A few years ago when I worked for Salesforce, I attended Dreamforce 2015. I actually hosted a panel for developers at the show, discussing Salesforce-powered AR/VR applications.
Two things about that experience came to mind as I read the news of Nomadic closing a $6M seed round to help them build location-based VR for retail spaces:
- I distinctly remember checking out a rather involved and lengthy VR experience put on by a Salesforce partner at the show. Try as I may, I cannot recall the content I consumed, or even the name of the company who’d built it. What I do remember is waiting a long time to get strapped into one of two available PC-connected headsets, seated in a rather complicated chair, and guided through the experience by a human who stayed in the non-virtual world.
- A week or two before the show, I was researching in preparation for my panel. I came across a video of what is still one of the best consumer-facing uses of virtual reality I’ve ever heard of:
What’s my point? High(er) quality virtual reality is too expensive, technically involved, and physically cumbersome for most consumers to use on their own. It was two years ago, it is now, and it likely will be for a few more years. Snapping your iPhone into the free Cardboard that came with your Sunday NY Times is one thing; manning an Oculus rig is another entirely.
Retail space VR, on the other hand, has been making an impact for some time now. Though Nomadic seems to be focused on a sort of movie theater-meets-VR Arcade experience, and n0t immersive marketing stunts in malls, the point stands: Wide scale home VR use is likely a few years off, and may or may not ever see mainstream-scale adoption. But high quality, one-off VR experiences in dedicated spaces are well within reach in the US today (they’re already a thing in China).
Unless you know you’re going to spend hours a day strapped into a headset, why forgo the expense and hassle of bringing VR into your home? Just head to the VR Arcade – or your local North Face store, if you live in South Korea – for a few hours instead.