VR Will Transform Entertainment (Beyond Gaming)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

VR Will Transform Entertainment (Beyond Gaming)

Virtual Reality

Aside from the more obvious effect on gaming, virtual reality is set to impact many aspects of work, leisure and the way we interact with each other. So far we have only just begun to get a glimpse of the potential of the technology, but that is about to change in a big way.

As we've mentioned before, the current wave of virtual reality (VR) technology is about more than merely improved gaming. VR headsets will impact marketing, health, education, and numerous other industries and aspects of society, and in all likelihood we've only just scratched the surface of the technology. But even where entertainment is concerned, "gaming" is too narrow a focus to adequately characterize the potential impact of VR.

Staying beneath the gaming umbrella, consider for a moment that there might be entire genres and markets that have barely been mentioned in all the excitement about shooters and racing games on VR. Specifically, you might imagine the casino industry, which may not have a massive impact on U.S. gamers but is among the most popular forms of gaming in the world. There have already been demonstrations of a VR poker game of late, but the truth is that VR has the potential to radically transform casino culture and deliver an experience that would allow gamers to feel as if they're actually seated in casinos.

To some extent, a VR poker game accomplishes this feat relatively simply. To understand the scope of this genre's potential on the new format, though, requires an examination of how far casino entertainment has come online. Gala's platform mirrors the VR experience in its own way by offering live dealer experiences and interactive gameplay for games like baccarat, going well beyond the standards of poker and slots. These live table games help to build a full-on casino experience that can (and likely will) be translated to VR in due time. In other words, the real casino experience may soon be replicated in full through VR.

That covers what some may consider to be a niche gaming concept. However, looking aside from gaming completely (yet remaining in entertainment), we can also see other industries and forms of amusement that have the potential to be drastically transformed through virtual reality. Consider, for instance, how we consume sporting events. There's been a great deal of talk about even the most avid sports fans preferring to stay home when going to the game is an option. This is because home entertainment systems have become so advanced that many would rather watch games at home than attend them live. At home, they can track multiple games at once, pause and rewind, and maintain control over what they're viewing, all from the comfort of a couch and with no stadium expenses.

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But what if VR headsets start streaming sporting events in a way that makes it seem as if you're actually sitting in the crowd? And then what if they start streaming in a way that makes it seem as if you're actually part of the game? The latter is probably a long way off (but could conceivably be accomplished if players wore devices or miniature body cameras to broadcast to VR users), but the former is already in the works. It's not refined just yet, but watching sports in VR is something that's being explored. If it ever comes along in a meaningful way, it could have a serious impact on how we watch athletic events (or, for that matter, concerts and other live performances).

But not all VR changes will necessarily occur in homes, even if that's where much of the excitement is happening. Think for a second about the idea of VR gaining a place in amusement parks. Samsung has partnered with Six Flags in order to create VR experiences on roller coasters that effectively take the existing thrill of riding a roller coaster and add an environmental element. A normal roller coaster is largely about how you feel, but with a VR accompaniment it can become about what you see and do. For instance, Samsung's VR headsets might be able to show passengers a futuristic setting in which they're ducking, dodging, and fending off futuristic robots all while actually riding roller coasters.

Ghostbusters Dimensions The Void

There's also the idea that VR could lead to its own amusement parks, or at least its own entertainment facilities—perhaps akin to arcades or laser tag centers. One company has done this, having created "hyper reality" experiences that utilize VR technology to provide incredible action simulations. "The Void," as it's called, will be getting more publicity this summer when it opens its first satellite location in New York City to provide a Ghostbusters-based experience to accompany the upcoming film reboot.

Looking through these examples, you can begin to get an idea of the kind of entertainment revolution we may be on the cusp of. VR gets a lot of attention with regard to both gaming and other applications in society. But when you expand gaming to include so many other ways we entertain ourselves (and this post only touched on a few of them), you start to see the big picture.

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