Get a Handle on Virtual Reality

VR is poised to explode in popularity, presenting marketing and sales opportunities.

While it’s still too soon to say how the VR phenomenon will play out in the swag sphere, it’s also not difficult to imagine marketing applications and sales opportunities. For example, both suppliers and distributors might one day use VR to perform product demonstrations. Imagine a virtual reality catalog – one in which prospects can explore experiences tied to products. Maybe catalog viewers are interested in a new golf hat. With VR, they could have an immersive experience that allows them to virtually play a few holes on a seaside golf course in Hawaii while “wearing” the hat.

Currently, creating a VR catalog is outside the reach of distributors. But that might not always be the case. Remember, computers once filled large rooms and were strictly the tools of the world’s top scientists. Now, 10-year-olds carry them in their cargo shorts.

More immediately, distributors can score sales with virtual reality production companies and other brands using VR to market their products in novel ways. Production companies may need cool, stylish company apparel. Meanwhile, brands can create virtual gaming experiences and reward players who achieve certain milestones with logoed products. Virtual reality could soon revolutionize the marketplace reality. Be at the forefront of the evolution.

What is VR?
To experience virtual reality, participants wear high-tech headsets that plunge them into a computer-generated 3-D realm. The devices track head movements and update displays to give users the experience of being in a simulated world. In 2016, two main types of head-mounted virtual reality displays exist: those that work in conjunction with desktops, and mobile solutions that operate with smartphones.

Why the surge in interest in VR?
Interest intensified significantly in 2014 when Facebook invested $2 billion to buy Oculus, the maker of a VR headset device. The investment played a key role in signaling to investors, media and other tech companies that VR could be huge.

Who are some big players in VR?
Facebook, Samsung, HTC and Sony are among the leaders in providing virtual reality devices. Investment banker Piper Jaffray estimates Samsung will sell 5 million Gear VRs and Facebook will sell 3.6 million Oculus Rifts this year. Meanwhile, Jaffray adds, people will buy 2.1 million HTC Vives and Sony will cash in on 1.4 million PlayStation VRs.

Are companies using VR to market?
Absolutely. Mbryonic, a firm that builds virtual reality experiences, compiled 10 fantastic examples of VR marketing that you can check out here: In one example, outdoor wear company Merrell uses VR to support the launch of a new hiking boot. The experience enabled participants to virtually hike a perilous mountainside.

What are “mixed reality” and “augmented reality” all about?
Think of these as sub-mediums within the broader virtual reality realm. The Foundry, a global developer of computer graphics, offers definitions of each. “Augmented reality is an overlay of computer-generated content on the real world, but that content is not anchored to or part of it. The real-world content and the CG content are not able to respond to each other.” Mixed reality, however, is “an overlay of synthetic content on the real world that is anchored to and interacts with the real world (in real time).”