Virtual venues are poised to transform live-streaming, content and sponsorship.
Up until recently, virtual reality experiences behind the goggles were solitary. Then, group VR experiences emerged, like rides. But in the wake of the announcement of Oculus Venues in October, VR “venues” are expected to transform the group VR experience by allowing users to interact with each other within a virtual setting. Oculus Venues, according to the announcement at Oculus Connect, the fourth developer conference by the Facebook-owned brand, is a “new experience coming next year that lets people watch live concerts, sports and movie premieres with thousands of other people around the world.”
The innovation will transform Facebook from social media platform to mass media member, and it’s one of several examples of how virtual reality “destinations” will allow consumers to interact with each other (think: avatars in the virtual space), interact with additional content on top of the main attraction, and — this is where it gets strategic for marketers — engage with sponsors within the virtual space.
Take Fox Sports, which in June unveiled a VR app that allows “group viewing similar to multiplayer video games.” Sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings and created with partner LiveLike, the “Virtual Suite” allowed fans to view certain men’s soccer matches together in a VIP-style space. Fans could experience multiple live, high-resolution camera angles, they could relive moments and socialize. “When entering the experience, users will be able to select a ‘Social’ tab and a ‘Join Friends’ button that connects the user to Facebook upon authorization,” Fox explained. “At that point, friends who have done the same will pop up on your friends list, creating the opportunity to view the experience in a social environment.”
The NBA has entered the space, too, announcing in October the second iteration of live-streamed regular-season games in VR. This year’s features include “live infographics and statistics inserted into the virtual scene” and the ability for users to “select different points of view in the stadium from which to watch the game.” The streaming is powered by NextVR and available through its app on the Samsung GearVR platform or Google Daydream.
Aside from sports and entertainment, it’s not hard to imagine the implications of VR venues in the event landscape beyond the obvious: fully virtual events that allow attendees to engage and interact with each other. Picture virtual trade show environments with limitless sponsorable spaces and VR destinations that serve as follow-up meetup spaces post-show, where attendees can engage in additional content and networking.
That’s driving a message home.