Written by Jeff Marcoux, IMA, Board Member, CMO Lead, Microsoft
When I saw how real virtual reality can be, and that we can replace human vision with virtual vision, this can be the ultimate platform.
– Brendan Iribe, Co-Founder Oculus VR
Since Mobile World Congress in February, this question has been bouncing around my head. With Samsung and Oculus delivering some of the most exciting demo experiences, VR was all anyone was talking about at MWC, but some legitimate questions still linger as to whether or not VR will ever be adopted by the mass market. Is VR going to be limited to niche markets, such as gaming and movies, or will companies and consumers truly adopt the platform to create and consume the amazing new experiences made possible by VR? After months of deliberation, I’ve concluded that three things will ultimately decide the fate of virtual reality:
- Will there be content? In 2013, 3D televisions were poised to be the next big thing; however, a lack of 3D content ultimately lead to their demise. So can VR avoid the same pitfall? It’s looking that way. Samsung recently announced the release of a new camera, the Gear 360, to address this content challenge. With the Gear 360, they’ve actually created what I will call the “GoPro of the VR world.” As illustrated on their website (scroll down to the skiing video and you can move the view around), Samsung is wisely tapping into an established GoPro market that is already highly engaged in content development, recording videos, and sharing their adventures with the world. With the content development challenge clearly on the radar of VR manufacturers, I suspect we’ll see new VR cameras and software tools before too long.
- Will people buy and wear headsets? Once you have the content developed, the next challenge is ensuring there is an audience with the ability to consume it, and the shift away from VR headset with built in computers may be the game changer that VR needed. The concept of a VR headset that can accept a phone is not new, Google Cardboard was the first to truly pioneer this at scale; however, creating a high-end VR headset that is powered by hardware that most consumers already have – a smartphone – will ultimately lead to smaller, less expensive VR devices. Improved experience and comfort of VR headsets – along with a lower price point – is key to mass adoption; Samsung is already setting a high bar with a quality VR headset for just $99. As the market matures, we’ll surely see less expensive off-brand headsets that can accept any cellphone, by any maker, and with any OS. (Dare I say iPhone? More on that later.)
- Will it be standardized? Unlike the heated battle between HD DVD and Bluray, it doesn’t appear that VR standards will be burdened by competition. The partnership between Oculus and Samsung is helping to create industry standards for consumer VR across all mobile providers, apps, and hardware. While Oculus made a smart move coming out with their own hardware and 4D headset (Rift), perhaps their true brilliance was in developing a strategic partnership with their main competition to secure the market?
Given the VR industries current strategies to address these core adoption issues, I believe that VR will not only grow in popularity but that it is here to stay. Yet despite this prediction, I must call out an obvious hole in the market that leads us to one final question: where is Apple? Apple could ultimately be the last piece of the puzzle leading to mass adoption of VR. With their loyal contingency of developers, the scale of their gaming community, and (reports of) Apple’s plans to create original TV content, it is not difficult to see how Apple could tip the scale in turning VR from a niche gadget to a consumer must-have. So will we see the iVirtual Headset in the near future? Only time will tell.
What are your thoughts?