There are countless of videos on the internet of people playing VR and reacting very much how one would in real life. Horror games? They scream and run away. Underwater exploration? They have a sense of awe. Roller-coaster ride? They fall to floor as their senses are overloaded with false information. This is one reality of virtual reality, it feels real.
Take a look back on the past 20 years of video games and you’ll see a fascinating advancement in graphic capability. Take a look at film blockbusters like Avatar and the motion capture technology used in that is nothing less than eye watering. Combine these technology advancements together with a platform where a user can fully interact with everything and anything around them, and you have both an amazing and terrifying experience.
Why do I say it’s a terrifying experience? Let’s take the example of a marine in a warzone I used in the previous blog. The big difference between 360 video and virtual reality is that in 360 video you are only the observer of the marine, in virtual reality you are the marine. Furthermore, events in a 360 video cannot interact with the user, which means if they chose to look away, nothing happens.
However, in virtual reality events can interact with the user, they can talk to them, move them and in the context of this example, shoot at them. If the user chooses to look at the ground in virtual reality, what is stopping an event taking place where an enemy walks up to them and forces them to watch?
Lets talk marketing.
In this field we are always looking to implement a call to action in all of our work. However, in virtual reality, the user is already acting. They are already reacting emotionally to events that seem real to them. Combined with the potential unlimited freedom the user has to walk around a virtual world and interact with what they want, when they want, those emotions are anything but artificial as they have made conscious decisions that have led up to that point of emotional realisation.
By no means do I think virtual reality is a bad thing, on the contrary I think it is incredible. However, I am cautious of its applications towards certain subjects. Social marketers are being offered a platform where they can transport people into the shoes of those in need and surround them in settings they are not prepared for. Yes, it will instantly make the user understand the social situation more and could definitely increase the odds of them helping the cause. But put a normalised citizen in a realistic, gory battlefield, and they might not walk out of the room the same as when they walked in.
We are all responsible for our actions.
The second reality of virtual reality is that all marketers are responsible at delivering products/services that will provoke an action. However, we also have a responsibility to safeguard those who choose to interact with those products, something we all need to keep in mind when virtual reality is fully integrated into the commercially affordable arena before we do more harm than good.
Interested in experimenting with virtual reality? Or maybe you fancy a debate over tea or social media? Get in touch... I don't bite!
Rob is our passionate Digital Executive at Social Change UK!