In BriefA new virtual reality ad service can use gaze tracking to verify that users have watched commercials.
VR Ad Service
HTC’s new virtual reality (VR) platform now allows brands to identify whether or not a user has already seen an ad via its VR headsets.
This new strictly opt-in VR Ad Service — where ads will only show in content that developers have specified to include them in — means advertisers will only have to pay for an ad after a user has seen it. The platform is capable of carrying ad formats like scene banners, 2D and 3D in-app placements, and app recommendation banners.
According to their website:
Ads that appear in immersive VR environments can not only provide more effective impressions, they can also track whether the users have viewed them or have turned away their gaze.
This technology aims to give advertisers the means to effectively reach and pique the interest of their audience while simultaneously enhancing brand image, and attracting more users to directly download their apps in the VR environment.
The technology was launched at the 2017 VIVE Ecosystem Conference.
Advertising in the Age of VR
In-game advertisement, even in the traditional sense, offers a lot of incentive for developers to support the development of their games. But ads are also something that viewers naturally try to avoid. With VR gaining a strong foothold in mainstream media, companies are now trying to monetize the platform by introducing VR ads — a concept, while fascinating, is also slightly disconcerting for some.
On one hand, ads viewed within HTC’s immersive VR environment are based on precise re-targeting, which means advertisers can ensure that they are actually showing ads relevant to its viewers. But, since the payout is linked to people actually viewing the ads, the tech must verify this — which it does, by tracking the viewer’s gaze. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future where people are already wearing VR or augmented reality (AR) equipment on a daily basis (perhaps in the form of contact lenses), meaning they quite literally could not look away from a commercials — or any other content for that matter. That hypothesis aside, HTC points out that their aim for VR advertising isn’t meant to be an interruption of the VR or AR experience — it’s actually designed to complement it.
Only time will tell if it will succeed from a consumer perspective. Until then, we can only hope that VR and AR companies find the right balance between creating a viable advertising revenue stream and ensuring a great AR and VR user experience. Ideally, one that doesn’t force us to consume media, commercials or otherwise.