The VR Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The VR Revolution Will Not Be Televisedby Chris Hegstrom

There’s lots of excitement about VR right now. Everywhere you turn from the New York Times to pretty much every conference out there, the VR bell is being rung by everyone everywhere.  But let me ask you this: How much content have you actually digested? My guess is not much & here’s why:

VR content doesn’t translate very well to Screen Based Technology (SBT).

Those of us lucky few who have been involved in VR developement know it’s difficult, it’s time consuming & it’s worth it. Once you have a full VR experience that tricks your brain with 360 degree images, sound and motion, it’s easy to understand what the hype is all about.

For the vast majority who haven’t experienced it, the effort donning a Head Mounted Display (HMD) hardly seems worth the effort when the only press seems to be one of three categories:

  1. Awkward looking people, eyes obscured, staring into a black box
  2. A 2d video representation of mediocre looking graphics / animation
  3. Photoshopped / doctored combination footage that comes across as amateur green-screen

The rub is you need to experience VR IN VR in order to truly get the intention & that’s not going to happen any time soon for those who don’t actively seek it.

This is much different than established industries like video games and mobile. Displaying a video of said app or game gives the viewer a good idea of what it would be like as a spectator to someone else playing or navigating it.

With the recent release of the Oculus & Vive, this is changing slowly but the early adaptors are most likely already converts. Because VR is a singular experience, even in “multiplayer”, it doesn’t matter if the other player is in the same room with you or in Guam, your experience is yours alone.

In VR there is no spectator mode or passive viewing, at least not yet.

The accidental by-product of this is that security is much less of an issue. You go though a top secret VR project in the same room as a hundred reporters and they will have no insight into what you’re experiencing, even if they’re standing right next to you.

Is this a problem? Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s a problem if you need to reach a wide audience, go viral or communicate the depth of VR immersion on a screen. No, it’s not a problem if you embrace this adolescent phase of VR with all it’s inherent awkwardness, potential and limited user-base.

Despite the hype, this industry is just getting started and the next year or two of early adaptor feedback is critical in determining the path of future VR development.

Soon enough we’ll be experiencing VR demos in VR while waiting for a download or seamlessly integrated into virtual social network but for now, understand that watching a video of a VR experience is like hearing a radio announcer describe art or reading a record review.

Take it with a grain of SBT salt, embracing the knowledge that gradually people will be exposed to this alternate universe at least enough to apply the filter themselves & understand that VR is more than just a bigger, closer screen.