Virtual reality, game changer, Next Big Thing, or red herring?

Written by on May 23, 2016 in Opinion with 0 Comments


We can’t help it, but virtual reality brings out the cynic in us. Most things do, you will say, and you would be right. The question, though, and one for serious debate over the coming months, is whether virtual reality is the Next Big Thing, a game changer or a red herring.

There are clearly some exciting arenas for VR. Video and gaming are obvious beneficiaries (even if wearing the headsets makes grown ups look at tiny bit silly) and make them immersive and compelling.

There are also examples of applications in business, particularly training. Flight simulators have been around for a very long time, but with the new generation of VR headsets, the potential to train oil rig maintenance crews in the comfort of an office (and therefore not 600 feet down in the freezing, swirling, dirty mess that is the North Sea) is also obvious. Many other skilled jobs can also benefit. Surgery can be trained without the messy business of hacking fleshy stuff around, vets can learn new techniques without hacking (enough hacking, Ed).

It is quite clear that there are many applications, and it is equally clear that companies are betting large parts of their future success on VR. As we reported earlier this week, 38 large companies put VR into their business plans for the next year, up from just eight a year ago.

Then, of course, there are the visionaries. These people tend to be either mad or brilliant, or both.

Mark Zuckerberg, visionary of Silicon Valley, believes that virtual reality is the ‘next big computing platform’. He also believes that we will be posting videos on Facebook by just thinking about it, and he was serious when he said it (or kept a straight face anyway). The latter statement might fall into the madness category (at least in the next 20 years or so), the former, we will need to see it to believe it.

And, of course, there is the advertising industry to worry about. Not content to annoy millions of people by cramming mobile devices with irrelevant ads, the industry is now chasing customers into whatever sanctuary they go to, to seek peace and quiet. There have been articles in the advertising press that talk of advertising executives rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of launching programmatic (short for machine based serving of irrelevant adverts) into the VR environment. So, instead of being annoyed by adverts on mobile devices, which you can, at least, block or scroll past, these new ones will be right there with you, and horrifyingly real. Intrusive and then some.

Please, dear advertising industry, don’t do it. For all our sakes.

VR is basically here. It will find its place.

Like most things, however, the ultimate test will be a human one. For humans, issues like how silly they look and how annoyed they get by advertising will count for a lot.

And, like most things, an awful lot of people will settle for the real reality and not the virtual one.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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