VR looks set to become more mainstream, but what implications does this have for marketing? 

I’ve been talking to Martin Talks, founder of 10x Army, a wearable tech and IoT company which specialises in virtual reality (VR). 

He’ll be speaking at our Future of Digital Marketing conference this week, looking at VR and digital marketing. 

When did you first become interested by virtual reality?

My co-founder at 10x Army was the original product designer of the Oculus Rift VR headset.

He was involved in the Kickstarter designs as well as the next two models. He had told me about the Oculus, but it wasn’t until he got me to put one on that I fully understood the power of VR.

My first VR experience was a roller coaster ride that made me fall off my chair. Until you try VR, you don’t get it.

How has the tech developed over the last year or two? 

The Oculus Kickstarter was in 2012. Although it is possible for brands to create VR experiences for the Oculus, it is not available for the general consumer to buy.

Since then, there has been a huge amount of innovation and tech development. There are now lots of VR viewers available or just about to be available.

The VR viewers for smartphones have been quickest to market. The Google Cardboard project opened up VR to be able to scale with very affordable VR viewers now on the market. 10x Army sells VR viewers, called 10x Spex, for under £20 and for the right volume for under £2. 

How do you see the use of VR for marketing changing in the next few years? 

VR is changing very fast with new viewers, camera technology for real video and increased content.

VR will become much more mainstream as it gains wider awareness and access initially via such content as gaming and films.

This will move VR for marketing from often being facilitated experiential moments to being a medium brands invest more time into for deeper immersive storytelling.

But for the really big step forward, we need to wait for when consumers themselves are shooting home video in VR. That won’t be far away.

You recently authored our wearable tech guide. How advanced is the wearable tech market at the moment? 

It is still early days. The launch of the Apple Watch was seen by many as the moment when wearable tech would go more mainstream.

But as a consumer market, it is still largely seen as activity bands for gym goers. But in the enterprise sector things are moving a lot faster with wearable tech helping with everything from employee deployment, to supplying technical content, to healthcare monitoring.

VR is at the fringes of what most people think about as wearable tech, but it comes as part of the wider heads-up display sector.

VR can be enjoyed by people in their own time and space so there are far less consumer acceptance issues than there were with say Google Glass.

What are some of the best uses you’ve seen for marketing and commerce? 

In VR, it’s all about great content. The best uses I have seen are when brands give consumers tangible experiences.

That could be allowing people to walk around a holiday destination before they book, giving customers a test drive of a new car without them getting in a physical car or testing new store formats that have yet to be built.

The NBA in the USA has started trialling giving basketball fans access to the best seat in the stadium via VR so wherever the fan is, he/she can enjoy the best version of the live game.

This will allow teams to resell that best seat as many times as they like. A whole new commercial model for live events is being created. 

What are some of the barriers to the growth of VR? 

Being a new technology, there are plenty of challenges, but also many opportunities.

There are concerns over feelings of nausea in some experiences, but these are being overcome. Content is still relatively limited, but that too is changing.

The biggest issue is scaling access to VR itself. The standalone VR viewers are expensive and require a wire connection to a powerful computer. But the VR viewers for smartphones are much cheaper and use the power of the phone to connect.

There is a place for both but at least initially the smartphone will be the best access point.

For brands a combination of both might be ideal as they can facilitate the introduction to VR to their audience through a viewing experience and can scale access by handing out cardboard based VR viewers like the 10x Spex.

We still have a few tickets left for this week’s Future of Digital Marketing conference, but you’ll need to be quick…