This post is part of our new VR Influencer series where we interview the world's leading VR experts to get their take on the state of the industry, the top trends to watch for, and what the future holds.
1. What are the top trends you have noticed in VR?
GK: The top trend is the ability to achieve a scale in distribution, which is something that did not exist a year ago. For virtual reality, there has certainly been an increase in headset sales and usage, but the big strides have been driven by the ability to consume 360 content on mobile and social platforms even without a headset. However, we think about VR as a part of a larger spectrum of immersive (“XR”) content that includes augmented reality, mixed reality, six degrees of freedom or “6DoF,” location-based content, interactive narratives, etc. The recently launch of ARCore and ARKit in the Android and iOS mobile operating systems now means that almost every consumer is always carrying an XR consumption device. This new scale has enabled media companies, sports leagues, and even brands to start experimenting with immersive storytelling as a way to bring fans closer, create more engaging narratives and drive sales.
A secondary trend is the embrace of gaze-based or interactive data that is available in the consumption of XR content but not available in traditional flat video. The data has already proven that XR content is, not surprisingly, more engaging, leads to more social sharing and results in greater brand recall and affinity.
As a result of these two trends nearly every media company now has XR offerings for both their brand clients and consumers. Subsequently XR content, as a percentage of total production and consumption, will continue to exponentially increase.
2. What applications for VR make it a game changer in the tech sphere?
✅ XR content is the first storytelling genre that actively requires input from the sensors in mobile devices to drive the narrative. 📲
VR headsets and mobile consumption of 360 videos use the device’s gyroscope and accelerometer. AR uses the phone’s GPS and camera. As storytellers begin to understand the rich data they have access to and think about how to use that data to structure to personalize and potentially branch narratives, we are going to see the emergence of a robust set of new storytelling paradigms.
Additionally, the increasing capabilities of machine learning will allow us to apply technology to tell stories, particularly in AR. Jaunt is working on several applications where the ability to tell a three-dimensional story delivered in AR requires the leveraging of machine learning and cognitive neural networks that would have been impossible as recently as 1-2 years ago.
3. What is, in your opinion, the industry in which VR has the greatest disruptive impact?
GK: Because well-produced XR content can transport the consumer to a different place and can heighten emotion, XR is an obvious application for the travel industry. XR technology is equally applicable during the purchase decision and to relive an adventure afterwards. Immersive experiences also create emotion and intimacy and therefore reinforce things that we are already passionate about. As a result, XR works great for sports and music.
On the more practical side, we agree with the general consensus that XR content naturally lends itself to training, therapy and driving big ticket purchases (real estate, auto, etc).
4. Would you say that the VR industry is evolving as rapidly as you anticipated, less rapidly, or about as expected? What makes you say this?
GK: It is a hallmark that almost all new technologies are overhyped and then fail to meet the early hysteria. They eventually develop at a pace consistent with the technical adoption curve and new consumer behavior patterns that are necessary. XR adoption has, and will, generally follow an adoption curve similar to the other more established media platforms like television, internet, mobile, streaming, etc.
Like many new technologies, one of the big hurdles to adoption is standards. Today, anyone that wants to publish VR content to all scaled browser, mobile operating systems, social platforms and headsets must support more than 35 file formats and media profiles. These lack of standards create a market opportunity for Jaunt since we handle all of these inconsistent formats seamlessly for our platform customers, but standardization over time will drive adoption.
5. What do you see as the most difficult-to-overcome limitations for VR?
GK: For VR, in particular, there are three improvements that will help drive adoption:
(1) Better hardware in the form of more comfortable, less expensive and less isolating HMDs.
(2) Easier content discovery
(3) The addition of social components to the consumption experience.
6. What’s the future of VR?
GK: As immersive content matures it will be increasingly integrated into the mainstream media landscape, and on a global scale. It will be integrated to the point where consumers will not distinguish between all of the different formats. Consumer experience will seamlessly flow between traditional linear, 2D content and VR, AR, MR, and 6DoF, and will all just be a part of the narrative experience.
About George Kliavkoff
As a recognized leader in traditional and digital media, George Kliavkoff is responsible for scaling Jaunt globally. Kliavkoff joined Jaunt from Hearst Corporation where he served as co-president of Entertainment & Syndication, Hearst’s largest operating division responsible for Hearst's interests in cable television networks, including ESPN, Lifetime, A&E and History; television production and distribution; and merchandise licensing. Kliavkoff also served as president of Hearst Ventures, which makes strategic investments in companies operating at the intersection of media and technology.
Prior to Hearst, Kliavkoff was chief digital officer at NBC Universal, where he was among the team responsible for the creation and launch of Hulu.com. He was Hulu's first leader and served on the JV's board. Kliavkoff vastly expanded NBCU's digital media strategy, developing new business models and markets and overseeing the distribution of video and other products and services across digital platforms.
Prior to NBCU, he was an executive vice president for Major League Baseball Advanced Media where he oversaw MLB's online and mobile subscription and licensing businesses as well as all business development.
He earned his BA from Boston University and his JD from the University of Virginia.