San Francisco / Los Angeles

yoda(To answer the question from the Helsinki blog, no-one talked about it, at all, like the whole of California has just decided to mentally block what comes next…)

A really stimulating visit to San Francisco (including VRX 2016) and then down to Los Angeles. Over the course of the week there were a clear series of messages which emerged as a kind of “state of the nation” thinking on VR:

Weak prospects short term
A universal mantra was that the VR market was some way off any real scale or viability – somewhere between 3 to 5 years. This was due to a series of overlapping issues:

  • adoption data underwhelming – hardware is on the market but adoption has not accelerated (Cost / Content / User experience)
  • no prior use case – building an entirely new market and ecosystem with associated issues from physical equipment to ethical framework
  • lack of compelling content – no content has driven everyday use or consistently overcome the barrier to use (kit / isolation / sickness), partially due to the fact that limited market = limited investment in content

The strategy for market entrants should be one of “survival” until…

Belief in the long term opportunity
Despite short term anxiety there was a consistent belief that the longer term would be exponential growth of a transformative technology – whether AR or VR, entertainment or industrial use.

All of the major technology players are already in the market and invested in future prospects for growth. Interestingly the same enormous DigiCapital market estimate is quoted often, plus the contention that AR will be bigger than VR, and that enterprise use will outstrip entertainment.

Time to experiment
Given no prior use case there is a gap in understanding the visual language of VR, the ethical implications, what is different about content in this form and what makes it compelling, e.g. are cinematic rules redundant but immersive theatre practice helpful?

There was consistent agreement on “if it’s not 10x better in VR then don’t use VR”, and also that a sense of presence was important, rather than just viewing (“who am I in this scene?”). On narrative there was less agreement from it’s “like jazz” – e.g. there is an underlying form but room to experiment – to fixed linear as your point of control of the story.

Whilst very few games or content pieces have made any money there was a consistent belief that small scale funded experimentation right now was vital to the growth of the industry in the future – and a willingness of some key players to put resource into seeding new ideas.

One of my highlights was at Oculus, using the Touch to “pick up” and manipulate objects whilst talking to someone I could see in the same virtual “room”. That connection and dialogue was interesting in immediately immersing you in the experience in a way that I haven’t found with other content.

And “time to 50 tattoos” is my favourite new measure of audience engagement…

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