How Google plans on using VR to connect people with memories, experiences and places

Clay Bavor, google's VP of VR

Virtual reality (VR) has come to the fore over the last year-and-a-half for marketers and as expected, Google is proving to be at the forefront in developing that technology and bringing such experiences to the masses. However VR will also be capable of allowing users to re-experience moments from their past within the next decade, the company's VR chief has promised.

Making that claim is Clay Bavor, the company's vice president of virtual reality, who has a laid back but enthusiastic manner while talking about the imminent developments around VR.

Speaking during the Cannes Lions Festival, which was heavily focused on the evolution of VR this year, Bavor opened by talking to the gathered media about an experience that Google has developed that involves sharks and diving from a great height: "People lower their centre of gravity, they crouch and freak out a bit.

"That's what our brains have evolved to do over millions of years when we find ourselves at the cliff face. They reach for a railing that's not there to try and stabilise themselves and once they get their bearings we ask them to walk out onto the diving board and step off...and most people don't do it!"

He explained that this is happening because of 'presence', which is a feeling that happens 'in the reptilian part of your brain' that tells the person they are somewhere else, even thought they know exactly where they are.

"All of your senses line up in the same way as they do in reality but you have replaced one of your senses, such as your vision, with a virtual reality that displays photons of images and whenever that lines up exactly right, your brain feels present somewhere else. That feeling of transporting you somewhere else is what distils the promise of virtual reality - to put you anywhere and make you feel like you are actually there."

Bavor continued to describe experience as "information", with the factors of each virtual reality experience offering elements of info to the brain to make it believe what it is seeing and feeling.

"VR has the potential to connect people with information and experiences and places in a way that is unbounded in how you can scale it," he said.

He talked about the creation of Google Cardboard, which has only recently been released in Europe despite having been devised in Paris by two Google engineers who broke down the crucial elements of a headset and adapted it to work around their mobile devices.

That creation is turning the smartphone into a makeshift VR viewer. More than five million had been distributed by the end of last year, Bavor revealed, before going on to discuss how Cardboard is connecting the real world with the virtual and becoming more accessible. He continued to discuss the launch of the 'Jump' app which creates 360 video through mobile devices and is being used by media such as the New York Times to create stories and videos to fully immerse audiences.

"VR is going to touch everything. It goes back to the ability to put you anywhere, to put you in a different space, to create an object in front of you that as far as you can tell it's really there, it has scale and physical presence and it will touch everything from how we communicate, to how to travel, to how real estate is sold to how people build buildings to how we remember things."

Bavor predicted three things that VR will affect over the next five to 10 years: story, art and memory.

That latter he claims will come from the use of a hockey puck-sized camera that will be placed in rooms to record moments. He called them 'Memory Cameras', which record experiences, not just video.

"If you ask people: 'If your house is on fire what do you grab?', everyone says: 'My family, my kids, my pets'. The next thing people say is: 'My family photo album' or more recently their hard drive with their photos on it. Why is that? It's not like those photos are beautifully composed with a wonderful use of color. Instead it's those prompts for memories. You see this photo, you can replay meeting with the person and being in a place and replay feelings."

He predicted: "You will be able to step back inside of a decade from when you take it and re-experience that slice of time," before adding that he has been using a prototype to record moments with his children.

"Twenty years from now I'll be able to sit across from my son as a young boy no differently than I do today. He'll be able to sit across from the table himself as a young boy as well. We think VR is going to change all these things; story, memory, art."

Watch Debbie Weinstein, YouTube’s director of brand innovation, talk about “a 3D content experience” and how those are being transformed through Google Cardboard.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.