“There is a lot of hardware that is being manufactured to take advantage of these technologies. If it is important to Apple and Facebook, it is important to us.”

Not long ago, virtual reality (VR) was a mere pipe dream, largely confined to the imaginative realm of Sci-Fi paperbacks and cheesy ‘80s flicks. Yet flash-forward to present day, and nearly every big tech player is trying to dip their toes into this lucrative wading pool.

Hailed as the next big wave in transformative digital experiences, virtual reality stands ready to reinvent storytelling as top companies begin to implement VR and AR strategies into their marketing structures. We surveyed a panel of key media agency decision-makers in the UK to gauge how quickly virtual reality is expected to ramp up. The results?

“Everyone is talking about [VR],” agreed one Theorem panelist, who serves as the president of a popular media planning and communications agency based in New York City. “There is a lot of hardware that is being manufactured to take advantage of these technologies. If it is important to Apple and Facebook, it is important to us.”

Expectations such as this have allowed virtual reality to grow quickly, with user adoption, predominantly gamers at this stage, expected to reach 171 million by 2018. While all signs point to VR as the next big thing sweeping the digital media landscape, there are still some significant barriers facing wider adoption among brands and agencies that must first be addressed. Here are three of them.

Costs of new technology

As it stands, virtual reality faces the same problem that all disruptive technologies experience: high prices. This means that the majority of consumers remain “priced out” of the VR market, leaving it in the hands of early investors and hardcore gamers. This is quickly changing as newer models become more powerful and cheaper to produce, but we aren’t there quite yet.

Measuring monetization

One of the greatest challenges in developing branded virtual reality campaigns is determining the value and ROI. While everyone wants to be first in line for VR, they also want data and proof points that measure its long-term valuation. For now, questions surrounding monetization assurance and measurement metrics for effective brand messaging remain unanswered.

Smaller talent pool

Despite the incredible leaps the world of VR has taken this year, there’s still a long way to go in terms of the current limitations the technology itself presents. There aren’t many companies that are working on input devices specifically for VR applications. In fact, less than one percent of the 1.43 billion computers in the world have the graphical capabilities needed for VR, according to a recent Gartner research report. For VR developers, this means they have to rely on and adapt technology originally meant for another discipline and hope that the companies currently producing the technology remain viable.

Overcoming the obstacles

Despite these challenges, the VR market is here in a big way – with revenue from virtual reality products forecasted to reach 5.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, alone.

“I definitely think there is a huge opportunity here,” remarked one Theorem panelist, who also serves as Senior Director for a prominent global digital agency. “It is just about finding the right content, at the right moment and the right client for it to stick.”

To accelerate growth of enterprise-wide adoption, the digital media community owes it to itself to understand and address VR’s current obstacles to create a sweet spot that appeals to industries of every stripe. In the meantime, it will be interesting to step back and enjoy the ride as more publishers put their audiences in the center of immersive VR experiences. There will be a period of experimentation as publishers understand what’s driving engagement and what audiences respond to.

Check out this experience by the New York Times, which aims to share 360° video experiences. 

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Posted by Dan Exter

Dan Exter started his media career working in content creation and video production for Cablevision (currently Alice USA). During his seven years at Cablevision, Dan worked for one of the company's exclusive network properties, MSG Varsity, the first 24/7 high school sports network. As a Digital Producer, Dan created original and engaging content for all of MSG Varsity’s viewing platforms consisting of a linear channel, mobile application, digital publication and a video on-demand (VOD) channel. He also led in the network’s social media initiatives and created a low-cost production formula for full-game broadcasts, which would soon become the network’s most popular source of content. He is a Digital Media Analyst on the consultancy and strategy team at Theorem. Get in touch with Dan.

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