Many people do not believe that virtual reality (VR) is the future, and think that we will soon simply grow tired of our latest “novelty” or “toy” technology. Roy Peer, however, disagrees. In his presentation at ProductTank NYC, Roy Peer opens his presentation by referencing a common question in the industry: whether or not VR is a fad.
Roy implies that VR is here to stay by referencing the development of the automobile, when popular opinion was that “the horse is here to stay, and the automobile is only a novelty.” The television, the computer and even the iPhone faced similar scrutiny when they were first presented.
Why VR? Why now?
Virtual reality is a new form of storytelling. It is a way for us to recreate our own world in an immersive, essentially limitless way. It is open-ended and allows us more freedom and control of the media experience. Recreating reality can be dated back to 1929 when the television began development. It wasn’t until Oculus raised millions in a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 that we really began to see interest and the entertainment industry began to shift to VR.
What has really helped bring VR to the mainstream has been advancements in adjacent technologies. Computing graphics have come an incredibly long way in recent years. Smartphones are extremely powerful, and a huge proportion of the population carries one around in their pocket. Information access, as well as the reach of that information once it’s made available, has also improved immensely. Apps and other types of digital content can go viral and spread across the entire world in a matter of minutes.
What are VR’s Biggest Obstacles?
Content is one of the biggest obstacles facing the VR industry today. VR isn’t yet as accessible to the general population in the same way that images, videos, and text are. So, industry leaders like Roy have to not only develop quality VR content, but they have to distribute it to their customers and gain new customers as well.
Ability, style, and price are a few more challenges that products like the Google Glass and PC headsets (for example) struggle with. Units like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are great headsets with many capabilities, but they are very expensive, especially when you factor in the computer that you need to run them! They are also tethered, meaning you need to be in an office or home to use them, quite significantly limiting their appeal compared to other media options available to consumers.
In response to these challenges, Roy’s company is focussing on being more strategic. They are looking for VR content that users can apply and enjoy outside of their home. They are also working with 360 degree camera manufacturers so their users are able to create their own content, and then access it very easily and quickly.
The competition is very tense, as most headsets are currently designed with a device lock-in. For example, the Samsung Gear VR only works with Samsung phones, and the Google Daydream only works with Google Pixel phones. Being able to be the frontrunner in this space will mean making great advancements, but it is also leading companies into walled gardens.
As 3rd party producers, Roy’s company naturally wants to get rid of this exclusivity and put VR in the open. He wants people to be able to use VR wherever they are, using whatever devices they have available.
Stimuli VR’s first product is 2VR – a small, affordable, foldable virtual reality headset that is stored and worn like a pair of glasses. They have stripped away all of the unnecessary parts of the VR headset, leaving just the lenses, the bracket to hold your phone, and the arms that hold it on your face.
As an example of Stimuli’s drive for innovation and thought processes, they have also aimed to make their VR headset “travel ready”. Every headset comes with a travel pouch, which can also be used as a cover that fits over your face to black out the outside world and get a more immersive experience when you want it.
Above all else, Roy is hoping to encourage and provoke more innovation in the world of VR, and to encourage the product space – and consumer experience – of virtual reality to be more open. When you’re working with an entire medium, and a whole new way to create experiences for people, openness is how creativity, and excitement, will thrive.