Virtual Reality is evolving and despite having been around for years it is now just coming into its strongest era as new ways of utilizing the technologies, and new methods of delivering the experience begin to impact the marketplace. Check out Pulse Evolutions Digital technologies impact on the whole Virtual Reality landscape too.
Virtual Reality Poised to Become Useful, Not Just Cool
SXSW gets bigger every year. More people. More content. More technology. One of the biggest by far at SXSW in 2016 was virtual reality (VR). Brands including Samsung, Google and McDonald’s all had dedicated (and pricey) executions. Deloitte Global is predicting that 2016 will be the year that VR becomes a $1 billion industry. That means VR is coming to the masses at an affordable price. For the price of a week’s worth of lattes, you can buy a cardboard box and use your existing smartphone as the screen with apps that already exist. Or you’ll be able to go with a more advanced version, like the $399 version Sony announced just this week that it would sell for PlayStation.
Games, as you’d expect, make up the most natural and immediate type of content that’s available through VR to consumers. You can ride a roller coaster or stand on stage with Paul McCartney at a concert.
But why the hype? Why the never-ending level of excitement around the ability to use a light saber in a virtual reality world? Just last year, everyone raved about 3D printing and how they would change everything. That may still happen but how many 3D printers have you seen in the real world lately?
Here’s the reason behind the hype:
VR is poised transform 360-degree video experiences from “wow, that’s cool” to “wow, that’s useful.”
It’s a cool novelty to take people to virtual places, whether they’re in front of the Eiffel Tower or on a helicopter tour of New York City, giving them the ability to turn their head in any direction and see anything they could see in real life. It’s quite another to take the technology to places we can’t actually go.
Virtual reality experiences will lift us all into pages of today’s interactive Web sites, yesterday’s textbooks. Imagine:
- Exploring the ocean’s depths (like Bob Ballard when he searched for the Titanic) or the frontiers of space we’ve yet to discover. With one of the more expensive VR devices I found at SXSW, connected through wires and cables, I was transported to the international space station, crawling around on my hands and knees as I peered through windows down at the earth 100+ miles below me.
- Reliving the past, almost inserting ourselves into history but without the “Bill and Ted” comedic hijinks. Imagine being able to “stand” next to Abraham Zapruder on the grassy knoll on November 22, 1963, able to run with the crowd after the shots rang out from the schoolbook depository. Or perhaps being a fellow passenger on the bus when Rosa Parks climbed on and sat down. Front row of the crowd at Woodstock. Aboard a crab fishing boat in the Bering Sea (I’m personally hoping the Discovery Channel gets on that one quickly). In short, VR will be able to take us back to any experience in the past and relive it as close to first-hand as we want.
- Training away from dangerous situations. It’ll do for other industries at a lower cost what flight training simulators have done for aviation. Firefighters can practice rescues without any fear of harm.
What I’ve missed most about the innovations the past few years at SXSW was a lot of “me too.” A lot of companies just trying to build a better geolocation or connect-with-friends app without any additional innovation. I’m excited VR definitely is propelling SXSW back to what it’s always been: a place full of ideas and innovation, where creative minds push their thinking to places we all need to go.