We built a virtual reality headset

virtual reality headset built by Drake Cooper

Every once in awhile a new piece of technology comes along that seems like magic when you experience it for the first time.

We live in a world where tech companies are coming out with new products faster than we can keep up with them. “Wearables” like Google Glass, the Apple Watch, and the Moto Hint, promise to be “the next big thing.” And there’s also the ever-promising “smart home” concept with early-entry gadgets like the Nest Thermostat and the Amazon Dash aiming to make your life easier at home.

But there’s something about Virtual Reality that’s different from all of that. When you experience it for the first time, it feels like magic. You’re taken out of your current environment and placed in a brand new one. And although the technology doesn’t take over your other senses like touch, taste, and smell (yet), you’re still able to escape your current environment and visualize a new one.

Ever since the Oculus Rift came onto the scene, VR is finally back into the conversation and companies are jumping all over the opportunity to release VR headsets of their own.

Given the possibilities with this new technology, we challenged ourselves to find out how it fits into the world of marketing and advertising.

DC LAB

Earlier this year, Drake Cooper opened a Lab. The concept is simple: The DC LAB is the inventions engine of Drake Cooper. It serves as the in-house research and development arm of the agency and is the active test bench for product ideas and startups.

Our first success out of the Lab was Ponywolf—a mobile game startup that focuses on “game based storytelling.” But not everything that comes out of the Lab is as big as a company. Employees have the opportunity to work in the Lab on smaller products as well. Enter our virtual reality headset.

GOOGLE CARDBOARD

Gif Of Virtual Reality Headset Construction

In June, Google announced a DIY headset coined “Google Cardboard.” It is a simple DIY enclosure that transforms a phone into a basic virtual reality headset with an accompanying open software toolkit.

But what makes this product so intriguing is the ability to offer an entry-level VR experience at a low cost and low barrier to entry. If you want to skip the hassle of collecting the materials, you can buy a Cardboard kit for as low as $24.95 and it will show up on your doorstep with all of the materials you need. You can even build a headset from a pizza box.

This little side project from Google gave us a start and helped us overcome the biggest hurdle–hardware.

Now that we have the technology and an entry-level device to prototype with, the DC Lab can begin exploring how this fits into the world of marketing and advertising.

virtual reality headset being used

LAB NOTES: TRAVEL & TOURISM

One industry that is begging for this technology is the travel & tourism sector. The trip planning process for most consumers starts online and it comes in the form of dreaming and inspiration.

Consumers look to be inspired first and foremost when choosing a leisure travel destination. Wouldn’t it be great if we offered a way for them to visually experience a destination before even booking their trip?

Rather than sending a potential traveler the age-old brochure or travel guide, why not send them a branded VR unit where they can simply drop in their phone, and be immersed with beautiful visuals of the destination?

LAB NOTES: REAL ESTATE

Another way to use this technology comes in another industry where consumers spend a lot of time dreaming and visualizing a purchase. In the real estate industry, consumers spend a great deal of time searching for their perfect home. But it’s not just searching–they’re also visualizing.

It’s not about finding four walls with a door at a good rate. It’s about finding a home that fits your family’s lifestyle. With that kind of emotion behind the purchase decision, this situation calls for a technology that helps people visualize their options.

Imagine being able to offer home shoppers an experience that puts them right in the middle of a home. Rather than uploading 20 flat photos to a home listing page where they have to pretend to visualize the home, let’s actually put them in the home with VR.

Many homebuilders have design centers where consumers can go and pick out fixtures and add-ons for their homes. The difficulty with this model is that as a consumer, you see 50 different options right next to each other in a fake home setting. To fix this, we could use VR technology within the design centers to allow people to see their fixtures and add-ons inside their home.

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING

Developers have already come up with some amazing ways to use Google Cardboard. But this is just the beginning. As this technology matures, marketers and advertisers will surely find creative ways to use it in their campaigns. This is an industry ripe for innovation and we’re excited to watch how the world of virtual reality…well…becomes a reality.