The future of VR
Ian Hambleton / IDG Connect, June 2015

In this interview for IDG Connect, Group Managing Director, Ian Hambleton shares his thoughts on the future of VR.

Where do you think VR is heading short, medium and long term?
I think the best way to frame VR as a technology is to think of it as half way through its journey from invention to perfection. Go back 23 years to the days of Lawnmower Man and we have an incredible concept but a terrible product. Fast-forward to present day and we have Oculus Rift, with impending launches by Samsung and Sony. It’s a ground-breaking concept along with a pretty amazing experience.

However, VR is not yet in the public domain as there are still issues with tracking people’s movement and the rendering power, which is not quite where we need it to be. Take the example of VR as wearable tech, if it doesn’t look good and isn’t practical, people won’t want to wear it. Product designers must ask themselves, ‘Am I making something people will want to wear?’ Even with the tech still being in this stage, people can see the potential and that potential is vast!

We’re in MVP (minimum viable product) territory at the moment with VR but watch this space! As the technology matures, I see very little reason why every office and home in the developed world wouldn’t have at least one virtual reality gadget in the next five years.

Having said all this, even with the technology where it is today, we’ve seen that in the right hands with the right content, there are some awe-inspiring experiences being created. Here at Allez! Studio, we’re already using VR to open doors for brands to deliver exciting stunts, tell stories or convey data in new and different ways.

Do you think it will ever be so normal people have VR rooms in their houses instead of TVs? If so, on what time-scale?
I see them being used anywhere you’d currently find a computer. On the scale of mainstream usefulness, VR probably sits close to the tablet. By this I mean way less popular than mobile phones, but close to TV and tablet adoption with at least one per home or office.

VR is essentially just another way of interacting with the virtual world that is more revolutionary than new screen sizes and way more powerful than add ons like 3D glasses or 4K TV. This is about enjoying content in a completely immersive and attentive way to the point where you may feel like you’re somewhere else.

The big question isn’t about where and when people will use the technology, but about what brands and broadcasters are going to produce. We hope it means more immersive and engaging content that will change people’s perceptions and expectations.

What do you think the ‘moral panic’ (e.g., sexting, cyberbullying, mobiles frying your brain) about VR will be? (if you agree there will be one). And if so, when do you think it will begin?
Mild panic (mainly from the mainstream media) will ensue when adoption levels rise to mainstream proportions. Issues like sexting and cyber bullying aren’t a particularly new problem, however these new tech advances could potentially produce more harmful effects.

The main concern will be around how comfortable people are with immersing themselves in another virtual world and how they handle that balance. We’ll be confronted with things like acting as another person, which whilst it’s not a new possibility in our digital era, will now allow more opportunity for people to be completely distracted from their actual lives. Ultimately though it will all settle down and people will use it as another fantastic way of communicating and enjoying seamlessly integrated experiences.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about VR you don’t think gets covered enough?
I don’t think people realise how big a deal VR is yet, although that is common with new technology. Whilst it’s not quite as life altering as 3D printing, which will change the world, it’s like a teleportation device you can use without physically going anywhere. Don’t think VR is just about playing games and enjoying films. Think about meeting distant friends from social networks in virtual places and families that are separated across the world being able to be get together again. VR will be one of the first technologies that could make online communication feel more seamless and ultimately more human.

 

This interview originally appeared in IDG Connect. It’s available online at: idgconnect.com