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?
HS: Gaming continues to drive consumer adoption and continued use of VR hardware. The definition of games is also blurring as entertainment and education content integrates game mechanics, interactivity, and collaboration. While consumer VR growth has been slower than expected, enterprise training and education are ramping up as large corporations such as Walmart are using VR to train employees for the holidays, Fidelity Investments to train employees in customer service, and the NFL to train their athletes.
2. What applications for VR make it a game changer in the tech sphere?
HS: The most fascinating thing about VR technology is that we are moving into a new paradigm of spatial computing where it will be less about sitting at a desk and interfacing with a screen and buttons and more about moving your body in 3D space the way we naturally do when we interact with the physical world. Through these embodied experiences in VR, the user develops muscle memory as they move through simulations, games, and virtual spaces. Applications that take advantage of these fundamental shifts in human-computer interaction are the game changers and that can happen across all industries.
3. What is, in your opinion, the industry in which VR has the greatest disruptive impact?
HS: VR is incredibly disruptive to the arts, design, and production industries. With the ability to develop and share projects in a natural 3D space, VR reduces costs, increases collaboration and the speed of development in industries like architecture, manufacturing, and entertainment. Imagine an architect designing the next high rise hotel, not from a pad of paper or a computer screen, but in a virtual environment where they can literally stand next to the building and change it as if it was a giant construction of legos.
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?
HS: The VR industry has evolved less rapidly in terms of consumer adoption given the expectations set by analysts and press since 2014 when Facebook acquired Oculus for over $2 billion. While there are consistent technical improvements in resolution, tracking, and mobility around every 12 months, there are still a lot of user experience issues in getting a headset or using it. On the purchasing end, whenever family and friends come to me for recommendations my reply begins with a series of questions asking if they already own any of the compatible devices needed to power a VR headset whether that is a gaming PC, Samsung phone, Pixel phone, or PS4. There are over 10 headset choices and the difference between each of them isn’t super clear to folks who aren’t deeply familiar with the technical details. On the user end, owning a headset likely means that you have a ton of cable management and regular updates. These reasons are why I am incredibly excited about the next evolution of VR headsets that move toward all-in-one devices (computing and headset in one) and are mobile (wireless).
5. What do you see as the most difficult-to-overcome limitations for VR?
✅People won’t use VR regularly until it’s something you can throw on as casually as sunglasses and as easy to use at a moment’s notice as picking up your phone 📱
It needs to be mobile, lightweight, and it needs to just work. Right now, the headsets are uncomfortable for more than 15-20 minutes and are cumbersome to set up.
6. What’s the future of VR?
HS: The trajectory of VR is moving toward flexibility between being fully immersed in a virtual reality and being interactive with the physical world and people around you (augmented or mixed reality). This is the promise that Magic Leap, a company that has raised over $2 billion in venture capital is creating and has released a Creator Portal and SDK for in March 2018. I am excited about a future where I can jump into VR as easily as I can pick up my phone. In the short term, there’s nothing more important for the adoption of VR than people having their own first-hand experiences with the technology. Location-based VR entertainment centers create a safe and easy space for people to try the best of the technology and content in VR. Great examples of this are Disneyland Anaheim’s The Void’s Star Wars experience and Los Angeles’ Westfield Century City mall Dreamscape Immersive experience. In the past years, the industry has experimented with cardboard headsets and VR viewers which give people the sense that the content is all around them in 360; however, to understand the current innovation and future potential, the best VR experiences are delivered in the headsets with a high price tag.
About Helen Situ
Helen Situ is an entrepreneurial product marketer with an extensive background in virtual reality and immersive technologies. She was one of the first employees at NextVR, a leading VR company focused on live entertainment where she led the launch of the company's Gear VR application in 2014, drove social media strategy, and secured partnerships for the Oculus Connect live broadcast in 2015 and 2016. Situ founded Virtual Reality Pop, a publication on immersive technology with over 17,000 subscribers. Helen has spoken at industry conferences such as Games Developers Conference, Comic-Con, Slush, World News Media Congress, BroadwayCon and has been featured by USA Today, Voices of VR, and Yahoo Tech. Helen sits on the advisory board for SXSW Accelerator.