According to a recent entry on the Google Developers Blog, the company has begun experimenting with advertising formats suitable for placement inside of virtual reality experiences. Focusing on mobile VR platforms, the first idea they’ve shared for a native VR ad is a floating cube that can be optionally engaged with via a tap or gaze.

The program is being run by a team at Area 120, Google’s internal workshop for experimental projects, purportedly in response to the need for VR developers to generate revenue to fund their applications. Like it or not, advertising is an inevitable part of VR’s future, though Google claims that considerations are being made to avoid user and application disruption with “useful and non-intrusive” solutions.

Their first idea, shown in the GIF below, displays a small cube within the virtual environment of another app (which appears to be in a pause menu), which can be tapped or gazed at for a few seconds, opening a short, skippable video:

This is clearly an early take on what an ad in VR might look like, and leverages existing ad formats (like a flat video), which is a smart move because it doesn’t necessitate dedicating additional ad budget to for a new ad format. As VR grows, we expect to see such ads become more specialized for VR, but the present method is a good way to bridge the gap.

Google plans to test the format on Cardboard (Android and iOS), Daydream, and Gear VR platforms, and has created a form for developers to apply for the early access program, described as a ‘VR Ads plugin for Unity’, which suggests the ad system will be easily plugged into existing VR content, similar to mobile ad platforms that exist today.

Two Classic VR Games From Google's VR Studio Coming Soon to Vision Pro

However, there are countless examples of traditional mobile apps, particularly free-to-play, that are covered in obnoxious ads, and that kind of treatment simply isn’t acceptable in an immersive VR experience, so let’s hope developers tread much more carefully.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

The trial version of Microsoft’s Monster Truck Madness probably had something to do with it. And certainly the original Super Mario Kart and Gran Turismo. A car nut from an early age, Dominic was always drawn to racing games above all other genres. Now a seasoned driving simulation enthusiast, and former editor of Sim Racer magazine, Dominic has followed virtual reality developments with keen interest, as cockpit-based simulation is a perfect match for the technology. Conditions could hardly be more ideal, a scientist once said. Writing about simulators lead him to Road to VR, whose broad coverage of the industry revealed the bigger picture and limitless potential of the medium. Passionate about technology and a lifelong PC gamer, Dominic suffers from the ‘tweak for days’ PC gaming condition, where he plays the same section over and over at every possible combination of visual settings to find the right balance between fidelity and performance. Based within The Fens of Lincolnshire (it’s very flat), Dominic can sometimes be found marvelling at the real world’s ‘draw distance’, wishing virtual technologies would catch up.
  • David Herrington

    If I’m getting ads in my content the least they can do is subsidize the cost of my HMD…

  • NooYawker

    This is a shitty precedence they’re trying to set. Google has the best engineers and developers in the world and this is what they do with it.

  • yexi

    I’m not against ADs, because it’s necessary for certain contents, but like I already say, I’m pretty afraid about the use of the eye tracking…

    Google already made heat-map of head rotations, so given that they begin to automatically analyse videos and give personal recommendations, I see a near future when Google will AD/recommend horse videos because I watch some plane videos and I look a lot at the horse on the ground because it was pretty.

  • bluesatoshi

    NXTAussie from JanusVR had a pretty ingenious solution for ads in VR – just display’em like real ads: Billboards, posters, stuff like that. Done right, it’s not that intrusive and feels like part of the background.

    • NooYawker

      I’m perfectly fine with that. Product placements, billboards, anything that doesn’t force you to interact with it to get rid of it.

      • guest

        Yea, but it looks like a billboard just popped up in front you. Do No Evil???

        • bluesatoshi

          They changed their slogan to “Do the Right Thing”.

  • NooYawker

    Ads are good for shitty little mobile apps for cheap people who don’t want to pay for stuff. If I’m paying for something I don’t want to see an ad. Devs who put ads in paid apps are shitheads and if I know there’s an ad in it I won’t buy it.

  • NooYawker

    That’s not what this article is about. It’s about google finding ways to shove ads inside vr apps.

    • Miqa

      “That’s not what this article is about. It’s about google finding ways to shove ads inside vr apps.”

      On mobile hardware, which without a doubt will offer plenty of free-to-play stuff.

  • Kill it! Kill it NOW! Gawd, it’s just like those awful website ads you accidentally graze with your mouse for 0.1 seconds and suddenly have a video stabbing you in the eyes and ears. The idea of pop-up ads in VR is positively TERRIFYING!