Actual Reality Is Far More Impressive Than VR: Volume vs. Immersion

written by
hosted by
Luke Miller
published on
October 24, 2017

In the last 2-3 years, virtual reality has been hard to ignore, if for all the wrong reasons. A technology that doesn’t seem to have inherent value, but certainly a technology that many companies and individuals alike are trying to cram down everyone else’s throat. The truth is, when people truly enjoy a new technology it slips into our everyday lives without notice. There is no denying that VR is immersive, but the fact that there continues to be substantial, laborious effort to promote VR indicates it will never be a high volume, pervasive technology. The bottom line is that VR is a fringe technology with limited appropriate application.

One of those appropriate applications is the entertainment industry. What better way to immerse your fans, than to place them into your mythical movie world via VR. We recently saw a campaign that utilized VR at Comi-Con with four hour long lines. As a marketer, a lengthy line generally indicates one of two things: a raging success or a massive problem. In this particular instance, we argue both.

Let’s start with the raging success. There is no better flattery than looking out at your work and seeing gobs of people lining up to experience it. We’ve always noted that people will line up to find out what people are lining up for, so there is that aspect of human behavior that is particularly befuddling. However, in this instance the line was clear and the people, somehow, determined it was worth waiting for. To wait more than three hours for a five minute virtual reality experience says a lot about our priorities, but it says a hell of a lot more about the downfalls of VR.

That downfall is the massive problem I alluded to earlier: VR is not quick. VR is a cumbersome process that involves putting on a bulky headset often complete with headphones, gloves, and/or controllers. All of these things factor into that four hour line and that is a massive problem.

If each VR experience requires three minutes of setup and instruction plus two minutes of removal and debrief on top of the five minute experience, that means each participant averages nearly 10 minutes of engagement. Now, the reason for that four hour line is pretty clear. Sure there is some level of success indicated in that line, but, more likely, that line is four hours because VR is just too damn difficult. Assuming five systems were utilized simultaneously, this VR experience could only process about 36 people per hour at peak efficiency. Ultimately, most people in that line will be met with disappointment, because the day will end before it’s their turn.

What am I getting at? It is far more important to design with volume in mind. Now this doesn’t mean that something can’t be incredibly immersive, but, as a marketer, volume is far more important. This experience, while captivating, was limited by the technology it chose to utilize. We’ve determined that simple, tangible, physical, and even analog IRL experiences are far more impressive to consumers than cumbersome, complicated, digital experiences. After all, we’re human. We touch, taste, see, smell, and hear. A virtual experience just doesn’t cut it, immersive as it may be, because not enough people can be engaged. Turn up the volume, but for god sake take off that stupid VR headset.

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