the evolution of mobile and virtual reality. Evolving virtual applications open up new doors for content and present limitless ways to engage consumers in new ways. Hello, the future is here and it’s sure to be an exciting ride.

Watch the latest Samsung Gear VR launch video, produced by Harte Hanks, with content from Imangi Studio’s Temple Run, CPP Games’ Gunjack, Ustwo’s Land’s End, Aldin Dynamics’ Twisted Realms, Felix & Paul Studio’s Jurassic World, Samsung Australia’s Shark Diving in the Dessert, the New York Times Magazine’s Walking in New York by Vrse, and Mountain Dew’s Dew 360 Snow Experience.