Virtual reality is still in the beginning stages as a new medium with challenges ahead. The consumer market is currently small, however UBS predicts that annual device sales will reach roughly 34 million units by 2020, attributing to $6.7 billion hardware sales and 3.3 billion in software sales.
What exactly is virtual reality? The experience can vary from an occurrence that allows people to feel present in an alternative environment; to an augmented reality set in the real world and with virtual objects and information layered into the experience or it can be seen as a spherical or “360-degree view, allowing the viewer to look up, down and around.” Many simply explain that the VR experience as an illusion.
To provide a better understanding of the VR experience, the marketplace and its future, the Knight Foundation partnered with the USA Today Network to produce a full industry analysis. The report, Viewing the Future? Virtual Reality in Journalism examines these core questions and more:
Storytelling: Is VR a new and powerful tool for journalism? Does it have the ability to engage the viewer and provide a fuller experience of the subject matter?
Feedback to VR content is characterized by a more emotional reaction. Consumers report that VR brings them closer to the events and breaks down boundaries allowing you to step inside the story. Still journalists report being challenged to preserve a narrative thread in VR storytelling.
Ethical impact: Does the VR experience alter the authenticity of the information?
Providing a 360-degree of a story offers consequences as well with regard to personal privacy and graphic content.
Market growth: While VR experiences are expected to grow this year, is there enough content being produced to continue momentum?
The production of VR is both timely and costly. In order for VR to establish itself and become more widespread, time and cost must be reduced.
Monetization: How will the medium be monetized? What are the metrics for effective brand messaging and/or sponsorships?
Many digital ad experts do not see VR as a banners and boxes business. They think of VR in terms of creative and custom integrations such as immersive pre-role, native VR and advertorial features and/o product placement.
Importantly, VR is also rooted in real-world applications in medicine, surgery, architecture, and entertainment. Interestingly, nurses found that placing a burn victim in a virtually snow-covered environment can relieve pain; surgeons use VR to practice new techniques and sports coaches use to train athletes in situational assessments. Adoption is key to market growth and many anticipate a convergence to mobile devices will make the mobile virtual reality platform a core part of the VR experience and secure its future.