So what’s the big deal about Virtual Reality?

Mark Zuckerberg walks to the stage at Samsung’s Galaxy S7 launch event. Photo from Forbes, “Mark Zuckerberg and Virtual Reality Outshine Samsung's Galaxy S7,” 2/22/16.

Mark Zuckerberg walks to the stage at Samsung’s Galaxy S7 launch event. Photo from Forbes, “Mark Zuckerberg and Virtual Reality Outshine Samsung's Galaxy S7,” 2/22/16.

When Samsung released its new phone, the Samsung 7, the buzz was less about the phone and more about virtual reality (VR) and a surprise appearance by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

At the launch event held in Barcelona on February 21, guests sampled Samsung’s Gear VR headsets, through which they could watch a 360-degree video of people playing freestyle soccer on the streets of Barcelona. Samsung also unveiled its Gear 360, a camera for shooting virtual reality videos.

According to Forbes, Zuckerberg wasn’t there to talk about the S7, “but the promise of virtual reality. Virtual reality was the next platform, he told the audience. ‘It’s going to change the way we live and work and communicate.’”

Virtual reality has been around for decades, but experts say that this could be the year VR goes mainstream. TechCrunch reports that Oculus Rift VR headsets took the spotlight at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year, HTC and Sony have confirmed launch dates for their headsets in the first half of 2016, and Google announced they are staffing up for their new virtual reality unit.

So what’s the big deal about virtual reality? According to Daniel Rosenfeld, TechCrunch contributor, “It’s gearing up to be the next frontier after the web.”

While most people think about using virtual reality headsets for immersive entertainment and gaming experiences, as the cost comes down and new applications are developed, there are exciting applications for enterprise. VR has been making traction in several industries over the past few years, including medicine and education, and promises to change the way businesses use technology for training, product development and communications. For example, Ford Motor Company already uses virtual reality headsets to design new vehicles, develop autonomous vehicle technologies and collaborate with teammates across the globe. Ford reports using these VR tools has resulted in an increase in productivity and a drop in costs and time.

Others see virtual reality as providing a whole new set of marketing opportunities. Through VR, companies can immerse consumers in their brand, evoke emotion, and market to them in a more persuasive way. A few media companies have already stuck their toe in the VR water to help cross promote their product. Last November, The New York Times gave more than 1 million Google Cardboard devices to its print subscribers late last year to watch immersive video associated with one of its print articles.On February 23, ABC's Good Morning America partnered with IM360 and broadcasted a two hour, live show in 360-degree virtual reality from Tanzania. People could view the virtual safari using an Android or iOS app along with the Google Cardboard, or with Samsung Gear VR.

“If successful, it will no doubt become the largest advertising platform on earth,” writes Rosenfeld. “In fact, one could argue that virtual reality is more about controlling reality than it is virtual.”