How VR will Disrupt the Entertainment and PC Markets in the Near Future

For those folks who attended the recent Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, no one could have escaped the major theme that permeated the show. Almost everywhere you turned, there was some VR demonstration or someone talking about VR and its potential impact on the game industry.

A few of us got to have meetings with some of the major tech enablers to see what is on their technology roadmaps as well as hear about their visions for VR’s future in gaming and beyond.

Over the years, I have learned that, if you want to peer into the future, you need to look at technology roadmaps. I have used this to guide all of my futuristic thinking and predictions. In 1982, I got to see the desktop-sized laser engine from Canon they were developing. That fall, I wrote I could “imagine publishing documents on a desktop.” Three years later, Apple tied the Mac, a laser printer, and Pagemaker together and birthed desktop publishing. In 1986, I saw the first CD ROMs in a lab and wrote we would soon be using them to integrate images, video and text into our computer since they held more space for data. In 1989, multimedia computing hit the scene and changed personal computing forever.

Over the last two years, I have had a chance to look at tech in labs and view tech developments behind the scenes that are just now starting to bring VR to the gaming world. Given what I have seen in the past six months regarding semiconductor and VR related designs, I am convinced VR will become one of the most disruptive technologies of our time. Although VR is going to redefine how we play computer games, I believe it is poised to disrupt many industries over the next five years.

In past columns, I have written about VR’s impact on travel, cruise lines and real estate. In the case of the cruise lines, the idea is to put prospective customers in the cabin they might want to book or to virtually explore the ship they are interested in cruising on. VR goggles could also be used to deliver VR-based armchair travel experiences. As for real estate, they want to be able to let a person interested in a house walk through it via a VR experience regardless of where they are in the world and use it to shorten the buying cycle.

The ad world sees it as a whole new storytelling medium. Last summer, the folks from Patron Tequila came to my office to show me a VR ad. It started by allowing me to walk the fields in Mexico where they cut the agave plants. It then transported me to their distilling facility to see how their tequila is made. And finally, they highlighted all three of their tequilas, discussing their flavor profiles. All in about 2 minutes. But the experience of viewing this in VR made the ad so memorable, I can still envision the whole thing today as if I had just seen it.

And we know that sports teams and broadcasters are looking at ways to use VR to make it possible to seem as if a person is in the front row at a game. Also, the entertainment industry is starting to embrace VR for future content.

It is within the entertainment world I see the most potential for serious disruption and it could change how moviemakers and TV producers deliver their content in the future.

The first area it could disrupt is the movie theater experience. Although most films quickly make it to cable TV, many still have theatrical releases first. However, if VR headsets can deliver high quality, 3D and 360 degree VR views of a movie, why not just stream that directly to a VR headset? If VR headsets get into consumer pricing ranges, you could even have a shared VR movie experience with people in the home or around the world. If this takes off, it could significantly impact physical theaters in the future.

A VR headset could also be the TV of the future. Today I watch all of my Netflix content on the Samsung Gear VR headset. If Netflix streams to a VR headset now, it is not hard to imagine HBO, Showtime, NBC, CBS, ABC, ESPN and all TV content streams being watched on a VR headset if it delivers a more immersive experience. Yes, we have many hurdles to jump through to get to this point but if ESPN lets me watch a sports event and it puts me courtside at a basketball game, why would I want to use a TV to watch that game? Or if movies and TV shows are shot in VR formats, watching them on a VR headset will be the only way to get this experience.

While this won’t happen anytime soon, I do think VR headsets could eventually replace the TV for many consumers in the future.

The other industry it could really disrupt is the consumer PC business.Consumers more and more use their PCs or tablets for consumption rather than creation tools. They watch streaming media like YouTube and Netflix. They use social media and read news and gossip blogs and they browse to find content of their liking. If we have advances in voice recognition, voice dictation, eye tracking and voice commands via Siri or Cortana and a lot of the content and apps are VR enabled, why would consumers buy a PC in the future? The VR headset would deliver an immersive experience and make personal computing even more personal. While I believe VR in business settings will be used to augment business applications such as the ones I mentioned, I can see a VR headset with a VR ecosystem of consumer content and services being highly disruptive and becoming the consumer PC of the future.

The more I look at VR as a disruptive force, the more I can see how it could impact just about any industry in dramatic ways in the future.

We have a lot of technical hurdles to get through but VR in various forms applied to all types of applications and services could change the face of business and consumer markets in ways we can’t even imagine today. This is a technology with broad reach and it will make personal computing exciting again.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

27 thoughts on “How VR will Disrupt the Entertainment and PC Markets in the Near Future”

  1. What about the technology roadmaps that fail to find market demand (3D TV) or market demand that makes a success out of a random product outside its intended purpose (Raspberry Pi) ?

    Another issue I have is social norms. I’ve been battling them for a decade over something as inconsequential as huge smartphones (my 4.3″ HD2, 5.1″ Galaxy Note, 6″ Huawei Ascend Mate and now 7″ Huawei Mediapad X1 all have all attracted numerous “You’re ridiculous with that thaing, I wouldn’t be caught dead… !”. I can’t imagine what reaction sticking something that huge and ugly on one’s face will give rise to.

    Plus there are side issues: motion sickness, isolation both in the social sense (can’t really socialize over a VR movie) and the environmental awareness sense (need an uncluterred room for the Vive, an empty house for VR porn) , wires, price (for now), sticking a public device one one’s face when just touching doorknobs already often feels iffy…

    I know it’s hard to forecast duds and successes, and to keep being interested in new toys or even techs as one ages, but I’m doubtful, outside of gaming and a few verticals. Even as a sales tool, unless couples/families can share the experience in real time…

    1. Agreed all around.

      I’m very discouraged by the current “cinematic” content for VR. It’s simply not a medium conducive to the traditional cinematic language – primarily the inability to edit shots together to accentuate a point.

      Consider a simple car chase scene that must be physically filmed with many different angles and takes. Traditionally, these were cut together in a rhythm and pace that advanced the story the filmmaker wanted to tell. With VR, the filmmaker has ZERO control over where the viewer looks. How can you effectively tell a story when the viewer is free to essentially interrupt you every 2 seconds by turning their head around?

      Which brings me full circle to my original point. VR is an entirely new storytelling medium. Everything we learned about telling a cinematic story over the last century has to be thrown out the window and re-thought from the ground up. I’m not saying this won’t be as good as cinematic storytelling, but it will DEFINITELY be entirely different.

      1. I Hadn’t really thought of that, but you’re right: even for non-interactive VR stuff, it’s not just about technically creating and playing the content, but also creatively designing it for the medium. Lots of work ahead ^^

  2. GDC showed a lot of wacky ideas that are dead on the Vine.

    Companies want VR to be the next big thing, and want to be part of it, but judging by all the VR crap at GDC, they really have no insight about where this will go.

    I remain very skeptical this will take off. It’s an isolating solo experience, that makes many people sick.

  3. I am not sure about VR, possibly AR. The headsets are cumbersome, cause weird behavior, and creates an isolated experience. I tried this at Stanford during a demo day sometime last year. I haven’t seen much progress in comfort or the dumb behavior of those wearing the headset.

    Do you have some financial interest in this tech, you sure do push it hard in articles and podcasts?

    1. Let’s be cynical: websites run by consultants, especially essentially free websites that drive no revenues, exist partly to share a passion, but also partly to drive consultant’s businesses by generating leads and referrals. That’s a double whammy regarding trendy topics such as VR: we get crumbs of actual paid work they’re doing for clients (some VR I’m sure), and articles about topics that might generate paid work (VR again).

      It’s a good deal for everyone involved including us mere readers. A bit Google-like in that us readers are almost unintended consequences of the consultant business, same as Google’s services are unintended consequences of having to display ads. That probably does taint both the choice of topics and their content a bit though.

  4. “As for real estate, they want to be able to let a person interested in a house walk through it via a VR experience regardless of where they are in the world and use it to shorten the buying cycle.”

    Shorten the buying cycle? That’s amusing. Considering that the sales cycle is far below historic norms. Being a developer, investor, and owner of real estate properties, I cannot act fast enough to make offers or even keep pace with what comes across the desks of many brokers. Lots of deals are made before properties are even listed. Many deals are even made sight unseen. The bulk of the transactions are really location, location, location, and finally does it pencil out.

      1. I am not sure how it works for you in France (do I have that correct?). I deal mostly on the U.S. west coast states; California, Oregon, and Washington. My experience has mostly been within Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, and Portland. The buyers are mostly investors, at least for the last several years. First time buyers are just non existent; it’s lack of funding and low inventory in their price range.

        A lot of all cash transactions. The sweet spot is about $800K – $1.5MM. Below that, I see loan issues, and above that I see small amount of buyers.

        The market below $800K? The agents don’t spend a lot of effort on those buyers. The buyers in the $1.5MM and above well they work with a different type of agent, mostly within a team environment. Those buyers are looking seriously at location, where are the country clubs, where are there more people like me, and is there enough room for my daily driver, my SUV, my weekend wine touring car, and my track car, oh and my ever so handy full size pickup truck for the ‘just-in case’.

        So, with nearly 5 million homes sold last year, there’s a small amount using VR headsets to go cruising homes. Just under 50% of all brokers and agents spent under $2000 on technology. I highly doubt the spending included VR headsets. Realtors are the most clueless using tech. The top 3 tech products are: iPad, smartphone, and wait for it, a digital camera.

        Nearly 80% of buyers state that location quality is the most important factor. Nearly 60% of agents are women, the average age is 57, and 83% are independent, meaning the agents receive a 1099 for year end tax reporting. Oh, and the income is low. The agents spend more on clothes and cars. The agents know that image is the biggest part of marketing, and how a person looks, what they drive, and how they behave really gets the transaction closed.

        If VR is going to happen in real estate, the industry better attract younger men, pay better commission and have bigger deals. Otherwise, Techpinions should see how the cruise line business does.

        1. I am indeed in France, but haven’t done anything in real estate in years, including merely for myself. Second-hand info is : zero VR, barely any virtual tours. Mostly good-ol’ photos and a lot of half-optimized (gotta get rid of those clunkers ^^) legwork.

  5. Watching TV is so often a shared experience and it seems like that will be difficult to achieve that when you’re wearing a VR headset. If two or three people are going to watch the same show they’ll need two or three headsets, and (1) that gets expensive, (2) the people can talk to each other but can’t see each other. I think Defendor has a point when he says it’s an isolating solo experience and I can envision “glasshole” reactions. In the worst case negative responses could strongly impact market acceptance. They helped to kill Google Glass in the consumer space.

    From a technical viewpoint there’s a bandwidth issue. I believe VR needs very high end-to-end bandwidth. How will it be delivered online?

    I think Tim Bajarin is over-optimistic about VR in entertainment.

    1. I agree I might be over optimistic but this is the first new technology I have seen in a long time that major vertical markets see great potential and if history is our guide prices will come down and more VR content becomes available and something like this eventually goes mainstream. But it will be disruptive.

      1. I was optimistic when iPhone was first released. Here was a product to reduce pain, was easy, and it was personal, yet shareable. I waited for the next model, and I bought many, many, many shares of Apple.

        I just don’t see it for VR. I hope it works out for you.

        1. You are making an assumption it will be via an iPhone. It is too early to tell how how Apple finally creates a VR product. The potential is that it could come from the Mac side is also plausible.

      2. A person wearing a headset is visually disconnected from the rest of the room they’re in, and therefore somewhat – or largely – socially disconnected from others in the room. When viewing any form of entertainment (especially sports), it looks to me like that could be a serious negative, but you don’t seem to have addressed this issue at all. There’s a bit too much go-go-go in what you say, and I feel like I’m listening to a salesperson pitching a major concept called disruption.

        I’d like to know what the people you’ve been talking to, say about the antisocial aspects of VR when it’s used for consumption of entertainment.

        1. Since very few are using them it is hard to judge the social question now. However, this is at the heart of Facebook;s decision to buy Oculus. This does not replace social contact where possible. However, it does allow for social contact with people not with you er even across the world. If done right VR puts everyone in the same room as if they are all there regardless of where they are.

          Even in an entertainment setting, it does not replace being together when possible. But VR does allow people to share that experience together no matter where they are.

          Gamer’s today mostly play in isolation but multi-payer games, where people can play with each other no matter where they are, is the model I use when thinking this out. This market alone is 4X the size of the movie industry and it started growing when multi-player games were made available.

          I don’t see VR replacing any social setting when it is possible to get people together physically, But that is rare these days. Connecting people socially through VR could change that.

          1. I’m just off a 30-minute Skype with the nephews, my iBrother uses me as a remote nanny. I don’t see how that could be done in VR: you won’t get kids below at least 10 to stay with a helmet on. Maybe once, but not on a regular basis.

            Plus VR doesn’t really “allow for social contact with people not with you or even across the world” per se, 2D videocalls already do that. I’m not sure the difference between 2D and VR is worth the trouble and expense any more that it was for 3D.

            Ditto gaming: collective online gaming is already happening all the time, you don’t need VR for that, all games already have voice chat, avatars, and often a video insert showing your face.

          2. I don’t know how to respond to your statement that it is “rare these days” for people to “get together physically.” I could say what I think of such an opinion but I don’t want to insult you.

    2. One of the most common things that happens while watching TV with my girlfriend is that we’ll shoot wordless glances at each other that immediately convey our thoughts on what we just saw. I would be sad to lose that.

  6. I think the term “disrupt” is a little strong. Sure there will be some opportunities, but the idea that everything will go VR in our children’s lifetimes, let alone the “near future,” is absurd.

    VR isn’t going to be the savior of the PC industry, making everything exciting again, since VR really isn’t all that exciting.

    1. How about this: as you ride in your self-driving car, you put on a VR headset that makes you think you’re driving! Or instead of having and talking to real friends, you put on a VR headset and send text messages to virtual friends with hand gestures! Or instead of taking a walk through a park with your dog, you put on a headset and have the same experience from your well-worn couch.

      Reality will be disrupted. Technology is where it’s at, dude.

      1. VR is exciting because you will need it to see really great advertising. Early adopters will get to see more ads, so don’t delay. Strap on a VR helmut today!

  7. Segway, 3DTV, Google Glass were also going to disrupt their respective sectors. You go to Disney World and you can watch a 3D short film that also hits you with odors, gusts of wind, and sprinkles of water to match the action on screen. That didn’t disrupt anything either. You really can do verisimilitude to the point where human imagination disengages and disinterest quickly sets in after the cheap novelty of ‘Wow, it looks real!’ wears out.

    Now, get off my lawn!

    1. Six Flags has a roller coaster with VR headsets. Seems kind of… redundant. I don’t know if they may be more AR than VR. Hate the idea of being isolated from my friends on the ride.


    2. You go to any ol’ theater showing the 30 year old Rocky Horror Picture Show, and you’re hit with rice and water too ;-p

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