The biggest, buzziest tech right now has got to be virtual reality. With the release of so many headsets onto the market recently – Vive, Google Cardboard, Oculus, Gear, to name a few – your average consumer, for the first time, has access to VR technology.
But what will they watch? There’s now a scramble to create content that goes beyond short and gimmicky. VR can’t live forever on five minute short films alone.
It was recently revealed that Amazon is looking into creating VR content. Amazon Studios, the mega-retailer’s entertainment business, is reportedly building up an in-house VR team. Online streaming site Hulu launched its VR app last March (a tad behind schedule) and also debuted a short VR film.
Media companies are investing in VR technology businesses, according to The New York Times. HBO, Discovery Communications, and Liberty Media recently invested in special effects startup Otoy. Discovery also launched Discovery VR, its virtual reality app that features short clips from its television shows (VR sharks, anyone?).
Disney also previously invested in camera maker Jaunt, and now it will also be using Nokia’s 360-degree cameras to create VR content, too. (The company has already used VR – although with a different camera – for the recently released Jungle Book.)
But not everyone is convinced that VR content makes sense right now. Netflix’s Reed Hastings told VentureBeat that the VR experience for an entire movie might be overwhelming. Plus, as Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos points out, the market share for VR is so small right now that it’s difficult to justify spending a lot of money developing content, especially as the technology is so new. At the moment, Netflix doesn’t have plans to develop VR productions.
In fact, the first real taste of VR for many could very well be at work. Surprised? Microsoft’s chief marketing officer has even said that the company “underestimated the commercial interest” in VR technology. But many industries have been quick on the uptake – they have the money to acquire the technology and perhaps a more pressing need than pure entertainment.
But before we can get too excited about seeing new Hollywood blockbusters via VR, the hardware is going to need some improvements before it becomes ubiquitous. Most home-level computers don’t have the power for VR, and the sets themselves aren’t inexpensive, either. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey says we should give it a decade before we see really inexpensive hardware. That’s going to take some design chops; we might see headsets quickly replaced by devices that are lighter and less clunky than what’s out there now.
Some analysts have revised VR market predictions downward. Plus, there are some disgruntled Oculus pre-order customers out there, as the headset’s delivery window has been pushed back again. (Oculus says it’s due to a component shortage.) Oculus certainly isn’t the only VR headset company that’s had production and shipment delays.
So while the early adopters anxiously wait for their pre-orders to arrive, it looks like most consumers will wait until there’s a really compelling reason to invest in VR. We’re just not there yet.
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