The Problem with Virtual Reality

The problem with virtual reality is that no one outside of the VR enthusiasts and VR evangelists talk about it.

When I told people I worked at a VR startup they say, “that’s cool” or “What is that”. It’s awkward to explain and the conversation dies pretty quickly. I’m used to not talking about what I do at work. Computers are confusing to people but VR shouldn’t be. A lot of us looked to the release of Ready Player One to bring the masses to our rumii, Big Screen, and Facebook Spaces Facebook Horizon but that didn’t happen. At least not on the scale we hoped.

Within the virtual reality community we shared how Ready Player One type experiences are happening in VR today but outside of those circles, I didn’t hear anything about it. The movie was too much 1980’s nostalgia and not enough techno possibility.

At least my mom has caught on to VR. She sent me a text of a Sharper Image mobile-based VR headset and said, “that’s the ‘app enabled’ smartphone VR system.’” Did she buy it? No. And thank goodness because it would probably make her sick.

A good VR experience requires investment. The Oculus Go is only $199 but that’s still a decent chunk of change. The more you want to do in VR, the more expensive you have to go. I think standalone headsets are definitely the way to go.

When we step away from VR we should feel like we’re missing something. #VR

When we step away from VR we should feel like we’re missing something. That’s what social media and mobile games like Candy Crush do. They make us feel part of something or hook us into an experience. We feel like something’s missing when we go without checking our phones for notifications or scrolling through our Facebook feeds even though they show the same old posts.

After having my son, I went a couple months without going into VR. I recently went back in but it felt like nothing had changed. I swear I saw a tumbleweed roll by. I played around with setting up my Vive Home but it was too confusing on how to resize pictures. There weren’t many objects I was particularly thrilled with either. Facebook Spaces crashed but why should I troubleshoot it when I don’t have any friends to meet up with anyways?

How do we address these issues? A group of VR industry leaders is coming together to discuss these various issues.

“Since there’s no real consumer market here to confuse, we’re mainly still talking to ourselves.”

Charlie Fink, Forbes

Mark Zuckerberg hopes to change that with the Oculus Quest and Facebook Horizon. He hopes to have 1 billion people in VR by 2020.

In the meantime, I will sit back at watch the industry evolve and find itself. Do we cater to the hardcore gamers or the average Joes? Are baby boomers the perfect generation for simple VR games like those displayed in Horizon?

I wanted to update the post with some quotes from an article on Amy Peck giving a talk at Lethbridge College. I became aware of Lethbridge when we hosted their Merging Realities conference in rumii. Since then, I joined the VR Book Club run by Mike McCready.

“Products are already coming down in size and cost and moving up in accessibility. The key piece that is missing, but that is coming…is true everyday purpose.”

Amy Peck

Three pillars of everyday purpose:

  1. context (what do I want to see?)
  2. utility (why do I need this?)
  3. fun (it has to be entertaining).

“According to Peck, educators and stakeholders need to build a framework with standards, ethics, behaviour and empathy.”

Lethbridge Harold

The consensus seems to be among Peck and those in the XR industry, augmented and virtual reality are a computing platform.

Have you been in virtual reality? Do you own a headset, if so, which one? Let me know in the comments below!


16 responses to “The Problem with Virtual Reality”

  1. I do feel like a large portion of the lack of conversation right now, is the top quality vr sets imo aren’t the most affordable. If I was going to splash out, I’d buy something that I know will be top quality and will last a while, but as vr is still a developing technology, it sorta feels like a waiting again. Financially, I’m not ready to invest, but I would never pass up an opportunity of playing if I ever get a chance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. I have the original HTC Vive and I learned recently that they’ve stopped making it because newer, better versions are being developed. That Vive is only three years old! If you ever want to play Beat Saber, come on over. Lol. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahaha I would actually love! I played Beat Saber at uni last year and came second on our tournament, I’ve been meaning to get a chance to play it again hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh dang! I better start practicing my skills! Lol


  2. Informative post. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Manu, thanks for reading!


  3. I agree it is a challenge to convince non-enthusiasts about VR, but I think this is slowly improving as more apps and better headsets (like the Quest) are coming out. There are too many “shovel-ware” apps in the various VR stores. We need more AAA content, and not just games. Here is a good article at VentureBeat:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Roy, thanks for sharing that ariticle! I’m reading Valley of Genius (the Silicon Valley origin story) right now and see a lot of similarities between computers in the 70’s and VR now. Like how the creators of the early computers and GUIs saw themselves as artists, not just engineers. They built to see what they could create. It wasn’t about the immediate ROI yet.
      As Tom Westerlin says in his article, “monetizing and ROI are important in the long run, but from a creative and consumer standpoint — emotional and physical reactions and the memories that leave a lasting impact…”.


  4. I think that currently for gaming VR isn’t quite ready. I am a teacher though, so i bring my headset ( a gear VR and an Oculus GO into the classroom) when we finish a project, or read a book if there is a reasonable tie in i will consider bringing out the headset and putting it on the face of the students. As i wrote on my blog, you can’t see the eyes of the student but the jaw drop when they are sitting there face to face with a 50ft dinosaur. That is really awesome. Children have so much creativity that they see past the screen door or the light bleed from the bottom and just lose themselves in the moment. So for games i will keep the controllers in my hand, but for experiences VR has some legs in it yet i think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re on to something, that VR has real potential for “bringing to life” what we teach. That’s really cool that you take your Go to class and found ways to incorporate it.

      I’ve had mixed experiences when my friend’s kids have tried my VR. Some get scared because they think what’s happening is real. Have you had that happen where kids get too scared in an experience?

      Thanks for commenting!


      1. one time, a kid wasn’t listening and managed to leave the shark cage in Ocean rift VR. it ate him. he didnt say anything but the wide eyes when he took off the headset definitely gave him an experience to remember. however for the vast majority it a sense of wonder. Face to face with a dinosaur, it’s the closest we can get to a Jurassic world experience. As Ian Malcolm said at first it’s all oooos and ahhhhh. he did go on to say later comes screaming amd running, but hopefully unless VR gets a lot more interactive we will miss that stage.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s been a slow road but in pretty sure 2020 will be a great year over all for VR

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to think so too! Every year seems to get better and better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The virtual realist Avatar
        The virtual realist

        Hell ya it does I just got a new vr cover and I’m about to play and review every quest game I possibly can the more we show people how epic it is the more vr will grow and I’m thrilled to be a part of it

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Awesome idea! Can you steam to Twitch with the Quest? You can stream live to Facebook, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The virtual realist Avatar
        The virtual realist

        Yea you can stream to Facebook I’m not sure about twitch oculus doesn’t add a button to twitch so idk if it’s considered a copyright problem and I’m doing some research before I try it

        Liked by 1 person

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