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Content is king.

In being involved in the Virtual Reality (‘VR’) space for some time now, it has been interesting to see the development of VR as a product. From the arrival of the Oculus Rift in 2016 to consumers, VR has been hyped (in some cases over-hyped) across industries as a harbinger for humanity’s transcendence into the virtual world.

VR is sexy, VR is cool, VR is exciting, VR is fresh. However, funky marketing ploys aside; VR has arguably failed to gain traction that is proportionate to the hype. Like the 3D TV before it, is VR to be just another tech fad? I mean in this day and age, anything with the right marketing and hype can be sold as something viable – we were buying fidget spinners not too long ago.

Over the past two years, I’ve encountered a variety of different opinions as to the deployment of VR within a Real Estate context. As with anything, there are advocates and naysayers, and there are those in between. It’s those in between that constitute the majority, and it’s these people that interest me the most as they like VR, yet they hesitate.

There is an undertone of doubt, scepticism and inherent inertia. VR is cool, but it’s not THAT cool. The expectation stemming from all the fuss and hype was that VR would power in and flip industry on its head, and it kinda hasn’t (otherwise everybody would be using it).

However, I do not believe this a problem with the product itself, but rather a problem with expectation.

From a Real Estate perspective, VR was (and still is) poised to be the be-all-end-all, off-the-plan sales solution where users can whack on a headset to customise, explore and experience a space that does not exist. It’s pretty revolutionary stuff when you think about it. In this capacity, VR hasn’t failed – it’s pretty darn cool; and it works well. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do and it’s a sensible sales ploy when selling off-the-plan.

Interestingly, despite the upside, VR has been slow to gain traction in this capacity. There are many fair reasons for this. For some, it’s the notion of strapping a screen to your face. For others, it is the prospect of nausea. For others still, it’s the expensive hardware required to operate the VR. Whatever it may be, the key takeaway is that in one way or another, VR is not the game-changing, revolutionising, awe-inspiring solution to your business that it was supposed to be.

But it isn’t supposed to be, and I will tell you why.

VR is not a solution, it is a medium. Like a smartphone or a computer, VR is just another way of interfacing with the digital world.

At the end of the day, content is king.

What you can see on a VR headset can be similarly viewed on other devices. The solution to whatever industry issue being solved lies within the content itself and VR is not an umbrella term for all things “Virtual” – it is the experience of strapping a thing you strap to your face.

Reverting back to the off-the-plan space, a VR ‘Virtual Walkthrough’ can be viewed on computer, touchscreen, and subject to budget – smartphone and website. In this context, the solution to the off-the-plan sales conundrum is the Virtual Walkthrough itself, not the VR headset. How you view the Virtual Walkthrough is up to you. Strapping something to someone’s head and showing them pictures, clapping your hands and calling it VR for the sake of it is NOT going to sell apartments – the key is what you are actually showing them. 

To date, this has been one of issues hindering VR – it has borne the burden and responsibility of content, rather than just being a medium through which to view said content.

It’s now 2019, and we have an abundance of talent in the content creation space. In blending the creativity behind video game development with commercial objectives, truly extraordinary things can take place. The functionality and graphical capabilities of the latest Realtime 3D content is phenomenal in its pragmatism and photo-realism. For off-the-plan sales, it is no longer a matter of “let’s develop a function that’s going to show a future apartment”. It is now a matter of “let’s create something truly awesome that’s going to show a future apartment, and more”.

Real Estate aside, it seems this notion has been heavily overlooked through the use of ‘VR’ as an umbrella term inclusive of content, and businesses are missing out on game-changing content by virtue of their avoidance.

It will be interesting to see how the VR space develops. Already we are seeing the more switched-on digital studios across the globe shift to a more content-focused offering rather than leveraging the hype of VR.

As a takeaway rule of thumb;

VR is ultimately only as good as the content behind it.

So, for businesses in any industry looking to explore VR (or any other visualisation technology for that matter) the focus needs to be on content.
Once the content is awesome, the VR will be awesome.

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