It’s an exciting time for virtual reality (VR). Less and less do I have to explain what VR is. Instead, I talk more about how it’s being used and what the best ways to experience it are. Applications for virtual reality are popping up everywhere. I see most of it on the corporate side with VR software for marketing, online shopping, training, and an on the job tool like in manufacturing. These are great signs for the industry, where not too long ago people said VR was all hype.
In January 2017 I attended VR Day Atlanta, Atlanta’s premiere mixed reality conference. At the event, speakers talked about the “what”, “how”, and “why” of virtual reality. A lot has happened in the industry since then. Let’s look back to see if 2017 was a year for VR.
This post is an evaluation of the VR industry using the questions from Bachir Zeroual‘s presentation that asked the following questions of the VR industry.
- see true “born for VR” content?
- establish the VR Category?
- drive adoption of 360?
- create a VR habit?
Did We See True “Born For VR” Content?
Yes, we now have true “born for VR” content. With the plethora of 360 cameras and VR based programs, there is more VR content to experience than ever before. Wired magazine stated that “virtual reality is officially immersed in the film world.” Writing that, “these days virtual reality has a presence at most major film festivals. Scores of movies and TV shows now have headset-ready experiences to accompany them.”
Not only are professionals creating VR movies that sell for seven figures at the Sundance film festival, but the everyday person can create there own VR content with VR programs like Google Tiltbrush, Google Blocks, and Mindshow. Google also introduced Poly, a site for people to download 3D objects and scenes that was “built from the ground up with AR and VR development in mind”. I even have friends that started their own podcasts using Facebook Spaces.
Finally, NBC announced that it will be live-streaming the 2018 Winter Olympics in VR. This is the first time the Winter Olympics will be delivered in virtual reality. NBC is planning to stream 85-plus hours of VR content with interactive 360-degree virtual-reality environments.
Did We Establish The VR Category?
In his presentation, Bachir Zeroual made the point that VR did not yet have its own category on Amazon. As of this posting Amazon.com still does not have a VR category from its search drop down. However, it does have virtual reality listed multiple times under its Wearable Technology category.
Search ‘virtual reality’ on YouTube and you’ll find over 4.6 million videos of people experiencing VR. Plus, YouTube recently released its own app for the HTC Vive. Now users can watch 360 videos natively from their headsets.
The ‘virtual reality’ search term on BestBuy.com returns 430 items with sub-categories for virtual reality for smartphones, PlayStation VR, and Virtual Reality for PC.
Facebook released Facebook Spaces which runs on the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. In Facebook Spaces, people can meet with their Facebook friends, be immersed in any 360 content they uploaded, as well as 2D images.
‘Virtual Reality’ is the 4th category for Games on Steam. Note, this includes other VR experiences like YouTube VR. Steam supports VR experiences released for the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Did We Drive Adoption of 360?
360 photos and video are fun. Last year, I got the Ricoh Theta S and started a website on WordPress to host my 360 content. Social media sites like YouTube and Facebook also support 360 content. Originally when this question was presented, it was assumed smartphones and VR headsets that support them would be the key to user adoption in VR.
However, the tech has improved more quickly than we thought. Standalone headsets like the Windows Hololens, Oculus Go, and the Lenovo Mirage Solo (based on Google’s Daydream platform) provide more powerful experiences that don’t depend on a phone’s battery or a connection to a computer. At CES 2018, HTC released the HTC Vive Pro which is wireless, however, it still requires a computer to run the VR.
Did We Create A Habit?
Despite all these advances in VR hardware and content, I still don’t think we’re at the point of having created a habit. I think we need to be a bit more patient with VR. We saw huge strides in the past year in 360 content, VR experiences, and jumps in headset technology. In time, the market will continue to mature and consumers will increasingly use virtual reality as companies push out apps, experiences, and cheaper more power headsets. I am confident that we will see the natural adoption of virtual reality in our everyday lives.