At the moment you are reading this on a screen, you can probably look up see things behind the screen, look down and see what’s on your desk or your lap and instantly the impact of what you are reading is diminished. This is not something that can be turned off regardless of what you are doing, from watching a video on a phone, reading a book or watching a film at a cinema.
VR is looking to bridge this gap between content and reality and thousands of people are currently working out how to do it.
For any gamers out there, we are currently at the Atari 2600, there are a few companies out there trying to break into the market and offering a limited number of units, most of which are impractical and ugly. The games are simple and to our finely tuned eyes today, very basic. When you compare this to the latest generation of consoles you can see the levels of development that VR has ahead of it. Could those using an Atari in the 1970s even begin to fathom what we are capable of doing with current games consoles? Probably not.
One of the great pioneers of VR is Chris Milk, CEO of Vrse. He has a steadfast belief in the potential of VR, stating, ’Ultimately, what we’re talking about is a medium that disappears, because there is no rectangle on the wall, and there is no page you’re holding in your hand. It feels like real life’. The idea behind VR is that it will be totally immersive, blurring the strictly defined lines that current mediums create, allowing us to experience something as if you were actually there.
It is for this reason that people need to try it, according to Milk, who claims ‘It’s ultimately something that you absolutely have to try to really, truly understand it’. VR is going to be something that isn’t just for the edge case gamers who want to experience shooting somebody in a computer game in true 3D, it will be about delivering content in a way that is far more engaging than we have experienced before. The images we see from Syria and Iraq at the moment through traditional mediums are shocking, but imagine how much more affected you would be if you experienced this in a setting that didn’t instantly remind you that you are far away from this situation.
Ultimately it will be this kind of use case that brings in a wider audience, creating more demand for investment and varied content creation. At present this is one of the major barriers to the overall success of VR in its present form.
The best best known VR headset is almost exclusively aimed at gamers and in a recent job ad for a marketing post the company said they require somebody with ‘A deep understanding of gaming and gamers[…redacted]’. It shows that at present confining the market to gaming narrows the content that is likely to be created and therefore creates barriers to the wider use of the technology.
However, it could be argued that there needs to be a niche of early adopters in order to work within the Rogers Bell Curve model. Through giving a highly selective group what they want it could allow others to experience it and potentially be more likely to adopt it in the future. However, given the perceived restrictive market that video games created until very recently, this may not be the best course of action to take.
Another barrier that is currently holding back the spread of VR is the price of the units needed to use it. When the Occulus Rift is released in early 2016, it is believed that it will cost more than $350, which much like the Apple Watch, will put many off from making an investment in a first generation product. However, if companies concentrate on driving down prices, then it may well impact on the quality of the final product, diminishing the quality of the output, putting people off the technology altogether. It is essentially a catch-22 that needs to be fixed.
The future of VR is very exciting, but we are currently at the base camp looking up at a mountain’s summit, it will take perseverance to get there and there will be setbacks on the way up, but ultimately it will be worthwhile even though we can only imagine what the view will be like.