I believe that one of the biggest challenges we face today with VR/AR is that people in the industry like to focus on the limitations, not the opportunities. Now, to be fair, we do that with lots of things, but in the case of VR, we're setting the story that will either help or hinder us in the future. I'm not suggesting that we hype things that can't be done, that's hurt VR in the past too. Just that we need to lead with the positive. Even Cirque du Soleil generally regards limitations as means to find their best creative solution (see link below for their book that discusses that issue.)
Yet, as I talk to people in the VR space today or attend VR events, I hear lots of discussions about the limitations of the technology. How people get motion sickness, how the headmounts aren't good enough or the computers are too slow to do the really creative things we want to do. Lots of talk about how when the tech gets to where it should be, we'll see really cool experiences being developed then.
But imagine where we were 25+ years ago. The computers were the size of small desks and not nearly as powerful as what we have today. Here's the first VR game system that was commercially available. Just look at those graphics from the game.
And yet, after doing tens of thousands of demos using that system, I had very few people complain about the tech. The vast majority came out of the game excited and enthusiastic about the promise of the tech. They could see the vision. Yes, they would sometimes ask about the graphics or technology, but mainly they were excited.
Here are my thoughts:
- Let's stop making excuses about the tech. It is what it is and it will certainly get better as time goes on. It always does. But, if we keep saying that we can't make great content until the tech gets better, we're just pushing off the opportunity to engage. Think about what content you want to create and then shape it based on the tech that's available. Be creative in terms of how you deliver it.
- Let's focus on making great content. Above anything else, that will drive need and adoption. As you can see by the Dactyl Nightmare image, we didn't have great visuals back then. But people enjoyed the game, especially since it involved other players. It was easy to understand and it was fun. It helped people to see the possibilities.
- In all of the years that I have given demos of VR, I've never had anyone get sick. And that includes 18 months on the road for Cutty Sark and an installation at Pleasure Island at WDW in Orlando. Yes, a small percentage of the audience will get motion sickness. And badly done content will certainly have an impact on how people feel when they're in the experience. But as a whole, I've never experienced it as the problem I've heard people talk about. So, stop talking about it.
- Bring in the other senses. I really loved what what they did with The Walk (see link below), adding some wind and making you walk on the wire. The more senses you can bring into the experience, the more real it becomes. Jackie is working on smell, talk to her about what she's doing and how the sense of smell creates a whole new layer to the experience.
One big thought that I have is this. While it's great to start with people who have a film background, we need to get outside that industry. For example, people who have come from the theme park industry have extensive experience in engaging the whole guest. The big arcade experience back then were the Virtual World Entertainment centers. While you went into a pod to play the actual game, they created full stories around their experience, before, during and after you played. Just bringing people into a space with lots of VR systems won't cut it in the very near future. Bring in set designers and folks from themed entertainment and see how they would change your experience.
The key is being open to all of the skills out there needed to create great experiences. Again, it's not about the limitations, it's about possibilities. I have absolutely no doubt that VR will be successful and I'm looking forward to seeing how we can start unlocking it's great potential!
Some additional exploration