What Virtual Reality needs for its breakthrough

VR has experienced a boom, but it is still a niche product. A lot needs to be done for the mass market.

VR has experienced a boom, but it is still a niche product. A lot needs to be done for the mass market.

Virtual reality is an exciting topic for marketing in particular: No other medium makes users forget the world around them as much as this one. Stories can be told, emotions triggered, products depicted in a vivid way. And all this in an interactive and personalized manner. The possibilities seem endless – provided that it is used intensively by the popular masses. However, there is still a problem here at the moment.

Weakness 1: The hardware is not yet where it should be

The start-up Oculus brought virtual reality out of its slumber in 2012 with a successful kickstarter campaign. When Facebook took over the headset manufacturer two years later for two billion US dollars, the new wave of enthusiasm for VR had reached its peak. Oculus did not remain alone in the revived market for long. The struggling smartphone manufacturer HTC successfully positioned itself with its “Vive” headset and received much praise from testers. Sony released a headset for the PlayStation. And both Microsoft and Google want to conquer the still young market together with their hardware partners.

From a consumer perspective, however, the headsets available today are either too expensive or not good enough, despite all the progress made. The ideal combination of functionality, quality and price has not yet been reached. High-end headsets like the Oculus Rift require an accordingly high-performance PC. Cheap devices such as Samsung’s Gear VR, on the other hand, are only holders for a smartphone that does the heavy work in this case.

A new equipment category is currently being added and is particularly promising: standalone devices such as the Oculus Go and the upcoming Oculus headset code-named “Santa Cruz”. They promise good performance at a comparatively low price and, above all, the simplest possible user experience.

The Oculus Go could be a hit with an entry price of 199 US dollars. However, the quality of the headset leaves much to be desired. The display, for example, would have to be significantly better to provide a convincing experience. Moreover, the device itself is not comfortable for long. And the built-in technology ultimately corresponds to that of a two-year-old Android smartphone. Compared to other products on the market, the Oculus Go is certainly a good device. However, it seems doubtful that this first generation will already be a hit.

Weakness 2: There are no convincing usage scenarios

This also has to do with the second factor, which holds even more weight: The convincing VR experiences and offers − outside the gaming scene − are still comparatively rare. There is therefore hardly any reason to use the headset for a long time.

What is still missing here on a larger scale is what the technology scene often calls the “Killer App” or the “System Seller”: The one offer, the one app, the one game that catapults the entire platform forward.

Outlook: Forecast for exponential growth

While the market for virtual reality is still small and inconspicuous today, this could soon change significantly. Market researchers are forecasting a boom: The total market is expected to grow from its current level of around 5.4 billion US dollars to 60.9 billion US dollars by the end of 2023, according to Research and Markets, for example. A study by Grand View Research expects revenue with VR software to exceed that with hardware from 2025. And this can be seen as a sign of a market that has become more mature.

This optimism is justified in view of future technical progress. After all, the devices are becoming more and more powerful, more compact, more user-friendly and at the same time cheaper. Last but not least, heavyweights of the tech scene such as Google, Facebook or Sony are behind the development and investing their own money in suitable content and offers.

Today is therefore the perfect time for forward-looking companies to take a closer look at the possibilities and special aspects of VR. The market is still unoccupied in many places. Many competitors still do not have their sights set on the topic. This means that companies still have the chance to be part of the next boom right from the start.

Visitors to DMEXCO at the World of Experience can experience up-close what is already possible today in the area of VR and what will come tomorrow.