I’m not one to jump on shiny new kit, but virtual reality has converted this sceptic to dedicated follower. I went along to the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival, curious to find out what the latest off-shoot from the Edinburgh Fringe and International Festival was all about.
One hour later and I was prepared to replace the real world with virtual reality.
Donning a headset, immersed in the Virtual Reality Cinema, I got to explore documentaries, music performances, events and drama, with an intensity missing from cinema, TV or computer games. Virtual reality is a new exciting world, and I want to live there.
Thrills and spills
Fear and thrills are the easiest to replicate with virtual reality technology: riding a roller coaster, climbing the Empire State Building, diving to the depths of the ocean. Strong emotions are at the core of many of the films (each about 5-10 mins. 6 minutes seems to be the accepted ‘best length’, who knows why), but other more nuanced responses will become possible as the technology is refined. Virtual reality is likely to follow the same development arc as cinema – the first silent films, such as Nosferatu, were heavy on the horror.
What’s the future of Virtual Reality?
Just as online didn’t kill print; TV hasn’t replaced books; it’s likely that virtual reality will become an additional channel. Don’t think, live streaming of an event OR virtual reality. Think, how could we blend the two?
How to make money with VR?
We’re still at the stage of playing around and seeing how VR could work, with many companies exploring Virtual Reality within their R&D function. Even the biggest companies, such as Facebook with their Oculus Rift headsets, have yet to come up with a convincing commercial model to secure an advertising or revenue stream from VR content. The subscription model is flawed for online content, as we’ve seen with the newspaper industry. In the end, it won’t be the hardware holding back consumer versions of VR; it will be the failure to figure out how to make money out of the content.
When will there be enough of us wanting to use VR, to make it worthwhile to produce content? I can’t wait for VR to become economically viable. This is one shiny object that I hope becomes mainstream.