For your first foray into the world of virtual reality entertainment you’re going to need hardware – a VR headset – and combine it with either a smartphone, games console, or high end PC or laptop.
But none of it means anything without something to watch. Something to play. Something to experience.
Virtual reality content are the three key words. Coming in the form of games, immersive video or movies, general experiences in many forms, and apps.
It’ s the content availability,and more importantly it’s scale and quality,that will deliver the best VR experiences. Those that will keep us coming back for more.
Fortunately the VR headset manufacturers know this, so much so that some have issued developer versions of their headsets in advance of commercial launch. The Oculus Rift being a prime example. This early release to developers enabled a handy head start in the development of good quality content.
While gaming has taken the front-seat focus, and most likely will be the first form of VR entertainment to go mainstream, it’s the possibilities in other types of experiences that could eventually ensure that there’s a virtual reality HMD in every home.
- Games & Gaming
- Immersive Experiences
- 360 Video & Movies
- Training & Education
- Apps & Content Stores
- Streaming Services
Games & Gaming
In the field of gaming those well known (and maybe not so well known) manufacturers have been burrowing away developing new built-for-VR games, along with versions of old and more recent blockbusters.
But gaming is the tip of a big iceberg. The potential in delivering virtual reality experiences outside of gaming are near endless.
Immersive Experiences – 360 Degree Video
VR can also be used to deliver other experiences through what’s generally becoming 360 degree video.
Content such as real flying experiences, training, music concerts, and enjoying sports in a new way are either already available or very real items on the agenda for future development. Want to visit a far off country, or watch a ball game in the thick of the action, or ride a roller coaster? VR will put you right there.
The way we watch movies could also ultimately be in for a shake up. Imagine films like Jurassic Park shot in VR, with real dinosaurs all around. Of course that experience is some way off, though trailer type videos giving the terrifying effect are already available to enjoy.
No one wants to be searching different places for content to enjoy, so the early days of VR have seen some collection sites start to grow. It’s likely there will be many more, with the likes of Netflix waiting in the wings. The biggest content libraries were initially pulled together by manufacturers, clearly in a clever attempt to ensure that there is plenty to watch with their headset hardware.
As the industry moved deeper into 2016, other content sources have opened up. Here’s a list of some of the best:
Samsung launched a 360 degree video streaming service known as Milk VR in 2015 to compliment their Gear VR headset.
This collection of VR videos has been building over the last year into a valuable source of material, with many of the highest rated videos covering ‘real-life experience’ type virtual reality experiences.
Top titles include:
Dew VR Snow, live action snowboarding on the slopes of Utah.
The first episode of GONE, a made for VR video which follows a mother’s search for a missing daughter.
The Martian VR Experience, promoting the highly rated 2015 movie.
The Dive, the underwater experience that puts you in among sharks off the Australian coast.
Similar to Samsung and their Milk VR library, Noon have taken the same idea and released the Noon VR app as the place to go for content that works perfectly with the Noon VR headset. Launched with a Las Vegas style fanfare in early 2016, the platform offers access to multiple streams of exclusively mobile VR content.
With the future of user generated content looking bright, Noon are getting in on the act early with an interesting FXGear powered feature which allows high quality content uploads. The app will automatically problems such as image defects, camera lens distortions, misalignment, and 3D video depth. All done with automatic correction software.
Wevr All In One
As each new VR headset gets released – and there are dozens either already on the market or planned – there is a possibility of an uncoordinated jumble of content forming across the different platforms.
Fortunately there’s a firm – Wevr – which has noticed the potential problem and is working on a way to making VR content available across everything.
Wevr are planning a content network known as Transport, where you’ll be able to experience VR irrelevant of which headset you’re using.
VRDB.com offer a platform containing news, reviews, and features, with content developers actively encouraged to post their own developed content.
Games software houses can create accounts and upload their latest game trailers and demos.
Training & Education
VR is not just about entertainment, and when we step out of the realm of games and movies it starts to get very interesting. One area in which there could be a useful use of the technology is in remote/distance training and learning.
There’s little doubt that the big training companies will be looking closely at how they can create virtual reality based training packages, with potential for a wide number of applications around such areas of professional training including surgery, dentistry, building, and many more.
And once it’s proved that motion sickness is not a big problem, there could be even bigger developments in remote or classroom based learning in general. Imagine being able to physically walk round a landmark to learn more about it, or exploring under the sea to learn about sea-life.
Twitch, Vimeo, Hulu, Netflix, and TiVo are all streaming providers who either already have or will have an interest in streaming VR content.
Netflix released a service in late 2015, with Hulu following up in the spring of 2016.
The Hulu app is available from the Gear VR Store, offering subscribers access to 360-degree videos from content providers such as Discovery, National Geographic, and Showtime.
So Will VR Work?
The success of VR relies on multiple factors, with hardware performance at the top of the list. Content availability though is a huge factor, and ultimately that success lies in the hands of content developers rather than hardware manufacturers.
The good news is there is so much that can be done, so many experiences that we have (or wish we could have) in real life, that the options for building them in virtual reality environments won’t ever run out.
One thing is for sure, over the coming years the libraries of VR content will continue to grow exponentially.