The real and the virtual
There has been a recent shift in the way people consume media thanks to the advancements of both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which are becoming ever more prevalent in everyday life. Both technologies provide experiences that were once unattainable but are now increasingly sought after. With VR typically delivered through a headset, it allows the user to navigate and control their actions in a live simulation, creating a full video immersion experience. When it comes to AR, the mobile device enhances a viewer’s existing reality by layering computer generated enhancements over it, in order to create a more meaningful interaction. Some vendors are even pitching ‘merged reality’ where real world objects, such as your hands, are inserted into the virtual world.
With these technologies becoming more widespread in use, decreasing in price and receiving more investment, the development of new platforms to support the technology is increasing in a number of different industries. In marketing for example, major motion picture studios are releasing VR experiences to generate interest, whereas in the travel industry, consumers are being offered the opportunity to visit locations and even hotels in VR before making a decision. Given this increasing use, will these technologies be the future of the entertainment industry?
One step forward, two steps back
Despite their growing popularity, VR and AR come with some limitations. Whilst both realties are capable of adding new dimensions to the entertainment industry and the way we consume media, there are a number of issues that should be addressed before they can fully integrated into everyday life. One current drawback is the lack of inclusion that comes with using a VR device. As the delivery of VR is through a headset, people in the same room sit isolated from one another and are therefore unable to enjoy the experience together.
Another issue is one of practical application, because VR and AR are still very niche technologies, which at present, work better in certain industries more than others. For example, there is growing use of this technology in gaming as it works well within that industry and is the next logical step for gamers. However, it is difficult to predict whether this will translate into mainstream market and provide the user with the type of experience that they want.
For VR and AR to become successful technologies, it is important that it doesn’t hit the same pitfall that 3D did. There was potential for the 3D element in video to take off, but a low video quality, the need for often cumbersome additional hardware such as glasses and a lack of good content saw it lose popularity amongst consumers. However, the difference with VR and AR is that they have a significant impact on a user’s emotional response. This is because what is viewed by the user through both technologies adapts with their responses, whether it be turning of the head or changing their gaze, thus creating an experience that is more true to life.
In order to integrate both technologies more into the real world, looking at the social element of each is important. Homes are becoming ever more connected as consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with smart home devices, thanks in part to these products becoming more affordable for the average consumer. Adopters of the connected home will attempt to integrate new purchases into their existing ecosystem rather than creating new ones, in a bid to ensure seamlessness and simplicity. VR and AR are in a long line of new technology that is enabling the consumer to do so thus making homes more connected. Adapting both VR and AR to include an experience that friends or families can enjoy collectively in the comfort of their living rooms may see them grow in popularity.
Content which is social and easy to share with others is the most appealing to consumers and they will want to search for this type of content on their devices. An entertainment experience which brings people together is more sought after, over technology that isolates people on their own. By giving the user an opportunity to invite a friend to sit on next sofa next to them in the same virtual environment, it makes it far more social and popular with audiences. The idea is that two people on the other side of the world can sit together to share the same experience is a powerful one.
Into the Future
The success of VR and AR heavily relies on understanding the way consumers work, the experience and the type of content the user wants, as this allows for a more tailored experience. Augmented reality allows the user to have more interaction with their physical environment. By incorporating the use of metadata through interaction to create an understanding of the user’s preferences and an ease of which they can discover content they want quickly, either by moving their head, giving a voice command or even acknowledging the presence of another, will lead to a more seamless integration and enhanced entertainment experience. This then adds an element of authenticity and realism that is sought after amongst the tech savvy.
The use of VR and AR is growing amongst a number of different industries but there is still a long way to go. They are still very much niche technologies and they are still viewed by many as an add-on service. The lack of inclusivity appears to be taking away from the experience users actually want. However, as the world becomes ever more connected through these new technologies and they enable more shared and enriching experiences we will see them more widely adopted. For now, with a limited amount of content, the high cost and the unclear benefit being an issue for the average consumer, it may be sometime before it can become part of our everyday entertainment experience.