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The virtual world, where will it stop?

Virtual Reality (VR) is a tool that is taking the digital world by storm. The potential for VR to affect the way we experience all forms of entertainment cannot be understated, it offers an easy, quick and affordable means of consumption that means you will never again have to miss out.  

The level of growth the world of VR will experience depends on a number of factors. The interest of the general population is essential. Are people ready to take the leap into the new world? It is a question with no simple answer, however if you take a close look at the signs, it has begun. For Laduma, it was a dull October afternoon where the full extent of the public’s interest in VR began to become apparent. 

The NFL were hosting a street party in Regent Street and we were in attendance. The initial plan had been to offer people the chance to try on a VR headset whilst they were queuing to meet a player or learn to throw like a quarter back. However the plan soon took a back seat as hundreds, and then thousands of consumers began to que for the chance to experience VR for the first time.    The audience spanned across all generations. Mums, dads, grandparents and children alike eagerly pulled on a VR headset for the first time and embraced the experience without hesitation. 

All that was required was putting headsets in their hands, people were undoubtedly ready. VR was very much already beginning its journey at this stage, but this was the first test to see how well the public would react. That test was emphatically passed. 

Industry transformer

However, VR remains a very new technology and one in the early stages of its development. Should the technology be perfected, the potential is beyond limitation. Entire industries can be transformed. One such example is the sports industry.  Sports fans will be granted closer access than ever before, and without having to leave the house. 

In fact, users will have a better view of the action than many of the spectators in attendance. It is the transition from live and TV viewing to VR that poses the greatest barrier for the VR industry – and is also the lead priority. From what we have seen at Laduma, the demand is very much present, we just need the technology to catch up. For example football, the most popular broadcast sport in the UK. 

On television, there are multiple cameras set up around the pitch and the picture shown is dictated by a Director throughout the match. Having seen a lot of VR football footage, I can understand how watching football via a headset is disorientating. Once your eyes have adapted to one camera shot, it switches and you have to readjust. One minute the action is moving left to right and the next the ball is moving straight towards you – which is a particularly unpleasant experience. 

The transition from traditional broadcast to VR has been done by directly translating how football is broadcast now, to how it will be done in the future. However it is very apparent that there is far more to consider for the process. Once the process of screening sports via VR is perfected in a way that isn’t disorientating or un-enjoyable for the user – it will be a game changer.   

Unique experience

One such way of solving this issue is to allow the user to have control of the footage they’re watching. Whether by buttons, or hand movements or by tilting the head, giving the user the ability to switch camera angles on demand will allow to user to follow the play in a much more natural, organic way. Each user will experience the match in their own unique way. 

However would this please everybody? It is highly possible that some users will not want to be in control in such a way and will prefer to have this done for them.  The sports industry is just one that will be transformed by VR and the issues it will face are unique to that industry. Live news events, music events, theatre and so many more of the entertainment industries will all have their own potential hurdles to overcome. However, should those problems be ironed out effectively, VR has the potential to completely transform, and there is no limit to the experiences that can be re-produced.    

Additionally to the industry-specific problems that will be experienced, there are things to consider that will affect the VR world as a whole.  The majority of security issues generated by the explosion of VR headsets and experiences can be compared those of standard computer technology. The problem with VR specifically is the sheer size of influx of completely new hardware and software systems and companies que up to enter and compete in the world of VR.     

Regulation is required

The industry is relatively young, therefore there are no set guidelines for things like privacy protection or means of accountability, apart from those laws already outlined for traditional technologies. Furthermore, as new software is forced into the market to gain an advantage over competitors, there is a clear risk of mistakes being made and serious problems being caused.    

There is need for more regulation in the industry and I think it won’t be long until we see security implications regarding Virtual Reality and data collection better represented in law.

At Laduma, we have transported fans to Centre Court at Wimbledon, taken them to Steven Gerrard’s Beverly Hills home and filmed with lions and elephants on the wide open spaces of South Africa. I am not trying to force the merits of VR upon anyone, only demonstrating the vast range of experiences one is able to experience through the medium. However, upon seeing how far the industry has grown since that dull October afternoon on Regent Street, there really is no knowing where the virtual world will stop.

Ben Smith, CEO of VR company, Laduma (opens in new tab)
He is billed to speak at
PROMAXBDA UK 2016 (opens in new tab) ‘The New Normal’ Conference 2016, which takes place on the 3rd November at Here East, London.

Image source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint

Ben Smith is the CEO of VR Company Laduma.