VR Has A Trial Problem

VR Headset

I'm a relative VR newb. I've experienced it a only a few times, in a few different contexts. I was skeptical the first time I tried it. I'm a skeptic no more. Here's what did it for me:

One of our teams has built a VR experience for a client that models one of the client's brick and mortar locations. Into the experience they've built a clever little easter egg that allows you to teleport to the top of the virtual building, and look over the edge. During my demo, they told me to jump off the edge of the building. I instantly replied "no fucking way I'm jumping" and I meant it. Even though I rationally understood that nothing would happen when I "jumped" from this virtual building, I was having the same emotional and physiological reaction that I would have in the real world. And when I (by accident) actually did make the leap, my stomach dropped as if I was really falling.

It's one thing for me to relate this in writing. In fact, I've read about this phenomenon many times, but was able to brush it off as mildly interesting. It's completely another thing to experience it for yourself. But right now, it's very difficult for the average person to access an experience like I had. VR has a trial problem.

Widespread adoption of VR will eventually take place, and I suspect that it will happen rapidly once it reaches a tipping point. Mobile VR experiences like those now emerging with the likes of the Google Pixel will certainly help, as will the adoption of VR tech by gaming community, which most people seem to be predicting will be the primary early adopter community. But for normals to truly embrace the possibilities and promise of VR, someone is going to have invent a novel way to promote trial.

Interesting arenas for this might include:

  • Airplanes
  • Movie theatres
  • Schools/universities
  • Music festivals
  • Popup stores
  • Conferences

These suggestions aren't new, and I'm not the first one to point out this issue. But it certainly seems like there's great first mover advantage to be gained by the commerical VR player who manages to solve the trial problem first.