There’s no doubt that virtual reality is the ‘next big thing’ in tech, and with the release of several commercially available headsets (see the range here) , it’s now here. What I wanted to find out though, was the opinion of whether it could stand the test of time, or become another bubble bursting as something else comes along.
Hollywood is the surprise leader in adopting virtual reality experiences
From the talks and demonstrations, it was clear that the technological advances are amazing, and great progress has been made to help remedy issues which have previously been a concern. Motion sickness was a big topic last year, but now with higher frame-rates, better tracking and incredible resolution this is almost solved amongst the premium headsets. There’s also been incredible advancement with the controllers, from handsets improving seemless interactivity, to then lots of work on not needing handsets at all. It was also refreshing to hear the power of audio from Matthew Florianz and Johannes Klatt (Frontier Developments), and storytelling techniques from Matt Ratcliffe (Masters of Pie) being spoken of as passionately and as considered as fps and dpi. All of which come together to enhance the user experience, and give them the sensation of total immersion.
Adapting storytelling for VR experiences with new style storyboards
It doesn’t need to be all singing, all dancing either. Exploration is the biggest genre for content at moment. Letting users simply stand there and immerse themselves by looking around and discovering their new world, this kind of immersion has worked well, especially for base branding, which can be applied at mass in conjunction with VR on smartphones and Google Cardboard and to a lesser extend, Samsung Gear. Using this an entry level to VR can work well initially, as long as the idea behind the content is there enabling the user with such a profound experience it makes them wanting more. Dr Dave Ranyard is a big believer in interactivity ‘Without input you feel like a ghost’ is the title to one of his slides, and it ties into the age old saying in creative “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” This is where the broad range of headsets comes into play. With each giving the user a very different experience. From the basic interactions of Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear to the premium end of the market; Oculus Rift, HTC VIVE, and PlayStation VR (out later this year) offering greater control and motion tracking. Although these too have very different intentions. PlayStation for example, is using VR to sell their console and Samsung using their VR to bolster sales of their phone.
The importance of content was a main theme which was echoed throughout the talks.
Working as a creative, I know only to well the importance of using great content based on solid ideas and delivered through immersive storytelling. It soon became clear that this was one of the key areas which needed work for VR to thrive.
The problem is seems has stemmed from the technology itself. There’s been a “beginning of an arms race” as declared by Roy Taylor (AMD) in the first talk of the conference, where each producer of the headsets are trying to become the best headset, topping each other with better specs, and then more competition. With this, it’s left a considerable gap in the virtual reality industry for worthy content. A ‘vacuum of premium content’ is what Piers Harding-Rolls at I.H.S Market Research Company warned. As they for see a promising future for VR, as long as the content is there to keep it going.
Forecasts expect to see spend on VR games to reach 1bn by 2018
As creatives and developers we have a responsibility to create worthwhile content we put out on this new medium, which has value to the brand, but also value to the consumer. Of which, this medium is a consumer first experience.
The challenge is to make give the consumer such an experience that they want to come back for more interesting stories, more visual and audio feats, all within a seamless transition.
If you think you have something which may, or may not work for virtual reality, or you’d just like to find out more and discuss some ideas, get in touch and we’ll help it become reality.