The unexpected way VR could end up in your home
In the hugely underrated Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly travels from 1989 to 2015, where he tries out a VR headset lying around the future McFly family’s house.
While the filmmakers were remarkably prescient in predicting the advent of this technology (2015 saw both the the Google Glass and Samsung Gear VR on the market), they overestimated how commonplace it would be.
Fast-forward to 2019, and we’re still a way off VR headsets being a regular sight in every home.
To get to that point, enough people need to fall in love with VR - and to get there, they first need to try it. The rise in popularity of Location Based Entertainment (LBE ) VR could help make that happen.
LBE VR takes place at a location specifically designed for virtual reality experiences.
It enables users to interact with a VR environment in a way they would not be able to in their own home: free roaming around a huge warehouse with padded walls, for example, or smelling the grass of a virtual meadow through multi-sensory technology.
This is one of the areas that shows significant potential in moving us in the direction of the Holy Grail depicted in Back to the Future Part II - mass consumer adoption of VR. Here’s why.
You’ve got to try it to love it.
To truly understand the immersive power of VR, you really need to have experienced it first-hand.
Currently, high-quality VR technology for the home can be expensive. You need a decent headset and a powerful computer to start having experiences that really do justice to the medium.
Improvements in headset tech and lowering prices have the potential to change this (Playstation VR bundles can be found for around $300 at the time of writing) but the fact is that to-date, many have previously been put off by the costs. The upshot is that most people have not yet tried VR.
LBE VR has the power to address this by make virtual reality more accessible.
How does LBE VR make virtual reality more accessible?
Location Based Entertainment VR allows people to try out virtual reality without investing huge sums of money in it.
What’s more, you can get a superior experience to what you might have at home, because of all the ‘extras’: specially-designed free roaming spaces, wind-tunnels, roller coasters.
This is key - particularly as up till now, many people might have had sub-par VR experiences (if they’ve had any at all).
That could be because they’ve tried locational VR when the tech wasn’t perfect or the games not polished (something IMAX was criticised for prior to the demise of IMAX VR).
Or because they’ve spent a couple of minutes with a headset in an uncomfortable setting being watched by crowds of other people waiting to take turn.
In contrast, today’s high-quality LBE VR offers the opportunity for ordinary people to discover the top end of what’s currently possibly with the technology.
Who’s doing it (well) ?
Businesses are still in the test-and-learn phase with regards to location-based VR, from the pricing structures to the type of content users want to engage with.
Many jumped on the VR bandwagon back in 2016, investing heavily in opening VR arcades with the debut of consumer headsets - and have since gone out of business.
Of the survivors, some clear, winning strategies have emerged which have contributed to VR gaining traction with consumers.
Tying VR experiences into a film release offers a way for studios to extend their event movies by allowing fans to engage with the universes they create, and has proven a winning strategy for The Void. Their whole-body, fully immersive VR is the perfect way to step into the worlds of well-loved films like Star Wars or Ghostbusters.
Crucially, The Void’s experiences tend to be placed in areas that already see a high level of footfall: in shopping malls for example.
Situating VR experiences in places people already enjoy (and pay for) location-based social entertainment - like cinemas, bowling alleys and traditional arcades - is easier than asking them to change their habits by going somewhere new.
Coupled with this, the content virgin VR-goers encounter needs to be high-quality, compelling, and make them want to share and come back again and again.
People don’t go to the cinema because they love film projectors: they go to watch films. Similarly, VR is a conduit - the stories and content are what people will remember.
As these experiences improve and proliferate throughout our public spaces, VR will become increasingly normalized as entertainment.
So where next?
Global location-based VR entertainment doubled to $1.2 billion last year and is set to grow to over $8 billion by 2022, according to Greenlight Insights. This growth is potentially another stepping stone to something much bigger however.
Of the numerous developments that need to occur to make VR appealing to the mass market, some require a cultural rather than a technological shift.
The most basic change is arguably the most important - simply convincing enough people to try out high-quality VR experiences.
This is where locational VR could help move consumer sentiment, and in turn drive demand towards standalone devices like the Oculus Go.
It all comes down to this: it’s impossible to convince someone that VR is the future of entertainment unless they try it themselves.
Which means ironically, the way VR could end up in every home is by people going out and experiencing it in public.
Don’t miss the next article in our three-part locational VR series, coming soon!