VR isn’t ready for PR… Yet.

Vice President of Text100’s Creative Technology team, James Holland, knows deep down that VR hype may have peaked a little too soon.

Vice President of Text100’s Creative Technology team, James Holland, knows deep down that VR hype may have peaked a little too soon.

In an article originally posted in PRWeek’s Gloves Off section, Vice President of Text100’s Creative Technology team, James Holland, explains why VR is not ready for PR…yet.

It’s true we’re at a tipping point for VR. Awareness of our virtual future is at record levels, but while early adopters may have their arms in the air and their screaming faces on standby, I’m afraid we’ll be dangling over the edge of the roller coaster for a little while longer. That’s not because of the technology, but rather the products that use it. The tech is there, but the audience is not.

As a pop-up stunt or a trade show installation, VR is hard to beat for engagement and word of mouth. In an integrated campaign, it makes perfect sense. But the effect is limited and the audience scarce. Take VR off the show floor, and its appeal unravels.

Acquiring a home VR rig remains prohibitively expensive, with most manufacturers notably quiet on units sold. Some analysts peg sales of desktop-class VR from Oculus Rift and HTC Vive at just 800,000 in 2016.

A woman rides a bike outdoors while wearing a VR headset

This is almost certainly a bad idea.

Add in PlayStation VR, which is cheaper and more user-friendly, but where content is strictly controlled by Sony, and the number rises to 3.4 million. That should sound alarm bells for marketers and PR professionals looking for large numbers of eyeballs. It’s roughly half as popular as Apple’s first iPhone launch to an unsuspecting, and largely uninterested, public a decade ago.

The first iPhones made even stout wallets quiver and sold in relatively low numbers. But new versions followed, prices dropped, and the touchscreen revolution gathered speed. In the VR world, the same is just starting to happen, through such products as Oculus Rift, which announced earlier this month that it’s dropping prices on its headsets and motion controllers.

While the Rift is still on their higher end of the spectrum, a few others like Samsung Gear VR, which sold 5 million in 2015-16, and Google Daydream, the Android-powered smartphone sub brand from Mountain View, offer more affordable options.

Look at mobile’s future and you’ll find VR’s audience. The steady march of the upgrade cycle will condition consumers to switch to VR-ready pocket fodder. If Google and Samsung can bait Apple into a fight for virtual supremacy, we’ll have the foundations of a real medium.

In the meantime, we’re left hanging, plotting VR tactics into our campaign plans, but knowing deep down that, like the aforementioned roller coaster, this particular wave of VR hype may have peaked a little too soon.

This piece was originally published on PRWeek.

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