Dear Oculus Rift: Experiences Make You Happier Than Things

Hey CES attendees, are you ready to wear the future on your face? Mark Zuckerberg thinks you are. He made a $2 billion bet on it when he recently purchased Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset we first reported would change the future of meetings in a 2014 feature story and our February/March 2015 Future Issue.

Hotels, CVBs and DMOs are already snatching up similar VR headsets, allowing planners to take virtual site visits without ever setting foot in their properties or cities. Zuckerberg’s wager is on immersive 4-D experiences taking the place of many real-life experiences going forward. That means instead of walking the streets of Havana to see the colors and hear the salsa music firsthand, you could put on a headset and effectually feel like you’ve been there (no endless airport security lines to deal with). But what fun is that for corporate or incentive planners? Either way you choose to experience this long-forbidden country, read our take on it in "Cuba: A New Haven for International Meetings?."

The good news for meeting professionals and the hospitality industry at large comes via research by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, who has concluded that purchasing experiences is more rewarding and makes us happier than purchasing things. But what do you do when the thing you purchased (Oculus Rift) can give you an experience (albeit, virtually)?  

At first glance, Gilovich’s results go against logic. When you think about it, your new 4K TV or Amazon Echo (check it out in our Gift Guide) lasts longer and gets more use than a trip to Miami or Hawaii, which comes and goes. His results are counterintuitive, but they’re true. “You can really like your material stuff,” says Gilovich. “In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

He also argues shared experiences connect us to other people more than shared consumption. Translation? The meetings or incentive trips you’re devising bring people together in a meaningful—and memorable—way that few other material things can equal. What you do has more value in the long run, and no amount of “stuff” can put a Rift in that.