The general purpose of any VR headset, meanwhile, seems to be less clear — perhaps because fewer people have had the opportunity to use it. One of its key differentiators from other gaming platforms, however, is the immersive, 360-degree experience it offers, which could serve as a channel to more widespread consumption.
“Developers likely will not chase markets that do not exist, and will typically build experiences for the market that exists for them,” says Paul Mealy, author of Virtual & Augmented Reality For Dummies and director of interactive at POP. “At the moment, the largest public mass-consumption market for virtual reality is gamers.”
People Want to Learn More About VR Before Investing in It
Finally, nearly a quarter of respondents (23.1%) indicated that before buying a headset, they “need to learn more about VR.”
That response points to the idea that VR still remains an emerging, new technology that most users have yet to experience — unlike traditional video games or social media, of which most users now have a clear understanding of their purposes.
But as we saw with our second survey question, that’s not the case with virtual reality — and many people don’t understand what purpose it would serve in their homes or their lives.
“VR has two major barriers to break through in order to become the mass-consumable device most users think of as ‘mainstream’ – price and experience,” Mealy explains. “What many are finding is that, like the age-old adage of ‘quick, fast, cheap: pick two,’ VR is struggling through ‘price or experience, pick one.'”
However, that may not always be the case. When we posed our question about what users would do with a VR headset, should they own one, the responses beyond “gaming” were diverse — with a fair amount of respondents indicating that they would use VR to watching movies or TV shows, explore a new place, connect with distant friends and family, or learn a new skill.
And as more users begin to understand the purpose of VR — and the hardware is scaled to an increasingly accessible price point — its use cases may not even be so flashy in the future, causing it to potentially follow a similar path as the smartphone.
“As virtual reality becomes more mainstream, expect to see more utilitarian applications,” Mealy suggests. “Think Excel, photo editing, et cetera.”
So, will that happen in the immediate future? Probably not, Mealy believes — but it’s an eventual reality.
“VR will get there. We just have to remind ourselves that we are still in the first generation of VR headsets, and technology needs time to grow and mature,” he says. “At the same time, we should recognized that VR has made incredible leaps and bounds since the launch of its first generation of hardware, and we’ve only scratched the surface.”