VR failed our expectations in 2016, that is clear. How do we bring VR to general masses in 2017? After recently discussing this exact topic with VR/AR/MR creators and entrepreneurs of Seattle at WTIA panel this week, I have come up with a list of must-haves for VR to become more than a hype among the geeky population.
One of the biggest disadvantages of today’s immersive reality devices is their weight. Spending most of my awake life in front of computer, I already have a plethora of neck and back problems. Many people do – that comes with the sit-in-front-of-PC 8+ hour workday. The hardware of the immersive devices has to improve before the weight is lowered to a comfortable level.
I love setting up IKEA furniture… sometimes. IKEA furniture exists and people are okay with putting it together from scratch because of its cost. We learned to enjoy the printed leaflets with listed parts and step-by-step instructions on how to put the furniture parts together on the fly. IKEA UX works because of the cost of the furniture. However, if you are paying $900+ for a device, you would hope the setup would be less painful than drilling walls in your computer rooms and walking around with a “Geiger counter” like device measuring your room dimensions.
One of the people I talked to on the WTIA panel disagreed with me on this remark, but we currently do not have a killer app in the market. Think of Angry Birds for phone, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, Facebook! These are all successful software inventions that invite the user to return, to want for more. I am yet to see this kind of experience in the immersive industry. While successful and well-made apps such as Paintbrush exist, they are not enticing for me personally to come back to every day.
Do you remember when iPod came out? Everyone wanted to have an iPod device on them so they could show off in front of their friends. And what for? The image that an iPod provided to you. iPods, and later, iPhones, were marketed brilliantly, promising you a cool lifestyle, a stylish device that would let you immediately stand out in an awesome way. The VR world lacks this right now. Most of the advertisement I have seen for VR is focused around a really cool techy gadget or male FPS gamers (haven’t we been through this… like 30 years ago?). Nothing about lifestyle, about how cool/awesome/creative you would be if you owned the device. I understand why the marketing state is where it is. Overemphasizing the coolness aspect can be misleading and could make the people who buy the product angry once they discover the aforementioned problems of weight, horrible setup and lack of killer apps. But it does not take away the responsibility of the companies to be more inclusive.
All in all, the immersive reality products have a lot of problems and entire marketing departments to fix before it becomes commonplace. The promise of the Virtual Reality and the targeted markets have to become more focused before we can become best buddies on HoloLens, Oculus or Vive. So far the virtual reality devices have been too tinkerer focused, and for a good reason: right now it is tinkerers who purchase, play and create for the products (myself included). I am afraid that without proper image for the products, it will be still tinkerers who are targeted in 2017. Let’s be CodeBrave and change the perception of immersive reality by making some apps for everyone.