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VR 20/20: Mainstream VR Is Inevitable, and Coming Soon

Complete Coverage: NYC TV & Video Week

New York -- The notion of virtual reality moving to the mainstream will happen sooner than many might figure, said multiple panelists at the "Is VR the New Super Bowl Spot?," and marketers are wise to get on board sooner rather than later. Alban Denoyel, founder and CEO of Sketchfab, said the tipping point will happen in around 18 months, when user-generated VR content is more common.

Ryan Pulliam, cofounder and CMO at Specular, noted how eight major companies are set to release VR headsets. "I think it’s a lot sooner than people think," she said.

For his part, Adam Harter, VP of marketing--cultural connections, Pepsi Beverages NA, described an "avalanche" when user-generated VR is more widespread, and when content producers create episodic VR programming for binge consumption. 

Related: VR 20/20—Content Players Debate Social Factor, Pricing, Brand Opportunity

VR was described as potential gold for marketers, when they can virtually put Los Angeles Lakers fans in a front row seat, next to Jack Nicholson, or slip a would-be Prius buyer into the driver’s seat of a car. "For us, this a medium we can’t ignore," said Doug Coleman, national vehicle marketing and communications manager--advanced technology vehicles, Toyota Motor Sales USA. "All automakers are trying to figure out how to get people into their cars without getting them into cars."

If major brands are not poking around in the VR game, he added, "We’re in trouble."

Related: VR 20/20—Unknowns Abound in Virtual and Augmented Reality Market

Ian Schafer, founder and CEO of Deep Focus, moderated the panel, and likened the current state of VR production to the early days of filmmaking—lots of experimentation, with some hits and plenty of misses.

Coleman said this is the "golden era" of VR missteps, including "poor executions targeting the wrong person," and slipshod repurposing of 2D content. "We’re gonna make a lot of mistakes," he added.

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But the time will come—and likely fairly soon—when brand marketers get it right. "The first time you really, truly immerse consumers into your technology and into your brand," said Pulliam, "it’s a huge moment."