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What are the risks of a VR/ AR based business?

by Beth Divine 17 Jan 2019

Augmented reality and virtual reality are the new media for entertainment, and the big boys have waited long enough for the technology to be streamlined enough for there to be a reasonable chance of making good money should they dabble in the new offering.

In the last year, investment in virtual and augmented reality in the entertainment industry topped out close to the two billion dollar mark – which is a lot of money, considering that the technology and its reception by Joe Public is still relatively unknown. ‘Joe Public’ in this case refers to the solid middle mass of the market, not the outliers who immediately invest in anything new, not the tech-heads who crave ever deeper immersion into the cyber/ online world in which they spend much of their time already – rather, it is a designation for ‘normal’ people, those with jobs outside the industry, whose interest in virtual reality will be piqued by the quality of the offerings and the prevalence of reviews from people or institutions that they trust. It is when these people take up a new offering that the ‘big boys’ of any industry become interested in investing – but it is still a huge risk. 3D television looked set to become the next big thing, but on a practical level, it was never going to work – firstly, you need a massive television for the illusion to ‘pop’ – in the UK especially few people have living rooms of a size to justify a 3D sized television, and secondly, you had to wear 3D glasses in order to watch anything – this made many people feel self-conscious and awkward, not to mention the logistics: the number of people who could watch any show was limited by the number of pairs of glasses that came with the television: fine for small families but not so much for big families, or sociable people who often have lots of friends around…

Thus, it could still prove that virtual reality and augmented reality are flash in the pan technologies, enjoying a brief moment of fame and wide spread use before shrinking to a small, specialist market. Creating virtual and augmented reality footage is an expensive and tricky process, requiring many man hours to create just a few minutes of play time. However, a virtual reality headset is already more space conscious than a 3D television, and the technology, by its very nature, is a more private thing, allowing people to retreat to their bedroom, or somewhere secluded, so any self-consciousness about wearing the immersive headset are more easily overcome.

Theatres are investigating the possibility of full body immersion seats which will allow movie viewers to fully experience the sights, smells and feels of the footage they are viewing. Interactive films may also be coming down the pipeline soon: being able to guide the movie while inside the movie environment could be a huge game changer – being able to choose their desired ending to any film could revolutionise the movie industry from the audience’s point of view.