In the last six months, there's been a lot of discussion around virtual and augmented reality. Facebook just announced an open-source 360 8k video camera. The Oculus Rift has begun shipping to pre-orders. The New York Times has been pushing VR. And 25 million people have downloaded Google's Cardboard virtual reality app.
But here’s the thing, only .4% of those 25 million people are monthly active users.
When considered in isolation, this stat might seem disheartening, but in reality, this small percentage is made up of curious (potentially game-changing) pioneers. In reality, the audience using Google Cardboard and the people creating and enjoying 360 content are exploring the genesis of a new medium and constructing the building blocks for an immersive future.
The current implementations may not have staying power or "killer app" status, but that doesn't really matter. Google Cardboard isn't about selling a janky-looking headset, it's about exposing millions of people to this revolutionary technology.
At Wistia, we’ve been learning everything we can and contributing to that tiny percentage of passionate active users, so we wanted to share what we're most excited about.
You can find the best use cases internally
Virtual reality has risen so fast in the public consciousness that part of you may think you're already too late, that you've missed your opportunity to invest. But no company has really figured it out yet. Make no mistake, VR is in its infancy—and this is the perfect time to get started. Many companies are beginning to experiment internally right now and figure out how 360 video and VR could add new dimensions to their businesses.
Let's say you work for a manufacturing company. There are dozens of possible applications for 360 video on the factory floor, but the one you start out with will probably depend on the pain points you want to address:
- Inspections and QA: Instead of sending agents to all your different factories for visual inspections, provide them with a single 4K video stream that shows them exactly what they would be seeing in person.
- Sales: While meeting with a customer, pull out your VR headset and offer them a 360 view of the product or your facility. That'll leave an impression that'll be hard for them to forget.
- Internal communication: From product presentations to daily standups, so much of the way dispersed teams communicate is limited by how well our technology can transport us. Video chat is big now, but imagine virtual 1:1 meetings or virtual calls with investors.
By trying out different use cases for yourself, you'll find out what kind of role 360 video can play in your business right now and where you need to invest more time and attention in the future.
You can start small and learn
As the VR space matures and opportunities are better understood, there will be more competition and less room for pioneering.
Right now, however, the field is small. You can—and should—be experimenting on small groups of employees or customers with your different VR use cases. That's what the real estate arm of Sotheby's is already doing with their personalized open-houses. Instead of physically meeting up with all of their clientele at houses in LA and the Hamptons, they can simply send out a few Samsung Gear VRs.
It's practically inevitable that this technology will make its way to sites like Trulia and Zillow. From VR renderings published on Zillow's blog, that might well be right around the corner.
Right now, though, it's being tested with a smaller audience. Like most things, it's going to be perfected with a small group before it becomes a fixture in everyday life.
You can make crucial connections now
Getting involved in any technology early means you can connect with the top people in the field and shape how it's used, and that's true of VR.
We just held a Boston VR meetup at our headquarters, and we were able to bring together some of the most amazing people working on VR today. They came from near and far to share their recent projects, books, sites, and games. VicoVR's co-founder, Dmitry Morozov, traveled all the way from Russia and presented their whole-body, wireless, VR Sensor.
It's not that hard to gather all these minds in the same place now, but in a few years time it probably will be. This industry is taking off like a rocket ship, and that means that the tight-knit community we have now will eventually disperse and become a collection of more localized communities.
There are advantages to that too. If you can though, check out what's happening in the world of VR right now, because you will meet people at conferences and meetups that you may not have the opportunity to meet again. They may be people you one day want to collaborate or work with. They're important connections to make, and now's the best time to make them.
Act now, think long-term
VR is about bringing people into an experience that they wouldn't be able to get elsewhere. That doesn't necessarily mean hang gliding into a volcano or driving around at 300 mph or taking part in epic space battles.
It can mean diagnosing an error on the assembly line, meeting the rest of your remote team for the first time, or just hanging out at our office watching our office dog Lenny eat food off the floor.
And that's just what companies are doing with 360 video right now. It's becoming increasingly clear that as we devise ever new ways of using this technology, virtual reality is going to reshape the way that we do business entirely. The question is not if, but when.
When that time comes, those who invested early on will be the ones who reap the greatest rewards.
We've been learning a ton from this eager, fast-paced community, and we're excited to contribute in our own way to their exploration in the near future. Stay tuned.