Last month, the largest social network in the world bought what is arguably the best virtual reality gaming headset in the world. For $2 billion (cash and stock), Facebook acquired Oculus VR, the maker of Oculus Rift. Before we all have nightmares about Candy Crush lemon drops raining down on our heads, let’s talk about how this gaming headset will no longer be pigeonholed to the gaming world. In other words, forget FarmVille: Facebook has bigger plans. Want the best seats in the stadium? Get your headset on. Can’t attend the conference? Oculus Rift will have you sitting front row. Want to go shopping? Of course you do, and Oculus Rift will bring the purse, the car, the soccer ball — and the experience of having each — right to you.
For those e-tailers out there looking to up the ante on giving customers the most tangible (okay, we’re using that word with a grain of salt here) experience to shop for their products, the Oculus Rift might just be the next go-to. Here is how Chaotic Moon Studios, a small group of quality thinkers, designers, and engineers out in Austin, TX, sees this VR (virtual reality) social media experience going down: Facebook reminds this dude that’s it’s his lady friend’s birthday, promptly asks him “Do you have Oculus?” and…well… watch what happens.
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, merging the gaming and e-commerce worlds into an end product that holds more titillating potential than pragmatic functionality. But with companies like Audi — and Audi City, the virtually-enhanced showroom in London— and Karndean — a global interior company that allows consumers to test out flooring from a tablet app — 2014 isn’t too far from the age where couch commerce gets interactive. VR goes in tandem with the business mentality of creating rich content, engaging prospective buyers through more unique platforms, and building stronger relationships with customers.
TED Talks invited astronaut Chris Hadfield, an NFL punter, and a few earthbound regular folk to test out VR through Oculus Rift, which simulated space travel, a roller coaster ride, and the first-ever 3D view of neurons. Needless to say, the experiences appeared very, very real. Just check out the guy in this video for proof of the Rift’s ability to accurately simulate reality (it gets good after 1:11). “By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life,” Mark Zuckerberg told TED. “Imagine not only sharing moments with your friends online, but experiences and adventures too.” You can bet that brands and e-tailers want to do the same thing.
UK superstore Tesco (buy groceries and phones simultaneously) is already on board, partnering with Figure Digital to develop its VR shopping platform. “We can now create 360-degree cinematic experiences and gamified interactive solutions that allow consumer to totally immerse themselves into a brand’s message,” says Ben Patterson, founder of Figure Digital. Pardon the music, but watch this video to see how Tesco and Pele have plans to start selling soccer balls. Now all Tesco (and anyone else on board) needs is for the Oculus Rift to hit the mass market; it looks like Zuckerberg and friends might be taking it there.