When you think about virtual reality there is one brand that immediately comes to mind; Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift (Oculus for short) is the most widely known virtual reality headset brand next to the HTC Vive. In your local mall or Best Buy you may have seen demo stations with Oculus headsets set up with a few brave people lined up to test the technology and see for themselves what real virtual reality is all about. In less than two years Oculus grew from an idea that was funded by a Kickstarter campaign to a brand that Facebook purchased for $2 billion in 2014. How did they do this you may be wondering? More importantly, what does the rise of the Oculus and virtual reality mean for marketing? It is possible to answer these two questions, we just have to turn back time briefly to see how it all got started.
The idea for the Oculus Rift came from the mind of Palmer Luckey at age 15. Palmer loved technology, video games, and over the course of time developed a deep fondness for virtual reality. To feed his curiosity, Palmer began collecting old virtual reality headsets from the 80’s and 90’s that were considered failed experiments for a variety of reasons. Sourcing his collection from private sellers and government agencies, Palmer was able to obtain the largest collection of virtual reality headsets in the world.
At the age of 16, Palmer began to build headsets of his own and met John Carmack the founder of id Software; a developer known for creating games such as Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D. At the time, Carmack was considering experimenting with headsets of his own and ultimately formed a partnership with Palmer. Later that year, Carmack was displaying Palmer’s headset prototypes at E3. In June of 2012, Palmer dropped out of college and formed Oculus VR. Met with positive reviews and feedback from companies such as Valve, Palmer launched the Oculus VR’s Kickstarter campaign on August 1st of 2012. Within 24 hours of the campaigns’ launch, Oculus VR had raised $670,000 from 2,750 people. Within three days they’d broken a million dollars.
With the money raised from the Kickstarter campaign, Oculus VR (at the time composed of 10 employees) began working on Development Kit 1 (DK1) to begin showcasing to people the power that virtual reality technology could offer. DK1 turned into a successful working product aside from a few problems such as the low screen resolution, the device causing motion sickness, and the headsets’ inability to track where the human head was actually moving in 3D space. Using money from the DK1 sales and money from investors Oculus began working on Development Kit 2 (DK2) which was designed to be a more consumer ready headset that eliminated a majority of the problems from the DK1. The DK2 had an upgraded 1080p OLED screen, had reduced latency from 60 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds, and included a camera that could accurately track head motion in 3D space. With pre-orders for the DK2 flooding in Oculus VR agreed to sell to Facebook in March of 2014 for $2 billion.
What does this mean for the tech industry……and marketing?
The future of the Oculus Rift and virtual reality as a technology still remain a bit unclear. Although statistics show that virtual reality is expected to grow to more than 171 million new users by 2018, the technology itself is still quite expensive with the newest version of the Oculus Rift retailing for about $600. However, even though consumer adoption may be slow the Oculus Rift has started the creation of an entirely new sector of the video game industry for developers who are making VR based games only. The Oculus Rift also opens up new doors for other industries to experiment with and create practical experiences such as training for surgeons, military training, and even one day you may not even have to go to the DMV to renew your drivers license.
In the marketing world, marketers will be pressed more so now than ever before to create campaigns and experiences for people to connect with brands, products, and services in an entirely immersive way. By utilizing the power of devices such as the Oculus Rift marketers can help you experience a coffee shop in Seattle while you live in Orlando, or have you snowboard down a mountain in Aspen using the latest Quiksilver gear. In any case, all marketers should be embracing virtual reality and the Oculus Rift as an opportunity to connect with people on a level that previously could not be reached in the living room.
Nick Myers is the Managing Partner of RedFox Creative. For more information or to leave a comment send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.