2016 is going to be a very big year for Virtual Reality (VR). Why now? Because there are hundreds of companies betting big on the consumer VR market since all signs point to excitement. Consumers are excited because the technologies are becoming “affordable” and the content is finally starting to be “good.” In the next 12 months, there will be an explosion of new and improved technologies and content that people want to consume. This year will see several major VR headsets, including Oculus Rift in March (now available for pre-order), the HTC Vive in partnership with Steam and Sony’s PlayStation VR to name a few. VR content will be supported by big entertainment studios, game studios and indie studios that produce videos, immersive experiences and VR video games. We’ve already seen content from news outlets including ABC News, The New York Times and Vice. Already, there are app directories for Oculus Rift, Homido and Google Cardboard that have more than 500 apps and games with video channels with more than 300 videos. In addition to all of this, new technologies and startups will emerge to support and enhance the entire experience.
Below I will highlight five key reasons why consumers VR adoption will finally reach the tipping point this year:
- VR isn’t new, it is just maturing. People think VR is new, but the first immersive displays were built in the 1950’s. In the 1990’s, simulators were developed along with the first 360 gaming environments. In the early 2000’s, there were a number of growing software companies focused on interactive healthcare space including VR programs for treating phobias. And it was now three and a half years ago that the Oculus Kickstarter launched (and was acquired by Facebook in 2014) and YouTube has been supporting 360 videos since March and Facebook as of September 2015.
- Consumers will have a range of options to experience VR content including free non-immersive experiences from Facebook and YouTube, who natively display 360 videos on desktop and mobile, to the more powerful immersive gaming experiences that need technologies like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive – which will range from $300 – $700. The good news is there’s a more affordable tier of Google Cardboard and headsets that just utilize your iOS or Android device – ranging from $10 – $100. Companies like The New York Times and Verizon have done promotions to give away free Google Cardboard headsets. We even gave away 200 customized versions to our colleagues in New York who attended our presentation on Virtual Reality.
- There’s a new range of 360 video cameras from amateur to “pro” options coming onto the market. Filming 360 video content used to be expensive because there were only a few professional video cameras on the market capable of supporting 360 video. However, in the past few months we’ve seen new cameras being announced, including a selection from Jaunt and the GoPro Odyssey, as well as more affordable options already on the market or coming soon from GoPro, 3DR, 360Fly and YouTube recommended cameras.
- There’s going to be A LOT of VR content. Big and indie studios are getting into the VR space in a big way – from VR natives like Vrse and Jaunt, who were early adopters of 360 video and VR content, to more than 30 production studios (I’ve categorized so far) to big entertainment and film/TV studios working on upcoming content. We’ve seen Disney (via ILMxLAb and Lucasfilm) release 360 video as teasers for the new Star Wars movie and other large consumer brands from Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Nike, Marriott, Toms Shoes and GE creating VR content. As mentioned above, 360 video has emerged as a new form of journalistic storytelling from the news/media companies.
- Expect a lot of games, controllers and apps. In addition to 360 and VR video content, we can expect hundreds of new game titles to launch this year. Once again, while there are already 500+ games and apps on the market, we can expect a plethora of new games and apps to be announced along with the launches of the headsets above. Not only can we expect games and apps to support the environment, but there are already active social networks taking place in VR like AltVR.com, which is free, accessible to everyone and already supports games, YouTube and Netflix viewing. It is a platform for building your own experiences within the AltVR world. Controllers launched will be more bespoke to highly specific apps developed for professional fields like healthcare and mechanical engineering to help train professionals virtually before moving them into a real environment. An important note is that headsets like the Oculus and HTC Vive will require powerful PCs, so we can expect the early adopters and hardcore gamers to “beta test” the market and hopefully prove that it’s worth the investment, just in time for the holidays 11 months away 😉
Stay tuned throughout 2016 for announcements and updates from Edelman on this topic.
Adam Hirsch is an executive vice president with Edelman Digital Global.