Is Virtual Reality the Next Big Wearable?

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As the release date for Facebook’s Oculus Rift gets closer, more brands are doing virtual reality (VR) campaigns. Could VR headsets be the next big wearable?

Although “wearables” has been a buzzword for a few years now, most of them have failed to take off, whether because they’re cumbersome, the tech just isn’t on par with smartphones or people just plain didn’t know what to do with them. The Apple Watch has somewhat rejuvenated the wearable market and VR could continue to ride that wave, although Dan LaCivita – president of digital agency Firstborn, which executed recent VR campaigns for Mountain Dew and Patrón – thinks they’re equally attractive to brands, in completely different ways.

“It’s almost like asking, do you want steak or sushi?” LaCivita says. “Wearables are more about collecting data from the body and tracking things. Watches, Fitbits, Jawbones: they’ve all been less experiential, less stimulating experiences and more about real world things you’re doing, like walking or running.”

VR has data potential, though the devices aren’t as likely to provide the same kind of hard data as wearables, such as your heartrate and how many steps you’ve taken.

“With VR, at least in the near term, I don’t know if there will be as much quantitative data. You can track how long people watch the experience and where they dropped off, and that’s useful,” LaCivita says. “It’s a more immersive platform and it’s going to have more qualitative data. The person watching the experience, how does it make them feel or think after?”

Like LaCivita, Isy Goldwasser, chief executive (CEO) of wearable company Thync, believes that comparing VR and wearables is like comparing apples and oranges, though his company aims to bridge that gap. Thync just released a wearable device that sends mood-altering electricity, either calming or energizing, to your nerves via bluetooth.

Headsets are wearable devices, but Goldwasser sees VR as something that would do better on a mobile device. Because so many people are accustomed to doing everything on their phones, he thinks mobile would result in the greatest number of users as quickly as possible. Either way, he sees VR being a huge phenomenon in the future, one that will ultimately excite brands more than wearables.

“If you look at wearables and how people use them, because they’re not getting an experience, there’s no strong emotional outcome that you can leverage easily as a brand,” Goldwasser says. “You have to try much harder when you’re talking about an activity tracker. In general, it’s tougher to create that wow factor and that holy sh*t excitement. VR is more compelling. I don’t think anyone can experience VR and not say this is part of the future.”

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