Social VR has been in the news a lot recently. With Facebook’s recent announcement that it has hired a new Head of Social VR, the industry is preparing for social to be a strategic imperative next year.
Looking ahead to Virtual Reality Strategy Conference 2016 on November 1-2 in San Francisco, top industry leaders representing some of the most innovative Social VR companies, including AltspaceVR, Virtually Live, and Mindshow, will speak about how they are preparing their companies for success.
Conference analyst, Alexis Macklin, asked Eric Romo, CEO of AltspaceVR, about technology, social VR, and his future outlook.
1. How will users interact socially on VR?
We expect a dramatic change in the way users interact socially on VR in the next year.
Until recently the social VR market consists primarily of enthusiasts who are at the leading edge of the technology. They are a tech-savvy group who are experiential and experimental. They meet with others online, often strangers, and have as a common bond their interest in VR. Conversations are typically about VR hardware and experiences. They are interested in a high quality experience and tend to have fairly expensive systems, including powerful computers and high end head mounted displays (Oculus Rift or HTC Vive).
However, the market evolving with the availability, lower cost and ease of use of Gear VR. We expect Google Daydream to completely change the makeup of the market. The major mobile device manufacturers are expected to support the Daydream spec, resulting in potentially hundreds of millions of VR-capable mobile devices in 2017. The number of users could increase by an order of magnitude. The profile of this market will be more mainstream, and will more closely match that of the consumer electronics market.
Social interaction will more closely match the preferences of this group.
Enthusiasts have been forging into a new VR spaces, meeting other pioneers that may be there to share their common interest in the future of VR. But mainstream users will use social VR to connect with people they already know (mostly) and do things they would ordinarily do together. Play Dungeons and Dragons with friends, have a round of disc golf, see a comedy show together, hangout and watch a video.
2. What will be different about social interaction on VR compared to current technology?
When you want to really engage with the other person, actually do something and feel like you are together you’ll use VR.
Today, depending on our communication objectives and how we feel in the moment, we may send a text to a friend. It requires a minimum of commitment and engagement. Even though it can be nearly real-time it is just a few written words at a time, you aren’t near the person, can’t see each other and watch for reactions.
Group communications are particularly challenging to current electronic forms of communications, including video chat. For example, a group of people in a conference room can have more than one conversation simultaneously. This is impossible using video chat, but feels quite normal in VR.
There is not much you can actually do when communicating with current technology. When people are together they can play a game of Dungeons and Dragons, or chess, or draw, or have a catch. Not possible using current electronic communication but you can do these things and much more together in VR.
What we believe will be transformative is the feeling that you are actually with another person in VR. Even with the best video conferencing technology, people do not generally feel as if they are truly together, yet in VR this feeling is common.
3. What is the most exciting potential of virtual reality to you?
Our vision is to develop VR as a new communications medium. It has the possibility to be the most unifying technology ever. To allow people to overcome geographical, economic and other barriers to be able to connect, from wherever they are in the world, communicate and really feel as if they are together is something that no technology has been able to achieve. VR alone has this exciting potential.
To hear from Eric Romo and other topic industry thought leaders, purchase your ticket to VRS while you still can!