The Beijing Film Academy’s International Animation & Virtual Reality Research Center held an informal salon at Ling VR in Beijing last Saturday, co-hosted by Ling VR CEO Tim Zhang and myself (iAVRrc Executive Director Kevin Geiger), with discussion among two dozen local VR developers, creators and investors.
I gave an overview of the current state and trajectory of immersive technology across a variety of fields, while Tim shared his observations as the head of a Chinese VR hardware company. It was noted that Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus sparked a frenzy of activity in China that saw a raft of local VR startups come and go in the first year (only to be replaced by more), with many Chinese investors expecting returns in as little as six months.
During the salon’s group discussion, some investors shared the topline of their analysis of China’s VR market, noting that they currently see much activity but little quality (which is perhaps understandable when your angel investors expect returns in under a year). Here in China, we’ve seen the term “VR incubator” increasingly replaced by the term “VR accelerator”, perhaps because the former implies wasted time & money, while the latter fuels the fantasy of quick riches.
One investor observed that Chinese consumers initially spent money on things, but are increasingly spending money on experiences – indicating a potential market for aspirational VR entertainment in China. It was generally agreed that in order to gain mass market traction, VR entertainment and services must be based on human wants and needs. I commented that a Steve Jobs of VR is needed to make the technology not only necessary but moreover “sexy” for ordinary folks who wouldn’t be caught dead in an HMD face-hugger.
On the content front, we discussed the attendant issues of VR’s “hero dilemma”, and the related “ghost effect” (or “Swayze Effect”). While VR seems to work best when the viewer is a character rather than a voyeur, the former is riddled with challenges for creators attempting to limit the “gamification” of their storytelling.
Tim Zhang wrapped the salon by asking each attendee to forecast the big consumer adoption year for VR. Answers ranged from 2018 to 2021, with most believing that AR will lead VR in the mass market. I predicted the following:
- In 2017, VR gaming will pop on high-end HMDs within a limited market of first-adopters and VR arcades.
- In 2018, AR / VR services and adult entertainment will pop on mid-range HMDs among the general population.
- By 2020, AR / VR services, utilities, entertainment, and advertising will be pervasive.
We’ll see. 🙂