Intrigued by virtual reality? You should be. Despite all the virtual reality strengths and weaknesses, it’s the most exciting technology this generation has to offer. And we predict it will soon be of equal impact and market penetration as mobile phones.
That’s a bold prediction, even for the most bullish virtual reality advocates. But consider that all the top mobile phone companies are investing substantially in VR. They see the same thing and aren’t shy about talking the technology up.
But the question is, why should a business go into VR? Why is it that much stronger compared to current “screen” options like PCs, tablets, mobile phones, TVs, etc? And where does it come up weaker?
As you’re reading this, consider how you can utilize VR for purposes that eclipse other technology. You can start to get really creative. And at the end, we’ll show you how we are here to help and partner with you!
Virtual Reality Strengths:
1 – Anything is programmable (can be simulated). No constraints
Think about today’s cinema and television world. Using computer-generated imagery, you can create any image or scene with the right technology and design/development talent. They create life-like creatures, exploding structures, and all the other imaginary things we find in visual entertainment. But viewers know it’s all fantasy because it is confined to a screen. Nobody confuses it for real life when you’re sitting on the couch and staring at a fixed size box.
Virtual reality still allows all the same creations. But now you’re creating immersive worlds. The audience directly experiences those worlds like they’re living in them. It is not constrained by the dimensions of a screen.
VR users can thus experience anything in the real world (from their headset) or anything in their favorite fantasy world. You can program, design, and eventually simulate whatever a person wants. Time travel, other planets, flying, and more. So the universe previously confined to third-person characters from movies or video games are now in YOUR reality. You can interact with them and simulate anything. It just takes the right programming and design talent to bring that world to life.
2 – More interactive due to all senses
Back in the day, print communication only involved text. Then radio integrated audio to the equation. Television and other screens involve two senses: seeing and hearing. Virtual reality now adds to both of those senses. It allows you to see the full world around you. You can see/hear in each direction (360 degrees) and with no limitation in where the action is taking place.
It also adds a few senses. Touch is now added, as you can use controllers to pick up objects, feel vibrations, and move your virtual hands around. Touch will only grow as more accessories are built for VR. We envision a body suit that enables full body immersion into the virtual world and the ability to walk around, jump, and use all body parts.
Some researchers are experimenting with adding smell but that seems like a long-shot. Taste is probably not going to work. However, in future generations of virtual reality (where it’s not a headset but a brain implant), don’t count these senses out.
The other sense that you get is presence. Because your brain believes you’re in this world, you get that sixth sense fully activated. Hence the success of simulations involving heights or balance, horror apps, relaxation apps, and other realistic experiences.
With more senses activated, it makes storytelling more compelling, marketing more life-like, and simulations more real. This has interesting implications for almost any business.
3 – 360 allows unique storytelling
Going back to 360 degrees and its storytelling features, we’re entering a new entertainment age. Movies and tv shows might make you a character in their story. You can talk to your favorite actors and see plot lines dependent on your decisions and actions. It makes special effects more realistic. And it encourages them to think beyond our current world’s limitations. Dialogue, action, scenery, and other aspects of storytelling will change significantly.
Entire new genres are bound to emerge…
- How about a VR reality tv show where you’re a contestant?
- We will probably see more realistic World of Warcraft ongoing gameplay type worlds
- Advertisers will have a whole new world to feature their products.
It’s really exciting for any story-teller and even more exciting for those that will consume them.
4 – Proven to better induce emotions – fear, empathy, and anything really
Every study is showing how powerful virtual reality is. It starts with the “blown away” feeling a first-time user gets. But specific apps are showing even greater potential at building emotion.
You have apps that are generating legitimate horror feelings. Others focus on build empathy. Health care professionals have even used virtual reality for anxiety and pain management. Every emotion is on the table. When you’re “living” an experience, it results in an emotional user experience.
Emotions linger beyond the virtual reality world. This is really interesting for marketers, artists, story-tellers, and businesses that want users to feel something for their work.
5 – Better retention due to experiential learning
It’s more than just education. Don’t advertisers want you to remember their ads when making purchasing decisions? Don’t businesses seek to create a memorable experience for customers? Virtual reality doubles your ability to communicate and influence others.
6 – Can trick the brain (pain mgmt., phobias, meditation)
As we mentioned, health care is proving to be an early VR adopter. When you can trick the brain, there are some substantial psychological and neurological applications. Some that have already been used: pain management, curing phobias, creating a meditation environment, and other psychological experiments. We expect this to grow with time.
The brain truly does get tricked into believing the VR world is real. Beyond using it for health care, people will use virtual reality to create “happy environments”. You can build any scenario that satisfies you. The marketplace of available experiences is small today but will grow exponentially over the coming years.
7 – More social
Many are concerned about virtual reality being an isolating device. This couldn’t be more wrong.
Think about how we communicate via screens. We can call people (audio only). Or use text (emails, chats, social media, etc). Post pictures and send videos.
But virtual reality allows you to share a scenario with others. The technology isn’t quite there for it in 2017. But in the next few years, we will see unbelievable social applications. You can virtually travel with friends. Work together in a virtual office or hang out in a virtual coffee shop. You can play immersive games together or participate in a group exercise experience. And social media will evolve to be a lot more social (rather than just sharing stuff on a screen).
We see how large social is with mobile phones. Just wait. Capabilities will grow substantially in virtual reality.
8 – Early days allow innovation and little competition
We see a super-saturated market for interesting software, websites, and mobile applications. It’s quite difficult to launch new products and get traction using these mediums. You’re competing against millions of others.
Virtual reality is different. It’s the frontier of technology, content, and creativity. Over the next few years, you can launch into spaces with little or no competition. While a small market and evolving technology makes ventures a bit risky, the potential reward is even bigger.
This is a once in a generation opportunity to be pioneers in business and technology.
9 – You can be certain about its future by looking at investment
There are many naysayers that see an imperfect first release. Yet no major technology in history has gone from first release to mass adoption in 1-2 years. Disappointment is not valid here. Just remember the original PCs and mobile phones. By today’s standards, they are unusable. The same goes for the initial VR headsets.
The reason we aren’t remotely concerned is that pretty much all of the world’s largest tech companies are doubling down on investment. Google, Facebook, Sony, HTC, Samsung, Lenovo, HP, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Intel, Qualcomm, Nokia, Baidu, Amazon, Apple, Alibaba, Valve, and many more companies are all investing substantially in virtual reality, augmented reality, or both. Are all these companies wrong?
Even if you’re disappointed by VR today or think there’s potential for the industry to fail, it’s still a worthy investment for your business. When the dominant VR headset comes out and people start adopting these company’s products en masse, you’ll be happy you were an early investor or adopter.
10 – A marketing machine ensures corporate buy-in. Combining the “real world” with digital creativity and mass distribution.
Virtual reality is a marketing/advertising dream. You have unlimited creativity to work with. There are many ways to reach customers. Users are highly engaged and excited to be looking at interesting phenomena in their virtual worlds. And since few are marketing today, it’s an open book for how you want to do it. If you’re struggling to get your message out or engage audiences in digital or traditional channels, you should shift some focus to virtual reality. You will absolutely find interesting market segments and opportunities.
And as it grows, you’ll already have an established presence. You will know what works, what doesn’t work, how to distribute messages, and a trained marketing team capable of navigating the tech. Every marketer ought to be paying close attention to this medium.
Virtual Reality Weaknesses
1 – The tech isn’t quite there yet
We love virtual reality’s potential but are very honest about its current shortcomings. But this is to be expected in its first release. In our VR for Business Video Series, we talk about this in detail. Headsets are too big and uncomfortable. Pricing is too high. The software library is small. Wiring is annoying. And every aspect from graphics to connectivity needs improvement.
The good news is that nobody is disputing these flaws. The tech companies are working on all of the above and releases later this year will address a few of them. The good news is that all these same complaints were made about PCs and mobile in their respective early days. We know how that turned out!
2 – Not mass market yet, raising profitability questions
Sales in VR’s first release have been weak. The only demographics that seem interested at this point are gaming enthusiasts, Samsung mobile customers that got a free headset, and tech fanatics. Only a few million headsets were sold. So for a business considering entry, it appears risky.
And it is. Overinvest and you’re likely to be disappointed. If you need immediate ROI, it’s unlikely to happen.
We don’t see initial profitability as too concerning. As VR tech improves and as there is a reason for mass consumers to buy it, the market will pick up. We predict about 5 years until mass adoption. You can see more detail in our article What Needs to Happen For VR Mass Adoption
3 – Questionably social in the near future
Altspace VR went out of business and Facebook Spaces is still in beta. There are a few multiplayer games but not much else in terms of social virtual reality. And we know that social applications are critical to make a computing platform successful.
A highly social experience is probably more like 7 years away. It will take a similar path to mobile, where it was initially appealing for its entertainment, information, and convenience apps. Businesses should plan for social virtual reality but not overinvest in it. It’s not technologically feasible and doesn’t have the audience just yet.
4 – VR is isolating
As social as virtual reality will eventually be, its core use is to put on a headset and enter one’s own world. They say that the headset closes them to any interactions and makes people live a fantasy. So many believe it’s going to be anti-social.
These concerns are certainly legitimate. But at the end of the day, people choose what they like in life. We’re not all that social today with our heads buried in mobile phones and watching hours of tv per day.
As virtual reality gets better and better, it will need to change culture along with it. Older generations will probably resist it and younger generations will embrace it. But like all other great technology advances, it always catches on. We see many developers diversifying from isolating video game experiences. We’ll likely see highly social apps, exercise apps, and many other ways to keep society from devolving to a dream world.
5 – Fixed investment is difficult on the frontier
Companies inevitably get frustrated in changing environments. Technology changes rapidly. Old ways of doing things go obsolete. New versions and upgrades are commonplace. And with virtual reality poised to move more rapidly than prior tech booms, this only accelerates.
For a business making VR investments, it’s tough to project returns. It’s hard to plan resources, build infrastructure, and assess profitability. There is too much uncertainty in this immature market and too many changes each year. Timing the market is no easy feat either.
We’ll see a lot of VR market fluctuation. Development methods will change. Customer preferences will be flimsy. Some investments will pay off big and others will fail miserably.
There’s nothing that can be done here. You just have to accept a very erratic market. We’d limit large, fixed investment and keep ROI estimates conservative. But don’t let that scare you, as big risks carry big rewards. And the risk of sitting on the sidelines while your competitors emerge dominant in our next great computing platform are much bigger.
6 – Development is difficult
Virtual reality development is going to be unlike any other. Mobile apps and websites are easy by comparison. Even 2D games take less skill and have less variables to code for.
When building a virtual reality app, you need developers to account for many scenarios. You need expensive equipment (cameras, editing/rendering software, etc). Designers will be required on every team. All of this is needed to make the app as life-like as possible. VR is so much more than a static website or a mobile app that does a few functions. It’s recreating a world. Tricking your brain. It’s doing all this without motion issues or the smallest design flaws.
Development takes a lot of work. This means big teams and a lot of money. And since the tech is new, there isn’t a long list of capable, experienced people. That’s just something you’ll have to deal with in early days.
7 – Space constraints for a truly real experience
With mobile VR like the Samsung Gear, you don’t need much room. The headset can be used while seated and in any location. But the future of VR looks more like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Good VR means moving around and becoming part of the world (not just viewing it).
The average living space or office doesn’t have a bunch of space to walk around in. You’d be bumping into furniture, walls, and other people. It’s tricky to envision how this evolves. If VR becomes big enough, we may see construction accommodate VR spaces. Or maybe we see usage shift outdoors.
There’s plenty of time to fix this, as current upmarket offerings aren’t significantly yet.
8 – A long way to go before VR is fully immersive. Where you can smell, touch, feel with your full body, etc.
This one is simple. Current offerings aren’t fully immersive. They do trick your mind into believing the scenario in front of you. But you can still feel the headset. You can still feel the wires sticking out. And the graphics have a long way to go.
Likewise, not all senses are covered yet. It’s a big enough improvement over screen based technology and will certainly become popular. But it’s not quite a real-world replica. It will happen eventually but virtual reality will take time to truly become real.
9 – A lot of ethical questions need to be answered
Like any new technology, new ethical dilemmas come along with it. Regulators will need to pay close attention to this. For example, should people be able to simulate things that are illegal in the real world. Shooting games are one thing and that has largely been witnessed in video games. But shooting characters on a screen versus life-like people in front of you is very different.
What about immersive sexual experiences? Remember that you can program anything in VR…
If the scenario is realistic enough, might that encourage people to act on these impulses in the real world too? Society needs to draw boundaries.
Like all electronic technology, privacy is an ongoing concern. It goes beyond what you’re searching and visiting though. VR gives you the chance to exhibit life-like behavior. And you can track eye movements and actions within that world. We don’t want government and data-collecting tech companies prying into this.
Security is an issue. Cybersecurity is a big risk in today’s world and only amplifies as more of our lives go virtual.
How about addiction? If mobile phones are addictive and causing undesirable behavior in our youth, what will the superior VR technology do?
Safety is also a question. Not enough work has been done to study any issues with the headsets. Is it safe to use on your eyes? Is it safe for your head as a whole? What about things like texting and driving… what is VR’s version of that?
These questions don’t need to be answered overnight and shouldn’t deter anyone from entering the VR market. However, they are worth consideration in a holistic VR market analysis.
10 – VR might have too much “noise”
Many psychological studies prove that people don’t like too many choices. They enjoy the perception of having control and prefer 2-3 choices. But they don’t want too much to decide, as it causes analysis paralysis. They also don’t want excess stimulus or noise, as it’s too much for the brain to process.
Virtual reality may solve this question. But it’s still the Wild Wild West. Right now, it’s hard to find new apps. The stimulus that each one throws at you is substantial. It takes a lot out of you. And this is before there’s much choice in the marketplace or before advertisers get hold of the medium.
A lot of people might prefer the simplicity of current offerings. At least until quality becomes greater.
What do you think? Have we covered all the virtual reality strengths and weaknesses? There will be many more as the technology develops and another group for augmented reality as that gains traction.
Our end conclusion remains the same. Virtual reality will be the next great communication and computing platform. It will achieve mass adoption in the 5-year range. And it represents the greatest opportunity for businesses, governments, individuals, and investors. The weaknesses are mostly flaws from the first release of a new technology. The strengths are overwhelming compared to current technology.
If you’re considering getting into virtual reality, we’d love to partner with you! RT Virtual Reality offers services ranging from
- VR market assessments
- Business case and strategy for you specifically
- Help in creating your own applications
- Partnering in building amazing VR experiences and platforms
For more information on our offerings, check out RT Reverse Tide Services and get into contact today!