Monday Musings: The Calm Before The Storm?

Blog Posts ,Random Musings ,Virtual Reality
November 23, 2015

Welcome to Monday Musings! These are are shorter-form, note-like blog posts that I share that may or may not be related to VR/AR, but that I want to share some quick thoughts on, get some extra insight on, or share out quickly.

This week’s Monday Musings are a little bit more abstract in nature. First confession: I’m not writing this on a Monday. It’s actually Wednesday – the day the Gear VR Best Buy shipping notices have begun to land in inboxes of those who preordered. The end of Q4, 2015 is rapidly approaching with just a few weeks to go, and there’s still no sign of the “limited release” Vive headsets, but the frequently touted “Q1 2016” – the sweet spot for the Rift and PlayStation VR, is also just around the corner. The DK 2 went out of stock last month – so here were are, in the calm before the storm.

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Enthusiasts in the rapidly-growing VR industry have seen an amazing influx of content over the past several months, and new games are being released daily for Cardboard and GearVR Innovator edition devices. 360 degree videos are being shared on YouTube and Facebook, and I’ve started getting more and more interest from my friends and family around what I work on. The general public is taking notice and we’re about to see this ecosystem take off – hopefully in a massive way.

When I talk about VR with people outside of the tech industry, a lot of them immediately have their eyes light up and they tell me, in depth, of ways that they could imagine VR or AR impacting their lives or their own industries. We’re starting to see this technology taking root in 360 video content and immersive experiences, but it’s just the tip of a massive iceberg.

This is fundamentally going to change the way we interact with technology and data forever.

Evangelizing VR

I’m a VR/AR evangelist by trade, but I wanted to share a few tips today for fellow enthusiasts who may also start getting more and more questions about VR/AR as the main players prepare to launch their HMDs broadly.

Tip #1: It is OK to show someone an experience with Cardboard.

This may be controversial, but I’m going to stick to it. No, this type of experience isn’t going to have the wow factor of full room tracking, but I’ve sat down with a number of people who haven’t tried anything at all, period. When my primary phone was a Nexus 5, I’d usually have a Cardboard on hand. In this situation, when someone was genuinely interested, I’d explain to them the different types of VR at a high level (desktop v. mobile) and show them Windy Day. I would also talk about some of the different types of content (again, clarifying the difference between a 360 degree video, truly immersive content, etc.) and on many occasions would watch them order their own Cardboard from Amazon on the spot. Not bad for a first time experience!

Tip #2: Have a couple of potential demos

This might not be entirely feasible (I know how large VR apps can be) and when in doubt, I tend to use Netflix, because it’s something almost everyone can instantly see the appeal of, but it’s really nice to have two or three experiences that you can showcase depending on the person’s interest. I try to keep several options on hand because I know my kid cousins will go ape over a game or *gasp* roller coaster, but my older relatives prefer something calming, like Guided Meditation, The Blu, or the aforementioned Windy Day. Having a demo that someone is more likely to enjoy is a great way to open up the conversation about other ways that VR might be relevant for their own lives.

Tip #3: Be honest about the technology

Only the bravest of my friends have been subject to my philosophical ramblings on the very future-future implications of virtual reality technologies, but I dial it back to today for the general public and make sure that I’m presenting the technology honestly. Yes, having tracked hands is AWESOME and makes the experience a million more times immersive – but just like a drug, the longer you use newer peripherals and higher quality HMDs, the less effect lower-end solutions do it for you.

Don’t underestimate that people who have never tried the Vive or DK 2 will have the same level of expectation that you do.

Be honest about the limitations and talk up your own experiences in an open way, but don’t go into the demo explaining that it’s “basically not even VR” to someone without a frame of reference to anything else.

On the flip side of that, you probably shouldn’t be telling people that it’s “literally just like The Matrix” either.

Tip #4: Make it Personal

This is almost 100% guaranteed to come up every time I mention VR in a conversation – people want to know how I got started in the industry. Make your connection to VR technology personal – even if you don’t think you’re a great storyteller or that it’s interesting! I found my way in through an amazing YouTube video that completely changed my life – you never know who will be inspired by your stories, especially if you’re really passionate about how VR can change the world.

An Oculus demo with kids at an event

Photo by @odd_dimensions (Justin Smith) on Twitter – several children enthralled by KittenVR, even though it was a developer build running on a laptop! 

Like so many of you reading, I’ve been overjoyed to see the growth in the industry over the past year, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. I want to hear what you’re expecting as the calm before the storm – tweet me @misslivirose and share your thoughts and ideas!

 

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