VR could be in danger of peaking too early

When James Cameron’s Avatar was released, the world cheered as it heralded a new era of 3D cinema – but it wasn’t to be.

Although the technology seemed to be potentially ground-breaking, it didn’t take off as anticipated; the need to wear 3D glasses was a user-experience barrier, and arguably led to users struggling to suspend their disbelief, which is key to enjoying any immersive experience.

We’re currently at a similar inflection point with VR.

There has been a lot of talk about VR for the last few years, but it is yet to be fully adopted by the mainstream. Indeed, most of the population doesn’t yet own a VR headset and significant numbers have never even tried it out. A lot of this comes down to the cost and availability of hardware as initially hardware was prohibitively priced for the masses. Although headsets are becoming increasingly more affordable (Facebook recently dropped the price of the Oculus Rift) the vast majority of people are using their smartphones, not headsets, to experience immersive content.

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We need to take a step back and reassess analysing headset & hardware sales as an indication of how the industry will fare. Rather, it requires a more holistic view on how people are engaging with content and the apparent rise in desire for immersive experiences.

Ever since the Lumière brothers inadvertently made 19th century cinema audiences jump out the way of a speeding train humans have looked to be immersed. The popularity of experiential events like Secret Cinema show people want to be part of the story. Given on average we spend 145 minutes a day on our phones it’s no surprise that mobile is the go to platform for new content experiences.

Recent data from AOL shows that more than half of us (52 percent) now watch 360° video on mobile at least once a week and over half a billion people have viewed a 360? video on Facebook. Due to its immediate availability on social media, 360° video is not only highly accessible but also innately sharable. Consider 360? video as the stepping stone between the fixed frame and fully immersive content.

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As VR headset adoption picks up, it is imperative that brands and publishers focus on 360° video first, making content that is sharable and begging to go viral – for the mobile many, and not the VR headset few.

Written by Blend Media founder and CEO Damian Collier.

For more on 360° video content, check out our feature on how 360° video projection is created and why it’s worth your time.

For more on AR and VR check out:

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