Brave new world of VR, rather like the old one

Tham Khai Meng, the worldwide chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather offers his take as big tech heavily bets on virtual reality.

Tham Khai Meng: the worldwide chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather
Tham Khai Meng: the worldwide chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather

I think it was Woody Allen who said reality wasn’t all that great but it was still the only place to get a good steak. He’s not alone in expressing disappointment with reality. Animals seem to love it, but we humans spend a lot of our time trying to escape it.

We read books, see movies, take drugs, get drunk... Until now, we’ve been stuck with it, the way a goldfish is stuck with its bowl.

But that is about to change. Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus Rift not too long ago, and Virtual Reality is going mainstream.

Interestingly, the big corporations have all entered into a voluntary agreement not to enter this realm with their wares, but to leave it free of all advertising, marketing and commercial messages.

Ha ha just kidding. One thing you can guarantee is the first time you step ashore on this virgin land someone will be trying to sell you something.

Microsoft, Samsung, Google and Sony are all heavily investing in the technology.

The only question is, what will they do there? At the moment, no one is quite sure. The possibilities are infinite.

Want to learn a foreign language? Download the course, put on the headset and go to France. An avatar French teacher collects you from the airport and checks you into a hotel. The whole experience branded by the hotel chain.

One way or another they will have to brand the experience in such a way that you come back for more. Make that a pretty French tutor avatar.

Some marketers have already put a toe in the virtual water. Marriott Hotels caused a stir by installing VR booths in Central Park and "teleporting" newlyweds from New York to Maui. Hiking boot brand Merrell thrilled and frightened people with a crazy Oculus Rift mountainside hike.

But this is really just small potatoes. In Australia Samsung ran a TVC featuring the VR presentation of a live birth.

How long before they put sensors on the surgeon’s arms, and record the performance? Then you don your haptic feedback bodysuit and become that surgeon.

One day you could spend a night in, delivering yourself as easy as getting a pizza delivered. The only question is, whose logo will be on your birth?

After that you go to bed and the Google brain implant quietly feeds your dreams so you get a good night’s GoogleSleep™ And oh look! There’s your French tutor (that’s if you opted for the course’s ‘Adult’ premium rate).

At this point, some bright spark invents a new VR experience that captures the imagination of the entire world. It becomes the biggest seller of all time. It’s called Ordinary Life and recreates the life we used to live before they branded sleep.

You remember, the one where you just sat in traffic, worked in an office, then went home tired and weary… slumped exhausted on the sofa and watched Woody Allen on TV. Some nights you went out for a steak.

The game is so real you can’t even tell you are playing it. Hey, wait a minute!


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