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Virtual reality may be the buzziest tech of 2016, but it hasn’t hit critical adoption levels quite yet. Despite its recent advancements, VR seems to many casual observers like a clunky throwback to ’80s science fiction. Setups like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR require large headsets and, in some cases, a wired connection. Less feature-rich smartphone VR options are a nice introduction to the medium, but when it comes to true immersion, users are thirsty for more.
For hardcore gamers, VR’s immersive capabilities are well worth the wallet-draining, laborious setup. Regular consumers, however, don’t have much need for the headaches — both literal and figurative — and most households won’t drop up to $1000 on what amounts to a novelty or fad.
As makers of VR devices and content try to capture a larger audience, these drawbacks pose two problems. The technology is not yet where it needs to be, and, as a consequence, there is not enough content aimed at the non-gamer audience. What does this mean for the future of VR, and how can tech marketers convince the average consumer to finally get excited about this new tech?
More Than Strapping a TV to Your Face
Google and Microsoft have begun to gear their VR offerings (Daydream and Hololens, respectively) toward augmented reality and data-reliant functionality. These platforms aim to redefine the human relationship with technology on a more practical level, which will be the key to capturing a demographic outside the Call of Duty crowd. When VR can provide relevant functionality to everyday consumers, the medium will hit the mainstream — and hit it hard.
To prepare for the next step in the VR revolution, marketers and developers must keep three things in mind as they create their technology:
- Ditch the devices that don’t make sense.
Your technology must match your target demographic, and not all devices will speak to your needs. A fitness-based app that transforms a spin class into the Tour de France probably doesn’t belong on Playstation VR. Choose one of the more flexible, less feature-intensive technologies on the market for something like this — and don’t assume that same technology will appeal to gamers with $2000 PCs.
- Quiet down the bells and whistles.
Interfaces and controls must be intuitive to be usable. You can’t see your hands when you’re wearing a VR device, so an interface based on taps and swipes will lead to an innocent bystander getting slapped in the face. Working in voice commands is an easy way to improve functionality while lowering the learning curve. Similarly, eye-tracking commands that allow users to select options with a glance open up VR to even the most technophobic consumer.
- Downplay the R in VR.
Overly realistic environments are great, but they can also lead to overly realistic vomiting. Shaky movements and blurry graphics can lead to eye strain, motion sickness, and serious headaches. Know your audience, and keep necessary movement to a minimum — that way, users can accomplish their goals in the virtual world without accidentally reenacting The Exorcist in their living rooms.
VR technology has already begun to creep in to the public consciousness. As VR becomes useful to larger demographics, developers and teams that follow these strategies will be better prepared to turn that ’80s sci-fi dream into a reality and set up their studios for long-term success.
Note: We originally listed Hadlee Simons as the author — this has been fixed.