We're all familiar with the major historical changes in media consumption, from radio to television to Web to mobile. According to Facebook's vice president of partnerships Dan Rose, the next stage in that evolution is virtual reality.
"It's going to require a complete rethinking of storytelling, a complete rethinking of art," Rose said during a panel discussion on the future of virtual reality at the Paley International Council Summit in New York City Thursday morning.
Oculus VR's head of worldwide studios, Jason Rubin, joined Rose on the panel, which was moderated by David Kirkpatrick, CEO of Techonomy and author of The Facebook Effect.
Oculus, which Facebook acquired earlier this year for $2 billion, will begin selling its long-anticipated first virtual reality headset in the next week. Initially it will only work with Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, but Rose and Rubin said they expect the technology will snowball quickly and soon be available for all smartphones.
They're also optimistic that the virtual reality device is on its way to becoming a primary platform for content creators. While the VR ecosystem is still forming as cameras develop better 3D capabilities and other supplemental technologies evolve, there is already lots of content available on Oculus.
"There are content creators out there that are working very hard on this stuff," Rubin said. For example, Paul McCartney has released content that lets you experience one of his concerts on stage via the headset. Cirque du Soleil has created a clip in which you watch a performer going up on a rope. There are also many games being created for Oculus devices.
But the opportunities in VR are endless, Rose and Rubin said. They expect to see Oculus devices being used in the classroom, enabling a teacher to take her students to the Colosseum during lessons on ancient Rome. Or a real estate agent could show a client an apartment without having to leave the office. One day, Rubin said, he hopes to be able to watch a movie on his Oculus device in Silicon Valley at the same time as his wife in Los Angeles, and be able to see her avatar next to him within the world of the film.
During the discussion, the three men touched on how virtual reality could impact businesses' marketing efforts. Already, a number of films have been leveraging Oculus technology for promotional tie-ins. For instance, Dreamworks set up a How to Train Your Dragon experience in Times Square that let passersby try on Oculus and feel what it's like to fly a dragon. According to Rubin, several booths at Comic-Con also offered Oculus experiences to let conference attendees interact with characters like the X-Men.
Yes, the technology is still new, and chances are the average consumer won't be running out to buy their own device in a couple weeks. But brands can still leverage the technology in pop-up experiences and at events to deliver content on a whole new level. "People are not only using it for content but for marketing purposes, and it's been extremely effective," Rubin said. "It really has so many potentials that it's impossible to know where this goes. But it's going."