The virtual reality industry needs to temper its obsession for all things high fidelity.
Last November, I pointed to underwhelming content as the biggest threat to the VR industry. You know, the kind of experiences that woo you with novelty but fail to hook you in for another ride — which is the story for the majority of VR content. And earlier this month, I also covered WebVR gaming and have tried to push it forward as the sweet spot that developers and publishers should be prioritizing. But for that happen we need to address the elephant in the room: This obsession with high fidelity and accompanying misconceptions about what users need or want from VR, as well as what makes VR content effective.
This insistence on high fidelity has been woven, and by design, into the very fabric of how creators “should” frame the value proposition of immersive content. But it conveniently ignores great low fidelity VR cases that dispel this myth like A-Blast by Mozilla.
“High fidelity is simply the wrong focus,” WebVR developer and AFrame contributor, Fabien Benetou says. “There is a marketing hype from hardware vendors to showcase the latest features their graphic cards can support. Those visual demos are indeed visually always amazing but they are just tools for sales. It sounds very cool to say you have “the best” when in truth we all only need “good enough.”
The current push for VR, at least this time around, is thanks to some very big tech players like HTC and giant gaming engines like Unity that have a vested interest in trying to shape an industry as it emerges. The idea is to hinge the emerging tech on their choice of hardware and platforms, and so secure their relevancy for the next wave to come. One of the key ways to do that is to play on their strength, which is premium performance, and to therefore position premium at the center of the VR value proposition.
The industry, however, responds with its own impartial terms and takes shape according to actual market realities. That’s why we need to re-think our assumptions on what good or effective content is or can be, unless we want to waste a lot of time and resources pushing the wrong recipes.
In other words, it’s best to use an iterative approach that discovers what makes VR content stick.
But instead, we’ve seen the market jump into the deep end with high fidelity as the operative frame that consumers are expected to adopt. The positioning is all wrong because the landscape is still fuzzy, which leaves a lot of game and content studios out in the wilderness, in an awkward position in terms of financials, forecasts, and a scary gap between the two.
“For a nascent medium like VR whose interaction and cinematic vocabulary is evolving, creatively we need rapid experimentation and feedback: people need to be able to prototype their ideas quickly, share their experiments with a large population…