VR news, insights, rants and rambles

VR Marketing—Part 3: Headsets

By Paulo Tromp
August 16, 2016

In the first two articles in this “VR Marketing” series, we’ve looked at why you should include virtual reality in your marketing mix, and we’ve clarified some of the terminology associated with this rapidly growing field.

It’s almost time to delve into the nitty-gritty of your first VR branding campaign, but before we do that you’ll need an understanding of the technology used to both capture and view immersive 3D content.

In this article we’ll cover the latter: VR headsets. In the next we’ll tackle 360 degree cameras.

Your customers, or prospective customers, will enter virtual reality by strapping on a VR headset. Also known as a head-mounted display (HMD), this lightweight piece of equipment covers their eyes and cuts out their vision of the real world, replacing it with 360 degree stereoscopic visual content that’s been cleverly rendered to trick their brain into thinking they’ve entered an alternative reality.

There are now dozens of types of HDMs—too many to mention here—and the list grows almost weekly. But they fall into two broad categories: desktop and mobile VR headsets.

Desktop VR

In order to experience Desktop VR, you will need a high-end, VR-ready desktop PC or laptop, connected to the headset with a cable.

The headset supplies the visuals, while the PC provides the processing power needed to deliver a seamless, glitch-free virtual reality gaming or video experience.

Desktop VR is relatively expensive because you need to buy both the headset and a compatible PC. The first and best-known VR headset, the Oculus Rift, will set you back $599 and you’re unlikely to pick up a PC with enough processing grunt to “drive” it for under $1000.

There’s also a growing range of accessories that allow you to move around and interact with objects in the virtual worlds you’ll be visiting.

The good news is that prices of this premium virtual reality experience are likely to fall fairly quickly. Already, there’s talk that HTC, makers of another high-end headset, the Vive, have entered an agreement with PC maker HP to ship a complete PC-headset system at significantly “friendlier” price than the two separately.

You can expect more such announcements from other manufacturers in the coming months.

Another more affordable way your potential customers may soon be experiencing virtual reality is through their favorite gaming console.

Microsoft is reportedly working on a VR headset for its Xbox consoles, while rival Sony is several steps ahead having announced that it’ll launch a PlayStation 4-compatible headset in October 2016.

Mobile VR

As the name suggests, mobile VR headsets don’t need to be connected to a bulky PC. They’re powered instead by your smartphone, usually by sliding the phone into a slot on the headset.

As a result, they’re a lot more portable and affordable than their desktop counterparts.

The mobile VR experience may not be quite as smooth or high-resolution as on a desktop unit, but it can still be remarkably immersive and effective as a marketing medium.

The barriers to entry are also significantly lower. Mobile VR headsets, like Google Cardboard start at under $20 and you can pick up even fairly high-end headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR for under $100.

You will need a VR compatible smartphone, but more and more of these are now available at ever-lower prices.

So that’s a very quick round-up of some of the VR headset options. In a future article we’ll look at some specific examples and how they’re being used in a range of innovative marketing campaigns at a price point to suit every budget. But for now, I hope you’re starting to realize why I’m so excited about the possibilities virtual reality offers for marketing and branding.

Coming up next...

Part 4: 360 and VR cameras.

About Paulo Tromp

Paulo Tromp is CEO and Creative Director of VRMADA, a virtual reality agency dedicated to creating beautiful, memorable experiences enabling brands to connect with their audiences in new and unique ways. Some of his clients include BMW, JCB, L'Oréal, MTV, Philip Morris International, Telefónica, Toyota, and Vodafone.