Despite quoting what is in fact one of the lowest forecasts for virtual reality revenue, Todd Spangler, in Variety last week, decided that the numbers are “insane.” He also cited numerous upcoming additions to the VR space, such as Google’s stand-alone headset, and then continued to dismiss the technology as “the tech industry huffing its own hype fumes.”
As players in the VR space, watching it grow and develop daily, we don’t agree with what Todd had to say. There are many reasons to believe that the virtual reality market taking off is not “virtually insane,” but is in fact virtually unstoppable.
Although much of the market until now has been flooded with the demos that Todd mentioned, we’re seeing an upsurge of more sustainable content come to market. Publishers such as Playboy and Time Out are jumping at the chance to create repeatable, ongoing content streams to fully immerse their existing audiences in a new type of content. Chris Milk’s Within has produced a reality documentary series “The Possible,” which explores cutting edge science and engineering. These early examples of serial content creation are only a hint at what could be to come, and where the industry can go.
It’s true as well that the current VR headsets on the market are less than ideal. Bulky and expensive, they are prohibitive for everyone but dedicated gamers and some cutting edge early adopters. Until now, that is. Google’s announcement last week of their expansion of the Daydream technology to enable stand-alone headsets is a massive step in the right direction. This technology, which has also been shared with HTC and Lenovo, won’t require a PC or a smartphone to power the VR experience — lowering the cost and effort required, and raising the quality of the experience. Apple and Microsoft haven’t released their VR offerings yet but you can bet that they’ll be up to the same standard, if not higher, than Google’s. With the giants still getting into the marketplace, it’s too soon to write off the technology; and we all know that with competition comes excellence.
Virtual Reality is certainly currently a solitary experience. We’ve already seen some steps from Facebook-owned Oculus to change this, with their social VR hangout “Rooms”. It’s only a matter of time before this concept bleeds into content sharing and I’m able to sit in Tel Aviv on a virtual couch next to my friend in Los Angeles and watch the same show together. If anything, we believe that eventually VR could become an even more sociable experience than real life, giving you the ability to meet people around the world with similar interests to you through tailored content screenings and hangout rooms. With Facebook and Google investing heavily in the space, it would be foolish to write off the social potential here.
In fact, virtual reality has the potential to add more than it can take away from the entertainment industry. Keeping people focused is something that both storytellers and advertisers have been trying to do for years; they increasingly struggle as our attention spans dwindle and our excitement threshold rises. As 10 second memes and more and more screens continue to impact our ability to concentrate for long periods of time, virtual reality could be the solution to keeping audiences focused. A new language is needed to address the 360 sphere, but this too provides an opportunity and should be addressed as a challenge to overcome and not an unsolvable problem. By giving people the ability to walk and look around, we allow them to become the storyteller and director, and this immersive storytelling methodology only goes to further increase their attention and interest in the content they are consuming.
Benny Arbel is the founder and CEO of Inception, one of the leading 360 & VR destinations of choice for premium entertainment content. Prior to Inception, Benny was the founder and CEO of MyThings, a leading programmatic advertising provider. Benny is a seasoned executive and has several additional successful startups under his belt.