If you follow the virtual reality (VR) space at all, you’ve probably heard about Oculus Go – the much anticipated ‘all-in-one’ headset set to revolutionize mobile VR. No phone required, no awkwardly fitting your phone inside the goggles and hoping it’s secure, no cables to entangle you. Just…go.
And that’s the intended magic of VR isn’t it? Put on this headset and go anywhere. The Oculus Go is rumored to be available for pre-order in May 2018, so probably hitting retailers by July for about $200 (USD). That’s pretty exciting when you consider that a Gear VR from Samsung, the current best in class mobile experience is around $100 but requires a high-end smartphone to make the magic happen.
Oculus Go will be a lot like a phone when it comes to hardware, with access to lots of apps and videogames in the Oculus Store from Day 1. We’re expecting to see a brighter and more vibrant display than what we have today, in a lightweight interface.
There have been plenty of articles discussing the consumer benefits – a handy package with a familiar model of hardware/app store, lots of content, comfortable fit and all at a fairly democratic price. While IDC analysts project VR headset sales to reach more than 12 million in 2018, they predict standalone headsets will grow from 14.1 percent of 2018’s AR/VR market to nearly half of the market by 2022 for exactly these reasons.
But the consumer sales of VR headsets have been a tricky game, with each of the last 3 years being touted as the ‘year of VR’ by various outlets. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if Oculus Go doesn’t transform the consumer headset game, or if first quarter sales are sluggish due to lack of content (which I anticipate). What counts is what it means for business VR users.
VR’s power to forge emotional connections has always been why it is so interesting. The problem to date has been that it sometimes gets lost in cumbersome technology – what I would call ‘friction’. In the past several years of experimenting with VR technology, and more than 1000 hours of user testing, we’ve seen small things like an unwillingness to mess up hair and makeup with headsets, concern about looking foolish and concern about feeling nauseous all limit VR’s reach. And we’ve seen the current multi-step process – download an app, put content on your phone, put the phone in a headset – impede business adoption.
The ‘smartphone as engine’ model has some inherent problems in current mobile VR that Oculus Go takes care of nicely. Right now, if your sales team is using VR in the field with their own phones, the experience can be interrupted by incoming calls or text alerts. And if their phone battery is at low because of this morning’s conference call, is an interior designer going to risk using it in VR at a client presentation? Standalone, purpose-built devices not only take away the friction of loading the right app and getting it going before placing it in a headset, but also take care of these small but very real inconveniences.
For VR to be a practical, everyday tool, I maintain that is has to be fast. It’s a tool to facilitate discussion, and I advocate a ‘pop in and out’ experience. Look inside the headset at a design problem or issue to be resolved with your client or prospect, and then have a discussion. Oculus Go is going to contribute to that ‘fast VR’ use case that I think is critical to business-ready VR. Simpler, pre-loaded VR experiences on the headset make the designer, marketer or even retailer the narrator of a story, and not someone facilitating technology like phones and apps. It helps you get into VR faster, and I’ve seen, many times, how transformative that is. It’s the difference between seeing something and being immersed inside it.
Another obstacle to business VR is perceived cost. You’ll see articles all the time explaining that the Gear VR or the Google Daydream are just $100. But they need phones which are $550+ to power them. As a business owner trying to arm salespeople with VR portfolios, or installing these devices in retail environments, there’s a lot of risk for breakage, damage and loss. But with Oculus Go, marketers and sales manager will be able to get 3-4 devices for the same budget.
It’s a cornerstone of our approach to VR for business that the technology should never be a burden to a business user. You should be able to use the tools and processes you’re already using to bring your story into the VR medium. Oculus GO is another step toward making that seamless and has the potential to propel VR storytelling for business in late 2018.