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What Ever Happened To Virtual Reality?

The-Makegood.com_LynnseyBy: Lynnsey Rijos

We all know the rules of supply and demand. The success of a product or brand is dependent upon the demand in the market. The demand for virtual reality (VR) technology, however, does not seem to be high. While millennials and the subsequent generation are the first to embrace this innovation, VR does not seem to be gaining the same momentum as one would expect. You’re probably thinking, “How could that be?” especially when technology plays such a major role in how people function and entertain themselves nowadays. But in reality (no pun intended), VR is still a questionable, “experience.”

While VR is not a new concept, it is primarily associated with the gaming industry – even though it is widely used in education, the military, and sports. In gaming, virtual reality makes the most sense, as it allows players to immerse themselves into the 3D gaming world. When you remove the gaming aspect from the equation, VR does not seem plausible or convenient for many consumers. Similar to Google Glass, the concept of virtual reality is appealing, yet the actual functionality of such a device is not. There was much excitement when Google Glass was brought to market, where most of the hype was around the innovation of the device. But in the end, the device wasn’t practical and interest waned.

Nevertheless, moving beyond gaming is slowly coming to fruition where different verticals are testing the waters, especially following the announcement of Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus in 2014. This opened the door for companies and investors to take notice and make VR a commercial product. But there still isn’t much buzz or enthusiasm around the idea.

Both The New York Times and Sports Illustrated took advantage of VR technology, and introduced their readers to a new interactive 360 experience; likely an attempt to jump start the VR train, as well as to save a presumably “dying” vehicle. CNN took the same approach from a TV perspective by streaming the U.S. Democratic Presidential debate for the 2016 election live to Samsung’s Gear VR. Owners of the device users a different off-screen experience. It was met with mixed reviews, however. While some appreciated the experience, others were not satisfied with the overall technology, yet another instance of functionality trumping genuine interest.

Will this trend continue and eventually dominate the entertainment industry? Not likely to happen in the immediate future, but let’s face it, aside from bringing a twinkle to the eye of any sci-fi fanatic, virtual reality is the future, and has the potential to become a household item. Relevance, accessibility and cost are all variables that need to be addressed before virtual reality can catch on.

Ultimately the interest exists, but the challenge is retaining that interest and building that demand.