Articles/Affordable VR For The Masses

Affordable VR For The Masses

Two very exciting things happened this week in the world of virtual reality. First, Facebook released an affordable standalone VR headset in the form of the Oculus Go. Then Lenovo released an affordable standalone VR headset in the form of the Mirage Solo. 

The most obvious difference between the two affordable devices is the price. Facebook thinks you’ll be willing to part with $200 USD, whereas the folks at Lenovo think $400 is still within reach of the unwashed masses. Only time, and more importantly, units shipped, will see who was closer to the mark. So, in the meantime, let's have a brief look at the other differences between them and what mass adoption of VR could mean for brands.

Untethering VR

If you look under the hood of both devices, it becomes immediately clear the Go is, technologically speaking, the inferior machine. It lacks the six-degree of freedom boosted by the Solo, only managing to muster a meagre three, also lacking are any forward-facing cameras. To the initiated, the degrees of freedom refers to what movements a device can detect, and in basic terms, the more you have, the better. 

The easiest way to explain them is to think about how we move our heads when we say yes, no and the I’m-not-sure head tilt. A device with three degrees of freedom can detect those three movements. The more advanced devices can detect a further three head movements which can be loosely described as follows; the chicken peck, the up/down and the “girl please.”

What does all that mean? Well, it means that the experience, once you have the headset, is on feels more immersive in the Solo, although the Go doesn’t lag too far behind. The thing to note is that it is always going to be the quality of the experience that will win over technical superiority. And with over 1000 titles at launch (3 times more than the Solo) plus the continued support of the mighty FB and a lower price point, the Go feels better positioned to charm the new-to-VR masses.

Of course, neither device is flawless, but to focus on limited battery life or imperfect screens is to miss the point. The aim of both devices was not to advance what is technologically possible with VR but rather to make VR accessible and untethered to your phone or to an expensive, non-portable PC. Both succeed in those aims.

Assimilating VR into our Everyday Life

So, as we all wait impatiently by the mailbox for our new toys to arrive, let’s ponder what mass adoption of VR mean for brands? Firstly, it is important in terms of what can be done with current creative in a VR environment. Static images and TV are the same, but they demand far more of a user’s attention in VR, quite possibly because we are prevented from being distracted by our other devices. 

Where VR starts to provide new and affordable opportunities for brands is with 360 videos. A normal situation, like walking down a street, filmed with a 360 camera is a small but noticeable step towards the full emersion provided by super expensive cameras and big-budget CGI. Any brand brave enough to start engaging could do worse than start here. Mass VR adoption will naturally raise the expectations of the consumer with regard to media consumption. It will not be long before 360 video is an expected minimum standard, and a brand which is unwilling to invest will stand out for all the wrong reasons.

A New Realm of Possibilities

As we move beyond 360 and towards fully immersive VR, the possibilities of what can be experienced by consumers looking to be wowed continues to grow. It is quite possible that engaging enough experiences could provide something that consumers would want to seek out and participate in. This is a huge departure from our current game of cat and mouse with recorded broadcasts and premium streaming services that remove adverts all together.

We are, of course, getting ahead of ourselves. VR is still taking baby steps, but the reason it is worthy of any brand’s attention is that we have reached the all-important tipping point. Curiosity has met affordability, and that means we are close to seeing early adopters ‘bravely’ looking like idiots on the commute to work. What’s essential for brands to consider is that when it comes to embracing new technology, it is always better to be first and flawed, then late to the party.