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Will 2016 bring about the democratisation of VR? Creatives at CES debate

Virtual reality has stolen much of the limelight at this year’s CES with executives from all quarters of the business community talking up its potential to change the way people consumer content. However, whether the technology will gain enough cut through this to make it an immediate worthwhile investment in 2016 is still up for debate.

The Drum caught up with top executives from agencies including Razorfish, iCrossing, Kinetic, Popshorts, Venturfuel and Giant Spoon to their what their thoughts on how VR will impact marketing in 2016.

Mark Mulhern, president of iCrossing's offering in the East

VR was even more visible this year than I expected. Not only the demos proving how it will be the next big thing (where I thought Livelike showed a huge new potential for the technology in sports viewing) but also in companies deploying it to enhance their CES presence. Whirlpool created a VR experience to mirror the real world Kitchen of the Future they’d built at CES and the Waze team at Google had a compelling Cardboard experience to explain their Waze product and the advertising opportunities it provides. Two executions that were not about the over-the horizon possibilities but instead about the here-and-now utility of the technology.

VR’s traction will depend on two things; experience and adoption. Of these two I believe the experience growth will be more consistent and reliable- resolving the queasiness issue, adding more motion control and deepening our understanding of what makes for great VR.

Adoption growth is the great unknown. Will it be one year or five before we have 100m users (roughly the number of US Console users)? The New York Times was the largest single adoption effort to date, delivering one million Cardboards. That’s a lot of units but it also shows how much further there is to go.

For me, scale adoption is going to come from more casual and passive use cases- richer Facebook and YouTube snackable experiences not long “Session” experiences requiring dedicated hardware. And that casual experience is going to happen on the phone. Personally, my first experience of 360 video in the humble NewsFeed was even more impactful than my first exposure to Oculus Rift, largely because the consumption experience was just so easy and familiar. That mobile VR adoption curve will be driven by viewer availability, some last hardware improvements (specifically in better synchrony) and the breakout Experiences discovered.

Jason Goldberg, SVP, content and commerce at Razorfish

Most of the time nobody wants to put those VR headsets on at the moment because you feel very vulnerable. It’s not going to be a mainstream thing yet. But virtual reality at home is going to be interesting because there are a lot of cool experiences that you can create in those immersive 3D environments but no one’s going to buy a $600 Oculus Rift in order to use that as a shopping tool. It’s coming but I don’t think 2016 will be the year for mass adoption of VR but it will be the year it gets some buzz because all the tastemakers can afford the technology. Five years from now it’s going to be a big deal.

In retail it’s not so much about VR that would be interesting, it’s augmented reality. Imagine you could hold up your phone in front of a retail display and the camera takes a picture of all the products on the show and then checks the price on Amazon and colour codes the products in front of you so you can see what’s a good deal or not. Tools like that you can imagine are really useful but we’re still a few years away from that kind of technology."

Mauricio Sabogal, global chief executive at Kinetic Worldwide

VR is another way for us to be creative and the more of those we have then the better for us. It’s an alternative way to present an engaged customer journey. The hard part now is the talent because the technology is there and so are the possibilities.