As we enter 2015 an awful lot of people seem to be getting very excited about the forthcoming VR boom. I do anticipate a VR boom, I just don’t see it really happening this year. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, OpenSim, Kitely, Inworldz are more likely to keep hold of their communities in the short term because, that’s where the communities currently are and the brave new worlds aren’t ready yet.
However some people feel that 2015 will be the year where VR goes big, I’m more in the camp of 2015 being a year of tease and talk rather than mass adoption. However there are new and interesting things on the horizon that will get people interested in VR and they’re not just in games and virtual worlds. Storytelling is a big potential market here as is live music and theatre performances.
Peter Diamindis over at the singularity hub is, not surprisingly, excited about the future of VR : These 11 Technologies Will Go Big in 2015 :
Expect a lot more action on the virtual and augmented reality front. 2014 saw the $2B acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook. In 2015, we’ll see action from companies like Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity (the successor to Second Life), immersive 3D 360-degree cameras from companies like Immersive Media (the company behind Google’s Streetview), Jaunt, and Giroptic. Then there are game changers like Magic Leap (in which Google just led a $542 million investment round) that are developing technology to “generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world.” Oculus, the darling of CES for the past few years, will be showing its latest Crescent Bay prototype and hopefully providing a taste of how its headset will interact with Nimble VR’s hand- and finger-tracking inputs. Nine new VR experiences will be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year, spanning from artistic, powerful journalistic experiences like Project Syria to full “flying” simulations where you get to “feel” what it would be like for a human to fly.
I’m certainly a big fan of the direction High Fidelity are heading in and with the platform being so open, there’s a lot of potential for people to grasp hold of it, but I think High Fidelity is also a good example of how much ground work has to be done before people adopt. I’m excited about the future of High Fidelity and I certainly expect to see a lot more people experiencing and talking about High Fidelity in 2015 but I don’t see many thousands of people leaving Second Life for High Fidelity just yet.
Over at AD Week Christopher Heing is talking about marketing creativity with VR : How Oculus Rift Is About to Reshape Marketing Creativity Brands are enamored with the potential of 360-degree storytelling. The storytelling angle sold this to me, but the article also talks about Second Life :
Nancy Bennett is a virtual-reality marketing veteran. (Yes, such people actually exist and are about to become hot commodities among talent recruiters.) In the mid-2000s, Bennett had her avatar boots on the Internet-code-built ground of Second Life, constructing cyber experiences for her employer at the time, MTV Networks.
Of course, Second Life never really took off. So with her been there, done that perspective several years later as chief content officer at Two Bit Circus, she does not deal in hyperbole when it comes to the impact the much-hyped virtual reality headset Oculus Rift will have on marketing. Rather, Bennett leans on data. One-third of her agency’s new business in 2014 was powered by the Oculus Rift developer’s kit, helping grow her 2-year-old Los Angeles digital shop from 15 to 35 employees.
When people talk about Second Life never really taking off they’re really talking in terms of mass adoption by the mainstream and that’s something that can’t really be argued with. However the point people miss so often when they talk about brave new worlds is that they recognise that there’s something in virtual communities and communications but they can’t quite figure out what that is. The Oculus Rift may well answer some of the questions, or it may be that the answer is that virtual worlds are simply a niche product. Time will tell.
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