Imagine being able to sit in an F16 fighter jet as you go on a reconnaissance mission, or explore the cosmos without a space suit, take a walk through Ancient Rome, or sit on the 50-yard line at your favorite team’s Sunday game. Now, imagine a single device that could provide all of these experiences from the comfort of your own home.

What do people think of Virtual Reality? What industries and organizations are putting significant resources into VR technology and content? Who are the market-leaders, where are the growth opportunities and what are the challenges ahead for this potential game-changing media platform? As VR has made its way into gaming in particular, we saw an opportunity to explore the current landscape and forecast where these new technologies will lead advertising and marketing in the future.

In this 3-part blog series, PETROL’s Social Media and Research teams share our findings on Virtual Reality’s 2015 ascent with a look into what 2016 holds for this rapidly developing medium.

Research Overview

  • Our research insights are based on over 4.3 million ‘social web’ mentions with 37 billion potential impressions and 72% positive sentiment during the period from 1/1/15 through 11/23/15.
  • Virtual Reality’s most significant spikes in activity correspond to the announcements of the HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens, the pricing announcement of Samsung Gear VR, and the first look at the consumer version of the Oculus Rift.
  • Locations around the globe where Virtual Reality conversations have been popular are the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil and India; the US and UK alone represent about 93% of the total conversation volume [1].
  • These spikes and overall trends show that interest in Virtual Reality is increasing every quarter and expanding outside of technical and media forums into a more consumer-driven discussion.

Conversation Themes

The research revealed six significant industries gaining traction in the VR conversation:

Education Entertainment Gaming Pornography Sports Medicine
11% 29% 48% 7% 6% 3%


Gaming and Entertainment represent 75% of the discussion and represent the two largest markets of opportunity for Advertisers and Marketers.



Current Brand Standings in Public Conversations

Among Hardware manufacturers, there’s a clear front-runner in Oculus’ Rift. Given its position as the first major breakthrough Virtual Reality product, and Facebook’s financial support, it should be no surprise that Oculus is so talked about.

On a secondary tier, Sony and Microsoft are driving significant levels of conversation with their Playstation VR and Hololens products. It’s important to note that the Hololens is not strictly a Virtual Reality product; rather it is an Augmented Reality offering.

Oculus Rift (47%), Playstation VR (23%) and Microsoft Hololens (17%) comprise about 87% of the organic conversation about Virtual Reality hardware. This suggests that the remaining hardware we profiled (HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, Magic Leap and OSVR) needs to step up their marketing efforts to gain the level of public interest that could potentially translate into market share. The fact that Samsung VR opened the retail market with a $99.00 headset this fall could be the thrust that Samsung needs to get out in front of the VR audience.

Augmented vs Virtual Reality

Instead of creating an entirely separate virtual world from our own to explore, Augmented Reality software layers elements into the real world around us when viewed through specialized glasses/headsets or even a smartphone.

Typically, in order to experience Virtual Reality fully, one needs a fairly powerful (read: expensive) computer due to the high levels of computing power required in order to run properly. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are both powerful machines, but neither was thought capable of providing the horsepower required to have a satisfactory experience. Given the more mass-market demographics of console users, running reasonable Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality experiences will be key to more widespread acceptance of the technology.

Research Methodology & Tools

Our research was conducted using the Social Listening tool NetBase, which monitors the ‘social web’ consisting of social media, blogs, news sites, forums, tumblr, user comments, professional reviews and consumer reviews. NetBase uses its patented Natural Language Processing (NLP) to analyze social posts and determine sentiment. NLP identifies and links the subjects, objects, verbs, adjectives and other linguistic patterns. By analyzing this ‘connective tissue’ within each sentence, NetBase’s NLP engine can account for complexities in language that have a huge impact on meaning.

These queries operate on Boolean principles in order to capture the largest amount of data possible while eliminating much of the spam inherent in a search that casts such a wide net. The goal of our query set was to gain a better understanding of the Virtual Reality space and to identify possible areas of opportunity for new business and growth. After taking a deep dive into Virtual Reality as a whole, we looked at how Advertising and Marketing is affecting Virtual Reality in an attempt to see how these industries were taking advantage of the new phenomenon. Once the query results were determined to be accurate, we established themes that would help narrow the focus of those queries in order to answer more specific questions about the industry, locations that are interested in VR, and discussion themes that surfaced time and again.

Want to know more? Check back for part 2 next Friday! 

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