I don’t normally join in commenting on Twitter threads but this one caught my eye. Chelsea Klukas, a product design manager at Oculus, asked her followers what they thought is the worst thing about VR.
I scrolled through the comments on her post, enjoying what people had to say. Even though I write a lot about the benefit of virtual reality, consumer VR is a particular sticking point. There’s a disconnect there that needs to be explored.
For many of us 2016 was the year for virtual reality. Everyone needed to try it and buy it. Yet, here we are, four years later and I use VR less than ever.
I liked what a lot of people had to say but I thought Joe Gabriel made one of the best points – virtual reality is isolating. Gabriel Tweeted, “I love VR but I don’t like how it excludes me from people in my space.” He continued, “With VR your “there” but your not really together”.
Virtual reality is anti-social
Even though friends and family can watch your game play on the computer screen or TV, you’re immeresed in VR. What you see, hear, and feel through the controllers has taken you out of their world.
One person complained, “VR immersion secluding you from social interaction is the same as complaining about jacuzzi immersion as well. It’s your moment of individual joy, enjoy it.”
That view severely limits virtual reality and is one of the problems I pointed out with the first Oculus Quest commercial. Everyone can be alone, together. But obviously, that’s not what people want and they’re saying so on a thread about the worst things about virtual reality.
Virtual reality isn’t a smart phone
As Moore’s Law shows us, technology gets lighter, faster, and more powerful in predictable iterations. The same thing is happening to virtual reality as we see new headsets come out every year. However, blind optimism isn’t the point of Chelsea’s thread.
OnlyHuman wrote, “parents can throw on what look like sunglasses to talk face-to-face with their kids from 1000 miles away.” I had to point out that I can do this today, with my phone. I can video my mom, cook dinner, and keep an eye on my toddler. OnlyHuman retorted in VR it “feels absolutely like you’re in the same room with the person, even if it’s just a primitive avatar like the current state.”
While true, I don’t think this is enough to get my friends with kids to invest in virtual reality. And let’s remember, moms are America’s largest consumer. Marketing virtual reality has to reach beyond single people.
Maybe DarthBuzzard is right, “Think of VR telepresence as a night out with friends. It’s usually a dedicated activity, but the value is not just seeing people, but doing things with them.” Unfortunately, a video call with my mom is so that she can see my son, and I’m not putting him in virtual reality any time soon.
Evangelists aren’t marketing to the right people
Talking about the problem with virtual reality and the worst things about virtual reality aren’t the same thing as declaring it dead. We need to talk about what’s wrong and hear from lots of different kinds of people what’s wrong with it so that we can improve virtual reality for everyone.
I commented on Chelsea’s thread, “the problem with virtual reality is that no one outside of the VR enthusiasts and VR evangelists talk about it.”
Dead Hardware agreed with my comment. He said, “the evangelists *aren’t evangelizing to the right people or talking about the right stuff.” Dead Hardware continued in a second tweet, “It’s all about the value proposition. Can you show someone that they get enough value from PC VR to justify the costs?”
Chelsea Klukas herself even responded to my comment! While I suggested we need more applications than games to get every day people into VR, she responded that creative VR tools are her go to for converting friends to the technology.
When we look at the good and the ugly in virtual reality, we can make it better for everyone and get the user adoption we believe VR can have.
What do you think is the worst thing about virtual reality? Let me know in the comments below!
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