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‘Will My Customers Feel Sick?’ VR Myth Busting

GameOn’s Sarah Blackburn considers some common VR misconceptions, and the truth which isn’t always clear.

It might be a little naïve to simply accept that virtual reality (VR) is the infallible tech trend of the future.

Certainly, there’s a great deal VR offers the casino and gaming sectors, but even the casual observer will have heard something of VR’s challenges. ‘VR makes you sick’ is the most common assertion uttered. Others are cautious about how many consumers use VR headsets.

There are certainly points of caution to consider, but some complaints about the display technology’s limitations were born in an earlier era for the form, and today issues are far less common than the level many think. Yet VR misconceptions understandably persist, so let’s tackle a trio of the most significant.

Will VR Make My Customers Sick?

There’s no straight answer, but it’s not accurate to say ‘VR makes you sick’. It’s more accurate today to say ‘bad VR can make you sick’. Consider this analogy: a strobe light can trigger headaches. That does not mean all electric light triggers headaches. It is about how light is used.

HTC Vive stock image 2Broadly speaking the onus is on VR content to deliver a comfortable experience– and not the hardware itself. And much has been learned in recent years about what works in VR, and what doesn’t, from how to simulate movement to best placement of menus. VR sickness is technically ‘simulation sickness’, though it is very comparable to the experience of travel sickness, and comes from a similar contradiction of some systems telling the body it is moving through space, and others that recognise the user is in reality stationary. And it is an increasingly rare feeling in VR.

Equally, VR users build up a tolerance to simulation sickness after a few brief tries. If you are looking to commission a VR production, be sure to check out the team’s previous work first hand, and where possible, look for reviews if they have produced video game content. That work will be the most commonly critiqued, and offers the most challenges around user comfort, thanks to the prevalence of rapid movement. It’s something that needs be considered and was certainly considered by the VR social experiences we discussed last time.

Will The Audiences Be Big Enough?

It would be foolish to answer absolutely, here. Once upon a time it was laughable that Facebook could derail the then-mighty MySpace; now it courts two billion users; a good deal larger than the population of Africa. Technology is defined by change, so nothing is certain. Projections around headset sales vary wildly, and the picture is complicated by the disparity of cost between affordable mobile options and high-end systems.

Contrasting to the equivalent time in the emergence of consumer facing flat-screen TVs, today VR is on track for comparable – or increased – uptake. And consider that in many spaces, from medical training to architectural pre-visualisation, VR is already every-day. It may not yet be in every living room and pocket, but for many sectors VR is a standard, and not a novelty. That fact will greatly help the technology gain traction.

And with research outfit SuperData pointing to the VR market being worth $4.9 Billion (USD) through 2017, up to $37.7 Billion (USD) by 2020, there are plenty of encouraging signs.

Isn’t It Just A Novelty? Will My Users Come Back?

Again, there’s no ultimate answer, because we haven’t seen truly mainstream adoption yet. Some will even tell you VR’s strength is as a novelty. If one VR experience can connect a user with your wider brand, it arguably doesn’t matter if they don’t return to your VR content.

However, VR is incredibly engaging, namely because of it’s core strength; ‘presence’. Presence with reference to VR refers to the moments in which your brain really does believe the virtual experience. It’s most hilariously demonstrated in moments like Ronnie O’Sullivan’s famed attempt at leaning on a pool table that only existed in VR, seeing him fall to the floor. Those moments perhaps harm VR’s reputation as being credible, but when you first feel presence yourself, it’s a very striking moment that convinces most of VR’s potential to not only engage users, but retain and convert them. As always with VR it’s a case of ‘try it and see’ and 9/10 times those that do are able to see the potential it has.

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