During the last 7 weeks, I was freelancing as an Oculus Rift brand ambassador. That’s a pretty cool title, isn’t it? Well, the title brand ambassador is pretty American. What I actually did was giving product demonstrations to interested customers.
When I saw that a marketing agency was looking freelancers for Oculus Rift I contacted them right away. What a great opportunity to get a first-hand feedback from hundreds of people to an upcoming technology! Here I am, during the last 7 weeks, I gave 126 hours of product demonstrations to approximately 800 customers in a German consumer electronics store. Here is the feedback I received and the lessons I learned about the future of Virtual Reality.
1) Gamers are Excited about VR
Today’s use cases of VR are mostly limited to entertainment and gaming. No surprise that many gamers are very excited about virtual reality. I realized that many gamers read very detailed articles, reports, and tests on different virtual reality headsets. Before some gamers have every tried VR themselves, they already watched several YouTube reviews about the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and the PlaystationVR. This category of hardcore gamers is very likely to adopt to current VR headsets like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, if they haven’t already.
2) Motion Sickness is not a big Topic Anymore
Many people have tried inferior VR headsets before. Some are based on smartphones like the Google Cardboard or Gear VR, others tried prototypes of the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets. Many people reported that they experience motion sickness with earlier devices. After they tested and played a 5-minute Oculus Rift demo all of them were surprised that they didn’t experience motion sickness at all. Still, with every 50 customers, there was one who expressed signs of a headache or dizziness. During my demos, I would estimate the people with motion sickness to around 2%.
3) People Who Experience Motion Sickness Think it is due to the Inferior Technology
In fact, all of the people who experienced motion sickness affiliated it to the inferior technology used in the Oculus Rift. As only 2% of all customers every experienced motion sickness with the Oculus Rift I would say that this is wrong. The real question is whether motion sickness is a result of the (still) early technology or due to the people’s eyes.
4) Cables Suck
Many customers, I estimate 10%, were annoyed of the cable which is still required for virtual reality headsets to work. This is a valid point and I agree with all of the critics. While many were criticizing the cable, some were creative and they said: “Honey, you know what we will do next weekend: wiring USB cables to the ceiling!”.
5) Less than 10% have an Oculus Ready PC
The best virtual reality headsets still require a gaming PC to work. This is one of the biggest obstacles VR is facing today. I estimate that of all customers I served, less than 10 out of 100 people have an Oculus-Ready PC. Nobody I talked to, is willing to buy a new high-end PC to experience Virtual Reality. VR headsets who require a gaming PC will never become a bestseller. The hardware requirements for most people are simply too high.
6) Good VR Headsets are NOT too Expensive
The Oculus Rift is currently selling for 589€ in Germany plus an additional 119€ for the Touch Controllers. I don’t think that the price is too expensive for VR headsets and many customers agree with me. Some even say: “Wow, is it already that cheap? I though it costs 2000€!”. By comparing VR headsets with smartphones we also see that the Oculus Rift is actually a real bargain. A new iPhone or the Google Pixel is selling for around 1000€. You can get the Oculus Rift for 589€. The real reason with VR is the lack of use-cases and social applications besides of gaming.
7) What’s possible beyond of Gaming?
This is a common question which a few customers have asked me. I like these people because it is exactly the same question I asked when I tried several VR headsets for the first time in 2014. For sure, gaming is the first real use-case of VR. But not everyone is a gamer but every human is a social animal. What I learned is that many forward thinking people imagine VR as a place where people from around the world can meet. A social place where people can collaborate, exchange ideas, and socialize with each other. Facebook knew that in 2014 when they acquired Oculus. The future of VR will be based on virtual social interactions. If we didn’t laugh we would cry.
8) Why Should I take It Off
One thin I can assure you is that VR is scary. The first thought I had after trying VR is: “Why the hell should I ever take this headset off?”. And according to the many excited faces which I saw during the last weeks, I can tell you that I’m not the only one who thought so. The future will take place in the augmented and virtual reality. The scary thing I think of: Why should we live the real life when we can live free from worry in a perfect virtual world?
9) The Resolution is still not Perfect
Everyone who tried the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive agrees that the resolution is still not perfect. The constraints are once again today’s GPUs. High-performance GPUs need to become tiny, cheap, and energy saving in order to create a PC and cable-free VR experience.
Virtual Reality Is Going to Explode
Every single customer (except a few naysayers) who tried the Oculus Rift was excited about VR. There are a few obstacles like the cable, the need for a PC, and the resolution. I am sure that future VR devices will solve those problems. As soon as GPUs become even cheaper, more powerful, and extremely energy efficient we will see a mass adoption in VR headsets. How long will it take? It will take maybe 3 years, 5 years, or 7 years. One thing is for sure, the VR industry will explode. Now is a great point in time to say: enough product demos, let’s build the future in AR & VR.