Study Confirms Young People Get VR, Old Folks Don’t

Clickbait headline much? Anyway … A new study about VR use in America leads me to an inference that’s entirely unsubstantiated but probably true, anyway. (Trigger warning, Sarcasm ahead, Also a kernel of truth)

Rebecca Hills-Duty, VRFocus:

The VR/AR Insights Consortium, a group that comprises representatives from the likes of Turner, Warner Bros, and the VR Society have released a report in conjunction with Magid the sheds light on consumer use of VR and its various applications. The study was based on results gathered from 2,000 U.S-based consumers. Its headline statistic showed that 22% of VR users have used Netflix VR at some point, compared with the next most popular app, Minecraft VR at 20%.

My eight year-old son plays Minecraft. His grandfather had never heard of it until a few weeks ago, and even then didn’t put the name “Minecraft” together with the game he’s watched his grandson play. Ergo, my sweeping generalization:

Minecraft is probably popular on VR because it’s very popular, period, kids are interested in new tech like VR, and Minecraft is available on the major VR platforms. So when a kid straps in and sees Minecraft advertised on the welcome deck of Gear VR or Vive or what have you, she wants to check it out.

Netflix is probably popular on VR for the exact same reasons, except applied to all ages. I’ll now stretch things a little to make my argument: Kids probably don’t stick around Netflix VR for long because the experience is passive and easily replicated outside of VR. Since VR isn’t as popular as smartphones and computers just yet, most households that have a VR rig probably only have one, but have multiple other Netflix-capable devices. So kids’ available VR time is probably scarcer than other available screen time, and they know better than to waste it watching videos they can watch later on the boring old iPad.

Ergo, they do other, more VR-specific stuff. Like Minecraft, which is a little overwhelming and mind-blowing in VR (at least the first few times you try it).

But grown-ups who try VR are less adventurous and (just to wrongly generalize a little more) more easily disoriented and made nauseous. So they stick to what they know: Reruns of Frankie and Grace made new again by the excitement of googles, earphones, and their choice of digitally rendered luxe media room backdrops.

Just a theory.

 

AR & VR Breathe New Life into Books and Board Games

When the first iPad came out, people talked about how tablets would revolutionize old game formats. Families could sit around a table and play anything from Go Fish to Monopoly without needing to store shelves full of board games. iPad versions of the games could leverage players’ individual iPhones to digitally replicate game pieces: Tile racks in Scrabble, money and deeds in Monopoly, even hands in card games could all be managed via touchscreen. The possibilities were endless.

Digitized board games haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but they are still kicking around. In the build-up to the public release of Apple ARKit and other next-gen AR/VR platforms, developers have been showing glimpses of what board games, childrens’ books, and other family entertainment will look like in a mixed-reality world.

Twitter user  posted this video clip of Echelon, an AR strategy game being developed for Microsoft Hololens by Helios Interactive. The clip speaks for itself, showing the potential for immersion when a table full of players all strap into the same virtual world for a shared gaming session:

The Wrap‘s Sean Burch spent some time with Los Angeles-based VR studio Within, getting a glimpse of their vision for the future of childrens’ books. Burch came away impressed, to say the least:

[Within CEO Chris Milk’s] team has been working on an untitled Goldlilocks-themed experience that only needs an iPad and a flat surface to show AR’s potential. Milk — cutting a figure of a taller, more svelte Zach Galifianakis with his pulled-back hair and impressive brown beard — pointed his iPad at a table and started reading along to the story on the screen. Voice activation followed his words and a digital forest began popping up on the iPad, with Goldilocks wandering through trees before heading inside a two-story house.

Admittedly, I was caught off guard by how cool I found the experience — especially since I’m about 20 years older than the target demo. But Within tapped into how AR can create the 21st Century version of a pop-up book, with users able to turn their kitchen table into a fantasy world. “Goldilocks” was a hybrid production — part-book, part-cartoon, and part-video game.

Mixed-reality versions of board games and books will cost far more to produce than their ink and cardboard counterparts. It remains to be seen how the financials will play out for studios like Helios and Within, and if a balance can be struck between developing paradigm-shifting experiences and turning a profit.

Remember, iOS users are accustomed to paying a dollar or two for an app; something like Echelon or Within’s Goldilock’s experience almost certainly would have to cost ten times that (at least!) to make financial sense.

Still, the future of family fun will be interesting to watch as we move from board games and screens to headsets and mixed realities.

How Big of a Problem Will Sexism Be in the VR Industry?

Doree Shafrir wrote a thought-provoking piece about sexism in the VR industry that BuzzFeed ran on July 5. The piece is well worth reading, whatever industry you work in.

Here’s one of many money quotes from Sahfrir’s story:

Or as Taryn Southern, a YouTube personality who is now working in VR, put it: “We don’t want to end up with Silicon Valley tech bro culture shaking hands with Hollywood sleazy producer/director culture.”

And another:

“This is the third time that a big VR company or person has been the scum of the earth,” said a VR producer who asked to remain anonymous, referring to the most recent scandal at Upload. “I love VR for its potential, but these fucking man-babies are ruining it.”

At the risk of reducing the piece to a few bullet points, here’s what I kept thinking after reading it:

1. VR has, in many ways, grown out of gaming. The gaming industry has a sexism problem.

2. Gaming is related to both Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Hollywood and Silicon Valley have sexism problems.

3. Hollywood and Silicon Valley are in America. America has a sexism problem.

4. America is on Planet Earth…

okay, you see where I’m going with this.

Reporting like Shafrir’s is incredibly important for many reasons. For the sake of Extra Real’s new, and still-forming raison d’etre, I’ll just say that if women are put off by the VR industry, the industry will suffer. Full stop. Sexism has no place in any industry, or society.

Minecraft in AR on iPhone is the End of Everything

Made With ARKit is the best thing to hit Twitter since Joel Embiid. If you don’t follow pro hoops, it might just be the best thing ever.

iOS11 with ARKit is still a few months away from leaving Beta, but developers are already cranking out some really cool examples of what’s possible with Apple’s new API for Augmented Reality. Some of them are practical. Others, like Minecraft, are just plain awesome:

Life-Size Super Mario Bros. is All the Reason You Need to Buy a Hololens

Super Mario Bros meets Augmented Reality in this crazy life sized first person experience! I recreated the iconic first level, dressed up as Mario and then played it in Central Park (NYC). Built in Unity3D for the Microsoft Hololens. This video was recorded entirely through the hololens with no post production.

Check out more of my projects and get in touch at shek.it

– Abhishek Singh via YouTube

Abhishek’s website is dope, too.