In summer 2014, I entered the world of modern virtual reality (VR) via Google Cardboard-style viewers. The very first time I pulled the viewer from my face, it was clear this could be an incredible branding opportunity at events, trade shows or whatever! Logos, sponsorship, attention-grabbing toys, etc. So I started preaching to anyone interested and tried to convert those unawares by sharing immersive roller coaster and concert experiences; everyone awed by each encounter.
After I put this cheap, mobile VR viewer into the hands of Stormie, my then-eight-year-old granddaughter, she decided to work it into her science-fair project. The teachers didn’t “get it,” so awards went to unremarkable projects. For the next 18 months, I’d experience this same kind of rejection while proselytizing VR in the adult world—rebuffed because people lacked imagination and were unable to conceive of a confluence of different futures. This went beyond Cardboard-style viewers, the same indifference from others occurred when I got deeper into VR and brought an Oculus Rift DK1 rig to our offices; there was this marvel of technology—not available to the masses for almost two more years—and few people took the time to even try it. When it comes to VR, you cannot “get it” without trying it, yet time after time people ask me about VR with no intention of personally trying it—and they are then left staring like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick as they grasp to comprehend the experience.
March 2015 I spoke about VR at Fórum Eventos in São Paulo, Brazil, and brought a few headset variants for people to try. The mind-blowing shares continued; the realization that a simple viewer could transform a smartphone into an otherworldly exploration tool. I kept this level of VR discussion running at MPI’s World Education Congress that July through two sessions on the subject—this time handing out some Cardboard-style viewers for attendees to take home and share. With each speaking engagement, more people would “get it”—you can tell by the smile that manifests on their faces—and by year’s end, I’d written and had published five stories about VR and the meeting and event industry. With each story, more industry pros would “get it” and more VR-inspired smiles occupied space on earth.
So while you’re likely to see an ever-increasing number of Cardboard-style VR viewers at meetings and events and being given away at trade shows in the next six, 12, 18 months, treat them like the keys to the kingdom that they are. Give them to co-workers, family and random strangers. Spread access to VR and the entire media will grow. Once you’re comfortable with VR experiences and can speak about them, that’s when you move on to Essential Step No. 2: Learn VR content creation strategy and execution (it’s easier and more affordable than you think—stay tuned).
[This post leapt from my fingertips like electricity after Kristi Casey Sanders shared her thoughts on Google Cardboard-style VR viewers.]