Virtual Reality

Why VR is Facebook’s Next Big Thing

Facebook has positioned itself to take advantage of the potentially high-growth industry of virtual reality (VR), which has enormous consequences for advertisers and audiences alike. 

Business Insider recently projected that VR and augmented reality markets would become a $162 billion industry by 2020.

We’re about to see VR take off in a big way, and advertisers in all markets should plan on using it in the future. One of the leaders positioned to capitalize is, of course, Facebook.

Facebook Inc. sees a lot of potential in this emerging media format, having purchased Oculus Rift in 2014. They’ve since made the technology more accessible for content creators and influencers who want to create immersive VR experiences in the future.

Early adopters of virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift are immersing themselves in videogames, movies, and web experiences. But as for the rest of us without VR headsets, Facebook’s been hard at work pushing videos – especially livestreaming – over text and photo posts.

There might be a reason behind that.

Livestreaming is a warmup for streaming VR events.

Sites like Periscope and Twitch prove there’s a growing audience for livestreaming shows. Facebook has seen similar results, and reported that livestreaming videos yield about 10 times as many comments as regular videos.

Social media prides itself on bringing people closer together. Imagine, then, the potential for sites like Facebook to provide a channel for live events like concerts, sports, and even breaking news stories to be experienced through virtual reality.

Showtime Sports broke in the technology last year when they streamed a boxing match in 3-D.

From here, could you imagine getting a view of the Super Bowl from a drone-mounted camera or even from the perspective of your favorite player? It would be an entirely immersive experience, something even more captivating than “2-D” media already is. Giving audiences the ability to share a 360-degree perspective of important events would only expand social media’s power as a cultural influencer.

Advertisements: Now in 3-D, and More Important Than Ever

This new technology will cost a lot of money to get off the ground, which is why many early VR adopters are huge corporations like Coca-Cola, HBO, and Honda.

So far though, these campaigns look like the stuff advertisers dream about.

Consider this exhibit from Coca-Cola players must act like they’re drinking Powerade in order to play in the World Cup. This level of immersion will actually create neural pathways in the brain that convince you that you’ve basically done it already.

From here, it’s not that far of a stretch to imagine a whole branded driving simulator allowing you to take a new car out for a spin, playing a Sims-style augmented reality game featuring branded clothing, or “experiencing” a trailer for a new film that puts you right in the middle of the world.

It’s a gamble for Facebook to invest an a technology that hasn’t yet caught on with the general public, but the potential payoff is huge in terms of entertainment value and marketing reach.

photo credit: NVIDIA Corporation Eyes-on with our Light Field Display prototype at #VRLA via photopin (license)