A Case Against Virtual Reality
We’ve been here before
The next big thing is just around the corner. A real game changer. The big reset of everything that we assumed. Nothing will be the same. Everyone will be affected. Captains of industry will fail if they ignore it, and kids will conquer their wildest dreams if they embrace it. Don’t get left behind, because this is going to be huge.
Virtual Reality is emerging from its awkward teenage years (the 80’s and 90’s) and is ready for primetime. Billons of dollars have already been invested in VR with trillions more on the sidelines. Blue Chips, celebrities, Hollywood studios, and huge tech conglomerates are placing big bets. Individuals are quitting their day jobs to start new websites, blogs, podcasts, meet-ups, conferences, plug-ins, engines, you name it just to keep in step with VR. It is a forgone conclusion that Virtual Reality is real and is going to be massive; to suggest otherwise is met with incredulity and name-calling.
I’m not a Luddite and I’m not buying what’s for sale.
Generally when the public rallies with this magnitude around a “certainty” it either gloriously flops or fails to live up to expectation. Ask any sports bookie, the crowd is wrong most of the time, and that’s why bookies drive Bentleys and punters sleep in parking lots.
Mobile was initially seen as an extension of the home phone and fax machine. No one planned it as a replacement for our televisions, computers, and filing cabinets. This is why companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft own mobile and not Nokia, Blackberry, and Ericson. Social Media is the real zinger. Initially intended for children, its significance was not realized until it blossomed into one of the most successful advertising platforms and data analytics tools through Facebook.
Since then we had the Segway, 3D Televisions, Digital Radio, On Demand Cable, Tivo, 3D Printing and the next big thing in exercise, diet, ecommerce and web.
Where are they all now?
Virtual Reality is going to be successful. The gold rush did yield some gold after all. The question is, how much? What are the success metrics? What will the ROI be for the customers and investors?
Based on what you read, Virtual Reality is going to be up there with email, social media, and mobile as revolutionary.
Unfortunately, Virtual Reality is ignoring the exact attributes that made email, mobile, and social media a smashing success.
VR requires wires and is a fundamentally static experience. With so much set-up, equipment, and gear, it is also a rather clunky experience. It is proprietary and antisocial. Technological progress as made strides to de-cluttered our lives, ridding us of wires through Bluetooth and wifi, via streaming and the cloud. Virtual Reality wants to re-clutter. Will we be comfortable using a stranger’s VR headset? What about lice or bedbugs?
When it comes to video games and work-related enterprise, Virtual Reality is a home run. Similar to 3D printing, the opportunities are huge. The dream of 3D printing is that every person would have a 3D printer in his or her home, next to the microwave. This didn’t happen (or hasn’t happened). From a gaming perspective, VR is the new game platform and console where the market is comfortable with wires and set-top boxes. From an enterprise perspective, Virtual Reality will be amazing in conveying complex tools and professional experiences when it comes to education, medicine, industry, and architecture. Will everyone have a VR headset in their living room to watch the NFL or the next Paul McCartney gig? Will everyone be wearing a headset on the subway ride home from work? Will we all just be wearing headsets one day and not actively engaging with the real world, reduced to living life behind screens like some twisted, 1984-esque alternate reality?
VR has a long road to travel it fills subway cars, family rooms, and movie theaters.
As a market, we’ve been trained to embrace our phones and tablets as consumption devices. These devices are discreet. They are equally personal and sharable. Any social anxiety or awkwardness surrounding our phones has completely disappeared.
Google has the right idea. Focusing on VR experiences with disposable goggles via our phones is a better long-term solution than the circus sideshow of its alternatives.
With rumors of next generation Samsung and LG phones incorporating more creative tools via 360 video capture and stereo microphones, it is clear that mobile is and will remain the device of choice equally among creators and consumers.
The question for VR is how long it can continue to ignore mobile without becoming irrelevant. We’ll be watching at the bar, highly “social,” with our phones strapped to our faces.
From One Ear To Another,