Social x Virtual Reality

We all know Virtual Reality (VR for short throughout this post) is going to bring some big changes. Of course, the changes are relatively abstract since VR as a whole is very new to the public eye – but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a ton of potential.

Where exactly is the connection between Social Media and Virtual Reality, you might ask?

Part One.

The most direct connection between the two would be Facebook’s very own VR console – Oculus Rift. Back in 2014, Mark Zuckerberg decided to buy Oculus VR for more than $2 billion dollars. This offer was undoubtedly a thrill for now 23-year-old Palmer Luckey, the creator of Oculus.

To some, Zuckerberg might have bit off more than he could chew. How did the owner of Facebook, a social media site, think he could compete with top video game manufacturers like Sony and Microsoft who would be releasing their VR headsets soon as well? Not to mention Google had also released a more than affordable VR headset, Google Cardboard (also jokingly known as “Oculus Thrift” thanks to many media outlets).

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Oculus Rift won’t be the first VR headset to be released to the general public. However, what makes it different is that in addition to video games, the Oculus will provide news, sports, movies and TV. Sure, it’ll operate independently from Facebook just like Instagram and WhatsApp, but Zuckerberg has openly said he wants this product to be THE future of Facebook.

Because let’s face it, what’s cooler than a billion users? A billion users incorporating virtual reality.

Part Two.

If Facebook ends up dominating the realm of VR, they have the right idea in mind. AltSpaceVR has also seen a market in social VR and created a platform allowing users to invite friends to “hangout, chat, play games, and watch videos.” VR undoubtedly has the potential to change social forever – a move that is important to keep an eye on since, as Business Insider put it, “social is, and has always been, the application that drives technologies forward.”

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Could VR become the next platform for social media forever? It could very well grow into one. If it does, what happens to advertising through social media on VR platforms?

Part Three.

As platforms grow, they need to find sources of funding. Advertising has been a huge source of funding for platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat in order to keep their sites free (for the most part). Businesses know the value in advertisements. That being said, they’ve already stepped up their game to keep up with VR developments. The beauty of VR is the rich imagery it’s able to provide. Creative teams of brands have the opportunity to pretty much make art out of their ads. Recently, brands have been experimenting with 360-degree video ads like this one from Gatorade:

Facebook recently introduced 360-degree ads on Thursday, definitely an homage to its upcoming release of Oculus. In a recent New York Times article, author Robert D. Hof states how certain brands such as Coca-Cola, HBO, and Volvo are struggling to find their niche in this advertising world, especially if VR is the future of social. But not everyone is behind and Gatorade is definitely not the only brand keeping up with the times. Outdoors retailer, North Face, and luxury denim designer, 7 For All Mankind, have also released VR advertisements within the past few months.

The Takeaway.

People are preparing for social VR to be the next big takeover. Video game manufacturers saw how it quite literally can change the game. Zuckerberg saw the value of VR and social, and how it has the potential to change how we interact with each other forever. Now, advertising companies are catching on, slowly but surely, with 360-degree video advertisements. What do you think will be the next move for the VR/Social Media collaboration?

7 comments

  1. It is interesting that brands have began using virtual reality before consumers have really touched it. Brands will do just about anything to differentiate themselves, so it makes sense. I have yet to use any type of virtual reality but from that commercial you posted and other research I have done it seems amazing.
    The future of virtual reality is a huge question that I do not think anyone at the moment can answer but I think it will blur the line between what is real and what is not. If you think about it, Facebook and Twitter and really everything we do on our computers is part of this virtual world we call the “Internet.” As I work on my computer all day, I am not interacting with the real world. I am, however, interacting with the real world through this virtual world by talking to friends and looking at pictures (although pictures are all enhanced now, so that is virtual).
    I think virtual reality will make the shift to interacting more with a the non-real world than with a real world. I have no clue what this will look like but it seems to be the trend.

  2. This is a fascinating topic. I agree that initially, it was surprising that Facebook acquired Oculus VR, but now it makes more sense. There are two views on what the next big platform is after mobile. One is augmented reality, like Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens, where a virtual layer is placed on top of the real world. The other alternative is virtual reality, such as Oculus VR, which suspends disbelief, meaning the virtual experience seems real, even though it isn’t. Facebook sees VR as the future and wants to stay ahead of the curve.I think it will take time for VR headsets to actually provide a realistic social experience. There are some existing technologies that show this can work. For example, many workplaces have been using telepresence for several years, which allows people to hold meeting with colleagues from around the world, but feel like they are in the same room, using cameras and video screens. VR will be useful for people, such as family members, who are not physically near one another, but can feel like they are together. It can also provide experiences that you would not have had otherwise. However, I think augmented reality may do a better job of allowing people to live in the present and focus on the real world, rather than a virtual one. It will be interesting to see where this is headed!

  3. I’m going to take @maxbg17 workplace example one step farther in that VR’s application is not just for workplaces in the traditional sense (ie. boardrooms, etc.), but think about what can be done in the medical field. Doctors would have the ability to train in VR as well as participate/observe in surgeries using VR. World class hospitals would be able to share their experts in the field with other hospitals around the world improving the state of healthcare through a mutual learning and shared experience.

  4. Thanks for posting about VR! This area of technology, while appearing pretty cool, kind of freaks me out. The ability to recreate an alternate environment that can be interactive with others is really scary, people have enough trouble these days sitting at a table together and interacting in real life, I would think this type of interface will take the disconnection to another level. Regardless, I think it is very interesting, has some applications, but would hate to see it take the place of a real human interaction.

  5. This is a great post! From reading your blog, I can see that VR has the potential to be the future of social media. By investing in Oculus Rift, Mark is putting a lot of faith in the future of VR. VR gives people a way to have a deeper connection than Snapchat or Facebook messaging while staying in their respective locations. Gatorade’s virtual reality ad with Bryce Harper shows one of the potential futures of VR. I would love to experience a game from the perspective of a professional athlete, and VR could provide users with that opportunity. VR could be very useful for companies that rely heavily on Instagram and Pinterest. For a company such as NorthFace, instead of posting an Instagram picture, they could use VR to transport consumers to a mountain or river. VR does not seem to be overly practical at this moment, but it will be interesting to see when it will be fluidly integrated into companies marketing strategies.

  6. Definitely agree with all the previous comments. Personally, I see augmented reality as a more appealing to help productivity and even enhance my interaction with the “real world.” More often than I’d like, I find myself immersed in my phone or computer and totally oblivious to the my surroundings. Having information overlaid onto my existing environment and accessible would be welcome and useful in an everyday practical setting.

    With VR, I become concerned that it takes our immersion in the digital world to another depth that is kind of unnerving. However, I do think I’d adopt VR once the market and technology mature. In educational settings it could be absolutely amazing. Visiting other countries, or other time periods, or examining chromosomes in a VR world would be transformative. And being able to interact and collaborate with family and/or professionals a world away would be awesome. However, I don’t think I’d like it to be ubiquitous in my life and would be more likely to allow AR more of my time.

    And I think from taking this class we can see evidence that there are people who don’t want social media to be as much of a primary force in our lives. I wonder if, years from now, when we look back, those that are slightly resistant will be seen as “laggards”…

  7. Great post! At the ad agency I worked at this summer, we actually had an Oculus Rift in house because our biggest client, MINI, wanted to be ahead of the curve. One of my coworker was tasked with experimenting with the Oculus Rift to see how we could best utilize it in our marketing strategy. The biggest concern he and others have with VR is that prolonged usage causes many people to feel dizzy or lightheaded. Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift shows it’s committed to being more than a social media website. With all of the data Facebook has on its users, I would imagine that they are best suited to lead the VR market. While I do find the notion of VR fascinating, I think there will be several major problems that we can’t even begin to imagine. The movie Surrogate takes a dark look at how the world devolves when people start removing themselves more from reality, and I can see parts of the film being prophetic in a sense.

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