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Sony has the only VR commercial so far that doesn't suck

Sony announced that Project Morpheus is now called PlayStation VR during the Tokyo Game Show, and changing the branding was a solid move. PlayStation VR is a strong, simple statement, repeating the name of the platform and technology. It's a bit obvious, but the good ideas often are; sometimes it can be hard to go with the best solution in an effort to be idiosyncratic or whimsical.

Sony has also released the only commercial for virtual reality I've seen that isn't terrible. You can watch it above. I suggest you do so before we move forward.

What it does right

Many virtual reality commercials show the actor wearing the device itself, which makes the technology seem both alienating and potentially claustrophobic. It also means that we can't see the eyes of the person using the game, nor can they see us. The result is a closed off, intimidating look for the technology while the model or actor pretends to have fun.

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Sony got around this by animating the outline of the PlayStation VR hardware on top of the actor's faces. They're looking us in the eye, and vice versa. We can see the excitement, and the delight. We're not cut off from each other; we're sharing the experience. It's a bit misleading, since that's not how virtual reality is actually used, but it's closer to the feeling of being in the same physical space of someone who is using VR. You can still talk, and there is often a shared sense of wonder.

There are no slack-jawed players staring at a screen

We see the person having fun, interacting with the world, and then the camera shifts for a brief time to show us what they're seeing. So we get a sense of what it's like to look to your side and see someone in the car with you, or to aim and fire a virtual gun. Spending too much time of the commercial in the game itself makes each demo look like a standard first-person experience, the kind we're used to on our screens, so the focus is placed squarely on the faces of the people playing.

The commercial's direction shows the kinetic nature of the act of using VR can be; your head whips around, and your hands move with the controllers. There are no slack-jawed players staring at a screen; the commercial emphasizes the fact that you have to move, and how drawn into the game you become.

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In fact, the entirety of the ad seems to be a direct answer to many of the criticisms of virtual reality. Thirty seconds in we see a group of players in the same game, which is a good way to fight the idea that virtual reality is always a solo, isolated experience. There are casual-looking games, and we see a family playing together. The experience is demystified, and Sony ignores the often dystopian visuals that accompany many virtual reality ad campaigns or branding.

In other words, this is a good way to sell virtual reality. The games look fun. The people look like they're enjoying themselves. It's inviting. There's nothing scary or closed off about how the experience is being sold. Let's hope the ads only get better from here.

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