As Virtual Reality Hits Its Stride, Experts Weigh In on Its Potential (Part 2)

By Nancy Lazarus Comment

Samsung VR Tunnel3 CroppedLately, the outlook of those in the virtual reality industry has turned bullish, and this optimism was on display at Digital Hollywood’s recent Media Summit in New York. Panelists representing media outlets, broadcasters, tech companies and VR firms assessed what’s at stake and what the future holds.

New VR experiences are being launched on a regular basis. The Martian produced a VR video and the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival will host many VR offerings. The newly opened Samsung 837 store in New York’s Meatpacking District features a VR tunnel and 4D chairs that simulate action as a DJ plays tunes such as “We love the bump.”

Part 1 explored virtual reality’s past, audience size, product gear, industry applications and media projects. Below are 5 more takeaways from the Media Summit related to content, user experience, the editing process, corporate sponsors and future prospects for brands or clients that may be considering entering the VR space.

1. Compelling and common sense content is key

“VR should produce content that makes sense,” said Ken Todd, vp of video strategy at Showtime Networks. That means compelling yet subtle stories and a succinct user journey, with typical viewing times ranging from 5 to 10 minutes.

“Ongoing trial and error and experimentation is par for the course,” said Aaron Luber, head of partnerships at Google Cardboard. But as Tony Mugavero, CEO of Littlestar pointed out, it’s still better to prepare a slate of content, not one-offs.

Samsung DJ2 Final2. VR’s user experience is becoming more Interactive and social

“We’re using technology to remind us that we’re still humans,” said Justin Bolognino, founder and CEO of META. VR’s appeal lies in offering an emotionally driven narrative and a 360 degree immersive setting.

“Consumers are still acclimating to VR but so far it’s been a solitary viewing experience,” observed Steven Haft, svp of innovation at Time Inc. Given the latest offerings VR is changing from an individual to a more communal experience. With the AltspaceVR app (that runs on Samsung Gear, Oculus and Desktop), social connections and interactivity are being highlighted more, noted Andrew Klein, associate director of social experience at MediaVest.

3. Editing and production issues are being resolved

Roadblocks to VR are disappearing, since the technology is advancing. Earlier versions of headsets often led to user dizziness, caused by the creator either waving the camera or dropping a frame when shooting. Nowadays the editing and production process tends to be more seamless.

Sydney Levin, executive producer at The New York Times’ T Brand Studio, added that VR creators need to let go of trying to control the viewer experience and acknowledge that each user comes away with a unique perspective.

4. While advertisers are intrigued, caveats remain

So far major brands like Land Rover, Dos Equis, Gatorade and American Express have made VR ads, some using celebrity athletes. However brands and clients considering VR projects shouldn’t get involved just for tech’s sake.

“The supply of VR content has been driven by advertisers and companies willing to overspend, given the limited distribution and reach to date,” said Haft. After viewing a VR ad, it also became clear that VR projects shouldn’t be overly branded or push logos in viewers’ faces.

Samsung VR Tunnel Sign Final5. Forecasts appear favorable for VR’s future

Not surprisingly, those involved in VR foresee bright prospects and say they’ve just scratched the surface. “VR will find its place with the mass consumer availability of technology,” said Alex Krawitz, svp content development at Firstborn. Jeff Nicholas, co-founder and president of The Uprising Creative, agreed, adding there’s great potential since everyone has smart phones.

The panelists’ predictions about the ways VR will be used ranged from the everyday to the exotic: talking with one’s daughters in college, teleporting via meditation to faraway places and setting up VR dens at home for viewing enjoyment.

“People say 2016 will be a breakout year for VR despite the apparent limits,” said Jake Silverstein, New York Times Magazine’s editor in chief. “Now we’re moving beyond the experimental phase as we continue figuring out what readers use VR for.” (The Times’ VR slogan: ‘see for yourself’) “Overall we’ve realized VR is here to stay.”

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