As sales of virtual reality headsets rise, and the technology becomes more accessible to the masses, the future of fully immersive connectivity is starting to look more realistic.
VR has long been considered the next frontier for digital connection, but cost and accessibility have been barriers for most. But now, with standalone devices like Facebook's Oculus Go, you can see how the shift might happen. It's not going to become the must-have tool overnight, but more people are tuning in. And that will lead to a whole new range of possibilities for digital marketing.
In line with this, YouTube has this week announced a new set of upgrades to help VR creators build more immersive experiences.
First off, just as was recently added to Facebook's Portal smart speaker device, YouTube content will now be made available within Facebook-owned Oculus headsets, providing a new range of VR content options for Oculus users.
And there's a lot of content there - as noted by Oculus:
"If you already have a YouTube account, you can sign into the app and view your subscriptions, playlists, watch history, and more. We can't wait for you to explore the more than 800,000 experiences available on YouTube now on Oculus Go."
Similar to Portal, it seems somewhat counter-intuitive for Facebook to provide access to YouTube content within its devices when Facebook is looking to push it's own YouTube competitor in Watch. But the pay-off may be in more take-up - if Facebook can provide more content options, that will make their hardware options more appealing, which could help them get more devices in more homes, and that will likely prove more valuable over time than the potential competitive restriction.
YouTube has also updated its VR editing tools, building on its simplified VR180 option which it launched last year.
As explained by YouTube:
"Last year we introduced VR180, a new video format that focuses on what’s in front of the camera while delivering a 3D effect in a VR headset. Since then we’ve introduced new tools to make this type of video creation even easier. We launched the VR180 Creator Tool that makes it faster to process footage, add metadata and publish. The tool is available on MacOS, Linux and now on Windows.
With the latest editing tools from Adobe, it’s also significantly easier for you to edit, add effects and publish your content. And with new VR180 capable cameras from Kandao and Vuze, you now have more options for capturing VR180 to complement cameras from Z-Camand Lenovo."
VR180 lessens the production and data load of immersive video, which could act as a key gateway into full VR content. These new options will make it even more readily available to publishers.
Finally, YouTube also recently added 'head-locked' audio for VR, which ensures narration and background music remain consistent when you use spatial audio.
Spatial audio aligns with the scene - so if there's a noise in the next room, it'll sound like it's in the next room. With this new update, creators will have more ways to build effective VR experiences, in line with their desired presentation approach.
At the moment, keeping tabs on the evolution of VR is important, but as noted, the technology is not yet at the stage where it's a 'must-have' for all - it doesn't need to be on your 2019 digital strategy list, necessarily. But the opportunities are developing. While it might not factor in yet, signs are that VR will get much bigger in the next year.
And as it does, digital marketing strategies will likely need to evolve in step.