Immersive Experiences took a leap forward this week with Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus Rift.

Immersive Experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014, took a giant leap forward this week with Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of virtual reality startup Oculus Rift (which is among our 100 Things to Watch in 2014). While immersive experiences need not involve advanced technology, the acquisition of Oculus—a headset, not yet on the market, that puts the viewer inside the screen with an enormous field of vision—will accelerate the shift toward enveloping experiences that capture consumers’ imagination.

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While the headset has been touted as the next big thing in gaming, the device could prove to be the next big thing in everything. “After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences,” Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face—just by putting on goggles in your home. … Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”

Facebook and Oculus aren’t the only ones with a vision that experiences will be shared virtually all over the Internet. Sony (which has been working to develop virtual reality devices for years) recently announced its own VR headset, Project Morpheus, to be used with the Playstation 4 gaming console. “A cyberpunk tech war is coming,” writes Fast Company. “Not for your pocket, desktop or living room, but for how you experience reality.”

For marketers, the potential of this new platform is vast. We’ve already seen some innovative uses of Oculus: We wrote about a creative project at Selfridges, designed to promote menswear; also see our Thing to Watch at right for two more recent campaigns. Brands can use the VR environment to bring utility or delight to consumers in fresh ways. Advises a columnist at the U.K.’s Marketing Week: “I would argue marketers should look not to just recreate the real world but offer new experiences previously not possible through virtual reality—just as users can take on new personas and powers through the characters in their games.” It’s time to unleash a whole new kind of creativity.

Image credit: The Observer