This year marked a huge turning point for virtual reality, with the release of Facebook's Oculus Rift, HTC's Vive and Sony's Playstation VR. After the technology had been in the fringes for years, it's now on its way to disrupting every kind of media out there, from gaming, video and news.
Strapping on a headset and visiting another world may be the most common use of the technology, but as Mark Zuckerberg showed in a demonstration earlier this year, pretty soon we'll be visiting friends and holding meetings in virtual spaces. With the three biggest headsets only on the market for less than a year, it truly is the beginning for VR -- and the possibilities are virtually endless.
To get a pulse on the biggest trends and to see where VR is headed in the immediate future, we reached out to Jenna Seiden, head of content acquisition and partnerships for HTC Vive. She will discuss the field at CES during a panel discussion on Jan. 5.
Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.
What's surprised you in the past year in the VR field?
What has surprised me the most about VR is just how much enthusiasm and energy for this medium there is out there, and how it’s coming from a range of categories. For me, there are some unexpected places that VR is being applied, for instance, in training simulations for firefighting and underwater drilling. At Vive we’re also seeing a lot of interest and recent activations for VR installations in academic and cultural institutions. We’ve launched exhibits in museums over the past year, and we recently partnered with Nobel to bring a VR experience to their museums in early 2017.
It’s also surprising to see how support for this space is coming from major players, so it’s not just startups. We regularly meet with people from major VC firms, established entrepreneurs and major corporations who are exploring VR applications.
What were the biggest trends? What do you anticipate for the next year?
From a content perspective, one category to look at is entertainment and narrative storytelling in VR. Looking ahead, I think we’ll see a lot more storytellers creating episodic VR series and potentially longer form movie-length content.
With the Vive, I think we’ll see a lot more exploration of our front-facing camera for augmented reality applications. I also expect to see some creative approaches to peripherals and accessories.
Probably the biggest trend is location-based entertainment. We’re investing heavily in our Viveport Arcade program. We announced this in November, and it has been expanding both in the number of developers on board and operators who want to bring VR to arcades, movie theaters and amusement centers.
What challenges will the industry face? How will it meet those challenges?
One of the biggest goals is to grow the audience for VR, and that goes for everyone invested in this space -- from developers to device manufacturers. At Vive we have a broad mandate to identify high quality VR experiences that connect with as many people as possible. That includes creating as many opportunities as we can for creators and their audiences to experience VR. Right now Vive has the biggest library of VR content, including non-gaming apps on Viveport (our non-gaming VR store) that let people create, explore, connect and experience a broad range of content through virtual reality.
To truly understand the benefits of VR, you have to get within the headset and see the experiences for yourself. So getting VR into as many out-of-home locations like museums, VR arcades and more, are going to be a critical gateway to adoption for consumers. All of these are going to be very important in growing the VR ecosystem.