It's all exciting for me to see, as I started this phase of my life doing virtual reality back in the early 90's. I was introduced to VR by a good friend, Dave Peters, who ran a company called Absolute Amusements. Together, we worked with the Virtuality system out of the UK and a company here called Horizon Entertainment. I eventually formed my own company, the CyberEvent Group, and we produced many of the early VR events through the 90's.
Back in the 90's, I called the use of VR for advertising and marketing Experiential Advertising, the ability to let consumers step into and interact with the marketing message. As I wrote back then:
For the first time, consumers will be able to enter and, more importantly, interact with a corporate marketing message. From traveling through the human body to playing a virtual football game, consumers will be able to experience almost any marketing world. Virtual reality offers advertisers the ultimate sampling opportunity and will present a clutter free event that will draw attention to any product. Experiential advertising is an excellent opportunity to influence today's sophisticated consumer.
And what was on the bleeding edge in 1991 can be just as difficult for people to understand today. Funny, I just came across this quote from an article about VR in 1995. Kinda' amazing how little has changed, isn't it!
Plus, a lot of ad agency people I've spoken to are intimated by the process of creating a VR experience. The trick is understanding the non-linear aspects of VR. And in the advertising world, that's an enormous, cognitive leap.
Randel Walser, then with Autodesk, took a cyber spin on that Confucius quote by saying Print and radio tell; stage and film show, cyberspace embodies. When asked about VR back in the 90's, we wrote:
It's the combination of immersion and interaction that makes virtual reality so exciting for the event industry. Never before has this combination existed in such a dynamic form and with such unlimited potential. As we all know from our own learning experiences, retention is much higher when we're involved in the learning experience and not merely acting as a spectator. The experience-enriched retention is the effect provided by virtual reality. By entering the computer-generated world and controlling their experience in that world, participants will carry that additional retention concerning your product, message or event away with them. It has not been unusual for us to over-hear conversations about a VR experience several days after it occurred.
We were very successful with that approach and when we brought VR to the consumers, we frequently attracted up to a several hour wait for our experiences. The problem back then was that the tech hit a wall and didn't continue to progress. In addition, content was pretty sparse, with many companies just turning VR into "Doom in a head mount."
But while at SIGGRAPH last month, I attended several sessions on VR and one thing that struck me was that they were having the same conversations that we were having 20 years ago. Still lots of discussions on latency and field of view and "cyber sickness," but still not a lot of conversations about the content. I have to say, I did hundreds of public presentations of VR for thousands of people and very rarely saw anyone complain about those things. And, when they did, it was in the context of how cool the experience was, not how they wouldn't do it until those things were fixed.
So I'm excited to see VR making a comeback and look forward to seeing what will be happening with VR in the future. I hope that the industry will focus more on what's important to the consumer - the experience - and not keep focusing solely on the technology. And as a Google Glass wearer, I'm also a huge fan of AR and as the two come together, well, the future will be pretty cool!
I've rousted up some old photos of my earlier work below, it was fun to reminisce about those days. Back in March of '93, I also brought a VR system to Live with Regis & Kathie Lee. I remember it being a lot of work to get set-up on time and then we only had a short segment to get it all done. We had lots of fun and it sure is nice to see myself without grey!
A few years ago, while speaking in Amsterdam, I also gave an interview talking about AR, VR and the future of tech.
Max Lenderman wrote about my earlier work with the CyberEvent Group and the Brand Experience Lab in his book Experience the Message a few years ago.
This is the Virtuality system that started it all for me. I actually owned the 1st two systems that came into the US.
The CyberEvent Group was the tour producer for the Cutty Sark Virtual Voyage and was on the road for 18 months.
CyberEvent Group produced a 26 seat Immersive Animation theater that won a top trade show award in the mid-90's.
The first VR installation on a Disney property, the CyberTron at Pleasure Island.