One of the coolest things about working at STRIVR has been the opportunity to learn about new businesses. Entertainment, construction, big box retail and others — every project is a mini dive into various industries and you leave more educated than before.
Virtual reality would be the first industry on that list, of course. Being immersed in VR has been fascinating, and I seem to learn something new every day. It’s been fun and humbling in that way.
As I read some of these year-end VR pieces, I wanted to share some of the questions that interest me the most heading into 2017. These aren’t necessarily the biggest questions or the only ones or in any particular order. Just a random list of things that personally interest me regarding VR in 2017.
1. Will Apple get into the hardware game?
There are five primary headsets in the marketplace: Oculus Rift CV1 (Facebook), GearVR (Samsung), HTC Vive (Valve), Playstation VR (Sony) and Daydream View (Google). All of them have their distinct differences and advantages.
There’s one tech behemoth missing — Apple.
This is a massive hole in the industry and a significant hurdle to mainstream adoption of VR. The GearVR headset is compatible only with Samsung phones, and the Daydream View is compatible only with Android phones. There is no VR headset that currently works with iPhones.
As of November 2015, there were reportedly over 100 million active iPhones in the U.S. alone. None of these devices have a VR headset to go with them. In August, Apple was awarded a patent for a mobile headset that sounds very similar to the GearVR, but there’s no clarity around Apple’s plans to actually produce that hardware for the public in the near term.
Until the iPhone problem is solved, mainstream VR adoption can’t possibly hit a tipping point. If Apple does put a headset on shelves in 2017, it’ll be one of the biggest tech developments of the year.
2. How much will VR hardware improve?
One of the challenges I’ve experienced when introducing VR to those who haven’t seen it much before is communicating where the technology is in its life cycle. Because of the high-def quality of video we experience every day on our TVs and mobile devices, the expectations for any “new” video platform are extraordinary.
But VR is not 2D video — it is an entirely new technology being built from scratch. VR today is iPhone 1.0, and therefore the viewing experiences must be judged on the same timeline. Quality of content will be driven forward by advancements in hardware.
Two big things that need to happen on the hardware side: We need better resolution — so picture quality creeps closer to the higher-def standards we are used to — and we need it to require less computing power so the vast majority of people aren’t priced out of buying the machines that are required to run these systems.
Advancements in headset size, weight and overall comfort will also help push the mainstream adoption needle. All of these things will happen, it’s just a matter of when.
3. What consumer markets will emerge (other than gamers)?
The early adopters of VR have been hardcore gamers, and they are pushing the boundaries of the Rift, Vive and PSVR. Will other consumers pick up virtual reality in 2017 (and will anyone do it at scale)?
Netflix launched a VR app this year. Will more people choose to watch movies and shows in headsets in the coming year?
The NBA is working with NextVR this season to live stream one game in VR every week, while FOX Sports has been an early mover among mainstream networks to offer some of its broadcasts in VR via a partnership with LiveLike. Will more fans choose these experiences next year?
It’s also possible no consumer market gains significant traction in 2017, and enterprise applications continue to be the best use of VR.
4. What will the data say about mainstream headset usage?
A big piece of the above question depends on this: How much will people like — or at least not mind — wearing headsets and how long will they spend in them in a single session?
If you believe movies and live sports and other longform entertainment have a future in VR, then you believe audiences will agree to wear headsets for an extended period of time. If you doubt that, then it’s harder to project the future of longform entertainment in VR.
I would not want to spend two hours in a headset, but there might be enough people who do.
5. What business models will develop in the consumer market?
Now let’s say a new consumer market develops around some of that longform entertainment content and that there is at least a minimal amount of people willing to spend extended periods in a headset to make it worthwhile to produce.
How will companies make money? Will there be a la carte models? Subscription-based models? Aside from gaming, there is no precedent for generating revenue in this space. The models are being developed as we go.
6. How will virtual reality become more mobile?
For mass consumer adoption, VR will have to become more mobile at some point in the future just like all other content has.
It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, but to reach peak value, the best headsets and experiences will have to be untethered, easily portable and fully functional through mobile apps.
It’s ironic, considering how mobile the world is today, that to experience the best VR currently, you have to be in an entirely controlled environment, locked into a high-powered laptop. Every revolutionary technology has made our world more mobile and allowed us to do our best work or enjoy our entertainment wherever we are. VR will remain a specialty item, I think, until we’re able to use it and benefit from it in our daily lives without advanced planning.
7. What further science and data will emerge about the value of VR?
This might be the most important question of all. As more people become aware of VR and its use cases, understanding how it impacts us and improves our lives will be crucial to communicating its value and encouraging usage.
We already know a couple things about experiential learning. Humans recall about 20% of what they read, 40% of what they see or hear and 90% of what they experience. That’s surface-level, though. When we’re able to translate usage data into real insights and training results into time and dollars saved, VR as a tool will take another step in its maturity.
Beyond that, there are so many questions about how VR could shape (or reshape) how we view the world or earlier life experiences, leading to advancements in psychology, sociology, mental health, etc.
Those are a few of the things I’m excited about in VR heading into 2017. What are your guys’ thoughts and what are you looking forward to?
Originally written by Teddy Mitrosilis on Medium.