I recall wearing the Oculus DK 1 “Virtual Reality” headset for the very first time in late 2013. Despite the emergence of “wearable tech,” having this chunky device slung over my head was a strange experience. It brought to mind the ill-fated Google Glass, a head-mounted computer that was poorly marketed and ultimately too expensive.
Would VR prove to be more successful?
The earlier signs were good. After a very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, the man behind Oculus - Palmer Luckey - had suddenly become the poster boy for crowdfunding and the face associated with VR.
An improved headset - the Oculus DK 2 – soon followed, before the company grabbed the attention of Facebook in 2014, who saw the potential and acquired Oculus for $2billion. Suddenly more companies started to deploy VR for their businesses – from gaming to news.
So where are we now?
Let’s look at some of the most exciting developments likely to shape the future of this technology:
1. Probably one of the earlier adopters, Marriott Hotels in New York set up VR experience booths for newly-wed couples to experience various honeymoon locations in VR as well as with 4-D effects such as wind, mist, and even a motion platform. This was in September 2014. More and more businesses and clients are beginning to see how their marketing could be so much more immersive.
2. Releasing their first no frills cardboard “VR headsets” for smartphones just three months after Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus in 2014, Google went on to release version 2 the year after - and completely democratized VR for the masses - where you no longer need a high-end desktop computer to power up a tethered VR headset such as the Oculus. Anyone with a smartphone could experience VR through a growing number of VR apps out there.
3. But not just with a Google Cardboard. Besides the Samsung Gear VR that’s already out in the market, Google VR has also introduced “Daydream” - a stylish, fabric-covered headset that comes with their own controller, and powered by Daydream-ready smartphones. This will enable more users to interact with VR content - be it games or VR applications.
4. Speaking of applications, innovations in and around VR experiences are also proving to be more exciting! At the recent SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 event in Macau, an international VR showcase was hosted for the first time - with several academic institutions producing brand new, cutting-edge VR applications for testing and adoption. For the rest of us, these developments could mean that the next wave cutting-edge innovations for VR could well be ‘invented’ anytime - such as eye tracking and recognition, data collection in VR, VR payments, etc. While we are not quite into 2017 yet, avenues for VR experimentations in the new year already looks to be really promising - with possibly the world’s biggest online VR hackathon “Global WebVR Hackathon” - taking place from now till the end of January.
5. And winding up a year of many firsts in VR, the annual Asian Television Forum (ATF) held in Singapore curated its inaugural VR showcase as well; focusing on VR content from participating companies. Besides VR documentaries being distributed for the first time, independent content creators, such as Warrior 9 - has started to produce the region’s first Sci-Fi, animated VR series - The PhoenIX. We can be sure that VR content development and production, especially those serialised for broadcasters, will definitely be something we can look forwards to - come 2017. For many, this brand new “channel” presents not just new forms of storytelling (in VR), but more so - to launch new growth channels where other platforms has become either saturated and/or stagnant.
For the rest of us, here’s to seeing, more virtual (ideas) becoming reality.