Published on February 28th, 2018 | by Sunit Nandi0
Why VR is Going Nowhere and Only VR Industry Companies Care
The VR hype-train is at it again, as the industry is proclaiming grand, spectacular things to expect from VR technology over the coming year – the web is bursting with headlines like “VR Trends to be Excited for in 2018”. Yet, despite all of this hype, what we’re supposed to be “excited” for is how much we’re going to be marketed to using VR technology. Ooohhh, a scent-releasing device for VR, so I can smell a Snickers bar commercial? Shut up and take my money! …On second thought, I think I’ll keep my cash.
What we’re basically seeing is the same old hype-train of quarter-fulfilled promises, like when Oculus Rift was first introduced. The key difference being this time around, the VR industry realizes that PC gaming enthusiasts aren’t falling for it, and now they’re trying to sucker in the mainstream crowd. Here’s what is happening – VR sales were extraordinarily disappointing throughout 2017, except perhaps a small increase around Holiday season.
In order to make up for all the money dumped into this beta-stage technology, the VR industry is turning to the mainstream audience, saying “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could shop on Amazon in VR?” – no, no it would not be awesome. Because nobody wants to spend $300 on a product for the sake of browsing virtual stores.
The best-case scenario at this point for the VR industry would be a complete focus on the adult industry, because VR porn is pretty much the only industry making any money from the technology – in fact, industry experts claim that 50% of currently available VR content is porn. Color me surprised – perhaps we’ll see a return of the infamous Times Square peep shows and adult theatres that were so popular in the 1980’s, with VR headsets instead of a one-way window.
(Does anybody else find the humour in VR porn views spiking in December? Teenagers were all too happy to unwrap their gifts this year.)
The truly hilarious thing is that the VR industry is perfectly aware of the fact VR porn is basically driving the industry – and headset manufacturers are taking active steps to block it! Talk about shooting your cash cow. I get that Facebook, Samsung, and HTC don’t want their brands to be associated with porn – but do they really expect the alternative applications of the technology, like “travel & tourism”, to be even half as lucrative? Hmmm, let’s think, what’s more appealing to the average consumer – virtual sex, or virtually “touring” vacation spots? Call me cynical, but I think virtual sex wins. I think virtual sex wins by all the miles I won’t be travelling as a result of being sold a vacation package through VR advertisements.
You know what, I’m going to blow the lid on this whole thing – the VR hype is getting way too out of hand. Do you want to know why there is such a booming job market in the VR industry? Do you want to know why there are so many VR startups receiving ridiculous amounts of funding?
Because VR startups are an easy cash-grab.
Imagine it like this – you’re an app startup company. You need funding, so you need to pitch your company to venture capitalists. You walk into a boardroom and you start talking about your apps, projected revenue estimates, all of that stuff. And everyone in the room is yawning and checking their Facebook messages. And then you say, “Oh, and we want focus on VR apps”. And the venture capitalists respond like this:
Are you starting to see the picture? The VR industry is a circlejerk. Thus, the only people “excited” about VR are the people working in the VR industry – because investors are throwing unholy amounts of cash at them, for a technology that is basically going nowhere for at least 20 years.
Honestly, Erlich Bachmann from the hilarious HBO series Silicon Valley perfectly sums it up in this clip:
“[VR]…That’s the frothiest space in the Valley right now. Nobody understands it but everyone wants in. Any idiot could walk into a room, utter the letters ‘V’ and ‘R’, and V.C.’s would hurl bricks of cash at them.” – Erlich Bachman
Does that mean investors are wasting their money? Not necessarily… though probably. It could be a smart long-term investment, if you own shares in a VR company that still exists when VR isn’t actually horrible.
“But what about AR? VR is going nowhere, but surely AR is showing promise?” you might be asking at this point. The answer is simply – No. Despite the industry’s attempts at distinguishing the two technologies, and the industry touting AR as the success where VR has failed, AR/MR (augmented reality/mixed reality) is currently the equivalent of Photoshopping things into real life. TheVerge.com summed it up perfectly in “AR has inherited all the hype and promise of VR”.
Let me share an anecdote before I end this article – before Christmas, my 12-year-old nephew really wanted a VR headset, which my sister bought him. About 2 weeks after Christmas, I asked him how he was enjoying the VR. To which he replied, and this is the best he could say about it – “Well, I can download free apps….”. I forced a smile and nodded understandingly. But, not wanting him to feel like he just discovered Santa Clause isn’t real (which he already knows, I’m making a simile), I told him that WebVR is showing some promise, and browser-based games like Scrap Metal and Short Life are worth checking out in VR. Actually, despite my own raging cynicism about VR in general, I do think car racing games in VR are pretty cool.
And that, my friends, sums up the state of VR for years to come. Porn, smell-o-vision Snickers commercials, and car racing games. Woohoo!