Despite its challenges, some companies have learned to market VR hardware and apps pretty effectively on our flat screens. And, of course, some companies really haven’t.
This list is for them.
I can understand the temptation to maybe overpromise a little in a VR commerical. It wouldn’t be very attractive to watch players phase through walls, run into chaperone boundaries or get twisted up in wires, would it? But these four videos take just a little too much liberty with the products they’re promoting, setting unrealistic expectations for customers. If you’re marketing a new headset or game, watch closely; this is how not to do it.
Lionel Messi Becomes An Avenger
Here’s an early and bafflingly long offender (skip to about 3:45 to get to the VR bit). It was no surprise to see Samsung sticking headsets on celebrity’s dollar-eyed faces to sell its Gear VR in 2015. What was a bit confusing, was why they’d choose Lionel Messi (the soccer player that looks like a young Richard Gere) for a commerical in which a group of VR users become Avengers. And no, I don’t mean Marvel Powers United VR, I mean a non-existent, live-action Avengers VR app where Messi dons the Iron Man armor and plays keepy-uppy with a bowling ball. Neat trick? Absolutely. Actually possible with a Gear VR? Not even a little.
Worse yet, poor Cobie Smulders has been roped in to gawk at Hulk’s muscles. Visually, this trailer is pretty amazing; it’d actually fit in with an MCU movie, but that’s not even close to what a mobile phone is capable of today, let alone back in 2015. Gear VR didn’t even have a motion controller at that point.
For clarity, there actually were Avenger’s themed projects for Gear VR including Battle For Avengers Tower. but it was a long long way from the experience depicted in this ad.
Intel’s Virtual Party
If you want a gross misrepresentation of what current VR technology is actually capable of, or just a generally gross interpretation of what you’d want to do with it, look no further than this 2016 trailer for Intel’s ill-fated Merged Reality platform. Were you to believe everything you see here, you’d expect VR to deliver photorealistic worlds in which you can attend the most stylish, A-lister house parties as an irresistibly attractive man, sample fine wines and grab glasses or microphones with all the intuition you enjoy in real life.
There’s, overpromising, and then there’s overpromising on something you wouldn’t even want in the first place.
Why, exactly, would this sort of vapid, elitist gathering be my first destination inside VR? Is it everyone’s dream to live out some sort of dated male fantasy; to create a life full of such repugnant self-worship and decadence you dare not remove your headset ever again? It’s a grim assumption of what people really want out of VR.
Not only was this world a pretty ugly visualization of a strange power fantasy, it was also a wild exaggeration of reality. Unsurprisingly, what Intel promised with its standalone Alloy headset and what we actually saw ourselves — before the kit was scrapped — were two very different things. We’re a long way away from this vision of ‘Merged Reality’ and, when we finally get there, this will be the last thing we want to do with it.
Nostos’ Live Action Trailer
There’s a lot to like about the trailer for VR MMO Nostos, including its nostalgic opening live-action sequence in which a young boy dreams of visiting the game’s sweeping grassy planes before pulling on a headset and finding himself there. But there’s also more than a few puzzling contradictions that imply the game can be played on platforms you won’t currently find it on.
Nevermind what seems to be pre-rendered gameplay in an online game that actually looks pretty decent in real life. Why does the live-action portion of the trailer suggest Nostos — currently only available on PC VR platforms — can be played with a Google Cardboard headset?
Furthermore, why does the trailer end with three people playing on what look like Oculus Go headsets with original Rift Touch controllers and another standalone headset (possibly the Pico Neo) with Windows VR controllers? Perhaps if this was an early concept video for the game it could be overlooked, but this was released just ahead of Nostos’ full launch on Rift, Vive and Index, none of which are actually seen in the trailer.
It speaks to an ongoing issue to help define VR to the masses. While this is a technically proficient trailer, it also sets unrealistic expectations about what you can currently do with headsets. In a market struggling to hard to get its messaging across as it is, it’s a really troubling issue.
Huawei’s 5G VR Martial Arts Match
Our most recent entry on the list is perhaps one of the most grievous. To show off the 5G capabilities of its new Mate 30 Pro phone, Huawei claimed to… put a martial artist into VR with full-body tracking and then have him fight an esports gamer in a smartphone app. Yep, really. Exactly how that proves 5G enhances VR, we’re not exactly sure, but the company goes to great lengths to make this all seem legit.
Our fearless martial artist is kitted with a bunch of, well, kit, including Huawei’s VR Glass headset, six degrees of freedom (6DOF) tracking support for the head, hands and legs and wearable haptic devices too. “So this is not the average VR experience,” a cocky Huawei representative claims in the middle of the video. “The technology has enabled to us to take the immersiveness to its extreme.”
Whatever you say, guy.
If only the ensuing match looked halfway believable. Shaky cam action, cut to quick shots of an army of engineers inexplicably typing away at… something as we watch an apparently unrehearsed, spectacular display of 1-1 tracking in a fighting game. Our martial artist-hero is apparently wearing haptics so powerful they can stop his arm when blocking an incoming punch or even stumble back when he gets kicked in the face. There’s even a moment where he leaps into the air and chokeslams his opponent. Not to mention the software is so advanced it knows how to react to every punch and kick he throws his enemy’s way.
Sorry, but we’re just not buying it. You could probably produce a reasonable facsimile of this experience today, but not with a bunch of wearable vibrators inside an ancient temple. If VR was this good already, don’t you think we’d all have it by now?
Do you have any other terrible VR commercials we’ve missed? Let us see them in the comments below!