Speaking at a virtual panel organized by the NewImages Festival Thursday, leaders from the tech world shared a common message: The future durability of the VR market requires cultivating a user-base still in need of considerable development.
Panelists Deborah Papiernik (Ubisoft), Colum Slevin (Facebook), Ethan Stearns (MWM Interactive), and Sarah Steele (YouTube VR) all more or less agreed that in order to bridge the gap between the early adopters driving current headset sales and the promised land of a more robust and mature VR market, the industry would have to put new tools into unfamiliar hands.
“Shooting, capturing and post-producing VR is really hard,” said Slevin, Facebook’s director of AR/VR. “I’ve come to firmly believe that the path to sustainability for professional creators needs to be preceded by scale that is brought by user-generated content.”
Slevin continued: “The only way that there’s an ecosystem out there where professional creators can eventually be profitable making this type of content is if there are enough users out there – and the only way there’s going to enough users out there is those users are able to create as well.”
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Steele, YouTube Immersive producer, echoed those concerns. “Most YouTubers are vloggers, or they’re doing it from their living room,” said Steele. “So if all of a sudden we’re asking them to film and edit in stereoscopic it gets a little bit hard. We’ve been trying to figure out ways to make it easier, because it’s still a bit of a hurdle.”
Still, both execs saw promise in emerging consumer technologies that will facilitate 180 degree capture, arguing that it could effectively push user practices forward.
“You can imagine a vlogger using a 180 rig more easily than them using a 360 one,” Slevin noted. “So there are baby steps we need to take in order to empower creators to capture VR content more easily, so that we can distribute it more quickly.”
Another participant suggested going out to find new users outside the home. “If you want to touch a larger public, you also need to show them [how VR works,]” said Papiernik, Ubisoft SVP of new business and development. “That’s why location-based is very important, because the people who do not have the hardware at home can try it for just a few dollars.”
Papiernik pointed toward the work Ubisoft had done partnering with museums and cultural institutions like the Smithsonian, Paris’ Grand Palais, and Unesco, citing exhibitions like “Age-Old Cities,” “Pompeii, the VR Experience” and “Notre-Dame: Journey Back in Time” as vehicles to get new sets of eyes into VR headsets.
“You need to know who you’re addressing with your different experiences,” Papiernik cautioned. “Especially when we work for museums. Who’s going to see this exhibition? It’s going to be people not used to interactivity. So I really insisted with my team that we would not use any controllers, because in a first experience, which is already overwhelming, you need to make it easy.”