One in 10 UK homes will own a virtual reality (VR) device by Christmas, according to recent research by Carphone Warehouse. The technology is edging towards the mainstream, but few major brands have used their festive marketing budget to test the waters (the notable exception being department store John Lewis, which created two VR experiences to complement its Buster the Boxer campaign).
The fear for marketers is that VR may remain gimmicky for consumer engagement until mass adoption of the technology, which some commentators believe is still five years away. As such, two savvy brands have pursued a different Christmas VR strategy to John Lewis, focusing on the potential impact the technology may have outside of entertainment and marketing – specifically in the healthcare arena.
Honda started producing VR content in April, and for Christmas the car firm has created an immersive festive experience for children receiving treatment at the Children's Hospital of Orange County in California. For every 'like' the video receives on Facebook, Honda will donate $1 to CHOC Children's and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (up to $100,000).
Similarly, Australian health insurance company Medibank has created a VR experience called Joy for hospital patients, designed to alleviate their loneliness during the holiday season. Medibank partnered with Google and Australian VR firm Liminal to create a virtual world "where [people] can feel comfort and connection," according to Liminal clinical neuroscientist and neuropsychologist, Sami Yamin. "Joy was conceived out of extensive research into the known alleviators of loneliness – including pet therapy, bibliotherapy and the incorporation of nature scenes," he said.
For more on the potential of virtual reality, see Future of Video: Ignition 2016.