Thinking / Getting real with Virtual Reality.

Getting real with Virtual Reality.

Marcus Thomas digital producers Jason Mitton and Dave Hilton hosted a Virtual Reality Open House in the office and gave agency staff a chance to experience what the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear have to offer. 

For those of you who’ve heard of virtual reality but aren’t quite sure what it is, Wikipedia offers a great definition: “Virtual Reality (VR), which can be referred to as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated life, replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds. Virtual reality can recreate sensory experiences, which include virtual taste, sight, smell, sound, and touch.”

We have a lot of presentations at morning meetings, but the agency seemed captivated hearing about the emerging capabilities of VR and how brands are already developing campaigns that I wish I could have experienced firsthand. Seriously, just look at their focus!

Dave Hilton provided a quick overview during our staff meeting, explaining that “things have come a long way since those simulator video games we used to play in the ‘90s.” He wasn't kidding: Marriott was able to send newlyweds on virtual honeymoons!

I got an early look at the room while Dave and Jason were getting everything set up for us to play work with.

Even though it was crunch time, they let me borrow a few minutes of their time for some questions.  First, I wanted to find out what the point of this was. I know we’ve had the devices in the office for a few months; was the Open House just a chance to try something new? I talked to Jason about what he hoped the agency would take away from the afternoon and he explains in our first video below.

I also really wanted to know why there were two different types of VR machines and how we got lucky enough to have both. Are the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear really different – or was it just a matter of branding? Dave explaines in the second video below.

Then, it was my turn. I *love* when it’s my turn. Dave got me Geared up (see what I did there?) and I found myself ON STAGE with Paul McCartney!! Seriously. Everything was 3-D! I could look out at the fans or back at the band, down at Paul playing piano or up at the moving spotlights. It felt so real.

As someone with a short attention span, I was soon ready to try the Oculus Rift. Dave gave me more options than I could remember – a game where I was a hoop trying to catch basketballs, a virtual rollercoaster ride, even walking through a mansion. I eventually decided to try a game that would let me roam a desert and climb rock formations. I am sure I looked super cool oohing and ahhing as I “walked” across the landscape and looked at my “surroundings,” but it was really incredible.

And then … a few minutes in, I started to get a little dizzy. It was so realistic that it felt like my mind was playing tricks on me. Apparently, I am not the only one who has that experience. I thought Dave told me that to be nice but, when the Open House ended, a few people walked down the stairs hanging on to the railing.

It was completely worth it, though. And everyone who tried it would agree. As I spent part of the afternoon talking with my colleagues before and after their trip to a virtual reality, it was clear we were all excited and then impressed. People’s faces said it all when they had the VR machines on.

Finally, since we work in advertising, I wanted to tie a bow on everything and see how marketers might be able to incorporate this into what we do for brands. And ... is this a good thing?

Personally, I cannot wait to see what brands start to do with Virtual Reality, because whatever it is, it will be cool. It’s true that sometimes advertising can disrupt a space, but when done well, consumers actually look forward to it – and share it.