Management

Virtual reality is a must!

What would you do if you had a spare $2 billion laying around? If you are anything like me, you would not even be able to comprehend such a sum.

Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, had no such difficulties as he went out and bought a virtual reality company. Not only that but he also spent nearly half as much again on a peripheral company. But why?
In the meantime, Samsung had entered into a partnership with Oculus, once again raising the same question. The answer to these questions will shape your future advertising and marketing thrusts and indeed will also most probably change the look and feel of your online reservations systems.

So who or what is Oculus?

Until about a month ago, I had not heard of the name but I quickly learnt when Samsung released their new flagship smartphone. Like me, you may well have seen all the advertising hype from Samsung announcing the release of their new device. What was unusual was their offer to also throw in a virtual reality (VR) viewer if you pre-ordered a phone. My initial reaction was just mild curiosity.

Possibly just like you, I had played with the various Xbox variants and found them interesting but not compelling. Some of the younger members of the family played with them but I have never been a ‘gamer’ and did not become a fan despite the enjoyment the younger set received from these things.

However, the marketing hype by Samsung did arouse my curiosity, which rapidly changed to considerable excitement when I did some research. Not only that but the fact that Zuckerberg walked onto the stage during the phone release presentation and made an incredible speech changed my attitude.

“I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology. Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. For the past few years, this has mostly meant building mobile apps that help you share with the people you care about. We have a lot more to do on mobile, but at this point we feel we’re in a position where we can start focusing on what platforms will come next to enable even more useful, entertaining and personal experiences.

“This is where Oculus comes in. They build virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift headset. When you put it on, you enter a completely immersive computer-generated environment, like a game or a movie scene or a place far away. The incredible thing about the technology is that you feel like you’re actually present in another place with other people. People who try it say it’s different from anything they’ve ever experienced in their lives.

“Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences.”

We have, of course, had virtual reality for years now but it was all a 2D visualisation and in time lost its novelty value and popularity. We have also had some limited use of 3D in movies but again it really only has had novelty value.

We have also had Google Glass followed by Google Cardboard neither of which were startlingly effective and did not gain much market traction.

Circumstances gave me access to the new Samsung phone and the Oculus VR viewer.

I read all the cautions and warning notices that warned of possible psychological and physical risks, which were displayed before entering this new world but curiosity easily overcame any trepidations. I mean, what could happen to me sitting in my usual office chair?

To continue with my rhetoric, I was transported to another world. It was not a case of looking at it but all of a sudden being right in the middle of it and completely surrounded by it. It was akin to being inside a sphere with the chosen world all around me. By moving my head, my surroundings would change just as they do in everyday life. Close by objects appeared to be close enough to touch. It was startling to have strangers beside me or see a helicopter just a few meters above me, all within touching distance. I could go on and on.

You want to know how that will affect you and your business? I will answer with examples. Qantas has released a VR movie, I don’t know what else to call it, of Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. Viewing it I found myself sitting on the nose of a jet flying over the beautiful Barrier Reef. Turning around I discovered the very alive pilots behind me getting ready to land the plane. I have spent a lot of my time on aeroplanes but this was a startling and incredible experience.

We also have a range of global hotels and resorts advertising through that medium as are some tour companies and event marketers. Department stores, medical institutions, universities and the International Space Station are just some of the users or about-to-become users of this technology.

Perhaps most significantly, Google and others have made a $542 million investment in Magic Leap, a company run by Rony Abovitz, a 44-year-old eccentric genius. The company is likely years away from releasing a product but it seems in some ways more exciting than the Oculus Rift because it promises to employ “augmented reality” (AR) by creating realistic holograms superimposed on your field of vision instead of virtual reality. “A frenzy” is how Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Entertainment, describes the enthusiasm on the part of Magic Leap’s investors, who include, in addition to Google and himself, such heavyweight technology investors as Andreessen Horowitz.

Mr Tull is also a proud investor in Oculus and believes that the impact of virtual reality, no matter who wins, will be much more significant than past breakthroughs such as HDTV and 3D movies. “Once you see virtual reality done well,” he says, “you take off the headset and say ‘there’s really a chance here to do something completely different’.” Will consumers, who just a year ago failed to embrace Google Glass, buy these new face-mounted displays? Hollywood and Silicon Valley seem to think it isn’t even a question anymore. The race is on.

If you want to see an incredible demonstration of how it all works just log onto Microsoft’s holoportation video at https://goo.gl/8gv2Mz (with more at http://goo.gl/FuLwN4). And to see what hotels and resorts are already doing, go to http://www.youvisit.com/hotels-and-resorts.

Add this to your cash flow projections as I think you will be using it within the next few years.

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