Why VR Will Fail. (and AR too)

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First off, neither will fail completely. VR will succeed in games and AR will end up like the Segway… used by mall cops and tourists. And, yeah, there’ll be some industrial and entertainment (e.g. theme park rides) applications for both.

But widespread consumer use? No. Fail. Why? Because most people don’t care. At all.

Geeks LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this type of stuff because it’s extremely cool technology. And it’s true, the tech behind it is amazing. However, this does not matter to most people. For most people what matters is 1) does this make my experience better MOST of the time and 2) is it easy to use? Or, more simply: Does this make my experience so much better that it’s worth the effort required to learn and use it?

We ran into this problem with Web 3D when I worked for on Cult3D for Cycore, which was a browser plugin to let you view 3D objects on the web. Really cool tech. Cult3D, and 3D on the web pretty much completely failed. Why? Because a sneaker in 3D gets you no closer to trying it on than a bunch of photos.

And that 3D sneaker costs a LOT more to create than a few photos.

But VR and AR are different than Web3D! No, sorry, they’re not. It’s going to be the same problem. The content creation costs are going to be a killer and does it really add anything to the experience? Is it the order of magnitude better that it needs to be for most people to invest the time/effort/money in it? Especially since it requires glasses you wouldn’t otherwise need, particularly clunky, tech looking ones.

For example, the Magic Leap (VR/AR technology startup) website shows a bunch of schoolkids looking at a virtual seahorse. Ok, that’s going to be super awesome… until the novelty wears off. Then… is that virtual seahorse better than high resolution photos and videos showing the seahorse in it’s natural environment that can be shown on a smartboard or HD TV (tech that schools already have)? No, probably not.

And do you really think schools are going to outfit entire schools with VR/AR tech and the expensive content? Most schools can’t even buy one smartboard for each classroom… to say nothing of training teachers, many of whom are not very tech literate.

But wait, I’ll be able to see bus stops and find restaurants just by looking around! How often do you actually need to do this? You’re going to wear glasses you don’t need so that you can be visually bombarded with virtual signage and more information? Most of us are already in information overload. For the few times a day I need to check bus schedules, Yelp, or Lyft I don’t need AR. AR might  be marginally better than having to look at my phone, but it’s something I need to WEAR. And how do you control it? waving your hands around? A fanny pack controller attached to your belt?

One other issue is one that dogged 3D TV. People are social and want to connect, especially by looking in each other’s eyes. I don’t like talking to people that can’t stop looking at their phone. If I can’t see their eyes or if their eyes are constantly glazed over looking at the retina display… it’s a big problem.

And no, most people don’t want to live in virtual worlds. Yes, for gaming, great. Real life? Give me a f’ing break. Nobody wants to see your dragon avatar walking around the airport.

So between the high content creation costs, the difficulty/cost using it, social impediments and the fact that in most cases it’s not going to improve the experience by an order of magnitude, I don’t see it succeeding as a common, every day thing for personal use .

6 thoughts on “Why VR Will Fail. (and AR too)”

  1. Hey Jim,

    Great article. You have some really valid points about the VR and AR and all the hype around it.
    VR for education seems less likely to catch on, but how about underprivileged kids who don’t go to fancy schools? Won’t VR headsets (like google cardboard which is around $2 in developing countries) enable these students to experience what fancy schools teach? Classroom teaching can be replicated and these kids can experience what it is to be in an actual class..almost.

  2. Read the book “Ready Player One” and then you’ll realise why this will be the biggest thing in history.

  3. Humans are a massively social species and crave actual connection in a way that VR will not replace. I realize the Aspergers crowd doesn’t understand this but for this to be as huge as some folks are predicting it needs to get over hurdles that are hard coded into our brains. VR worlds make for good scifi but it’s not what most people have any interest in.

  4. The term “VR” is misleading. It’s not even a virtual reality, at least a helmet by itself certainly isn’t. But putting a screen really close to your face, won’t enhance the game anymore than how 3D enhances games on the 3DS. FYI, people don’t buy the 3DS for 3D, they buy it for the games on the platform.

    Some games will utilize motion control and have you moving your neck around, and probably your whole body around to see 360. This will literally be a pain in the neck, and will just be a distraction to gamers.

    The only use it will really have is just to play horror games to force you not to look away.

  5. lol… most people can barely use their phone. You think they’re going to spend the money on and then configure/sync a headset and 4 to 8 3D cameras just so you can sit in your living room with a bunch of pixels? To say nothing of whatever unusable interface Microsoft will put on it. The critical thing is, as always, is the pain point worth the learning curve/expense of the new technology? Good luck on this one.

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