Will VR Make Traditional Forms of Visual Entertainment Obsolete?
Yes, it is possible. Well, maybe not completely. But in the defining way, VR may make traditional entertainment options a lot less popular. The question – how can the VR devices completely replace traditional forms of visual entertainment like television obsolete – might seem ridiculous. So, for starters, just think back some 25 years ago. Would anybody have thought that video rental stores would not be required, because people will be able to download content on-demand from the internet? Could anybody have predicted that fixed line phones would no longer be a necessity, because mobile phones would completely take over? These and many other such questions would have a straight up ‘No’ for an answer. But, they all did happen with the advent of streaming services, mobile phones, and what not. This is how technology works and 25 years is a long time in technology.
The trends are all in the favor of VR. In a report that came out recently, Goldman Sachs has estimated that the VR market will generate more revenues than the television industry within a decade. It has predicted that while the television industry will do a total business of $99 billion in the next ten years, VR will be generating an income of $72 billion in software and $110 billion in hardware, coming to a total of $182 billion. This is almost double of what television manufacturers are going to earn. This is mind-blowing!
Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, the creator of Oculus Rift, has always been open about his vision for the VR technology. He has gone on record to say that he has no doubt that VR is going to be the future of entertainment. His argument is logical too. Palmer says that as the demand for the technology increases, the price for the VR goggles is only going to go down. So, more and more people are going to own them. In such a world, the user can have an interactive and completely immersive experience for the price of a low end smartphone. Now, Palmer’s argument is that when people can get such an experience with VR, there will be no need to buy a television set, even at lower prices, while paying the cost of shipping for a 40” screen.
Now, a counter to that argument can be that television might not be an immersive experience, but a communal one. When you watch television, you are sitting with your family, having conversations while eating a meal, and so on. Of course, you can eat and be with your family while wearing VR goggles as well. But, it is not the experience that you can share. Also, you can be with your favorite actor in the video, but not with your friends. This is the kind of entertainment experience television delivers.
Moreover, VR goggles completely block the real world view. So, you are oblivious to what is happening in your immediate environment. This makes you very vulnerable to accidents. You may have heard about the Pokemon Go incidents that are happening, because people are completely involved in the augmented reality that has been presented to them. Virtual reality is completely immersive, which can become a major safety concern. If you are wondering what accident you could be prone to when you are on your ultra-comfortable couch in a peaceful suburb, then here’s is the answer – you might not hear your crying baby. You may not see the vibrating phone beside you or will be able to realize that someone needs your help. Sure, the companies will be working towards mitigating the security concerns for its users. But, in its current form, there is no real solution. So, a consumer grade product that can be used as extensively as a television is far from reality.
People will surely own a VR goggle to enjoy the experience, and may soon become a novelty product in most living rooms. But, it is hard to say that they will completely forego that unique experience that the traditional modes of entertainment bring to the table. So, the VR market is undoubtedly going to be big. But, these factors put a big question mark on the idea that it will be a mass market.
At best, VR can become another way to consume entertainment in the future, but it has a long way to go and a lot of its issues need to be addressed before it can become a mainstream product of choice. Today, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were two or three decades ago. So, it is possible that we find a solution to all the caveats that VR presents. For now, VR is no match for a television. Then again, it is almost impossible to predict what trajectory technology will take in the future.