#VR: The Gold VRush. Impending Bubble?

The buzz is so loud you long to get inside a VR head mounted display just to escape. VR is a hyper-accelerated market. It seems not a day passes without a significant announcement. If you think being inside a VR experience can be dizzying, try tracking the developments on behalf of clients who are clamoring to create VR experiences and immersive narrative. Welcome to the Wild West.

Take today for example. Powerhouse Defy Media home of brands Smosh,Break, and Addicting Games announced its partnership with VR camera company 360Fly (available at Best Buy for $399) for a VR Platform which among others things will be the home for “interactive originals.” Los Angeles based and Spielberg advised The Virtual Reality Company announced the launch of the new VRC Recording Studio built to capitalize on the rapidly emerging trend of 360 music videos. Smart move. Vrse (Chris Milk, and Primetime Emmy® Award winner Aaron Koblin) positioned itself to become“Virtual Reality’s next HBO, PBS and PIXAR,” announcing the hiring of RdioCEO Drew Larner as it’s next COO. Dream big men- now’s the time. And finally, adding a little “blue” color to the mix, today’s heralded the arrival of the eJaculator, which TechCrunch referred to as “A VR-Based Pleasure Machine for the Lads.” Seriously.

Creatively, things are all over the place in a fertile ground for experimentation. While the physical and psychological effects of VR are being researched by educational institutions such as the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies VR pioneers like John Carmack of Oculus are rapidly solving tech challenges. New companies from tool set creators and software, to camera and rig companies, to studios and agencies seems to be popping up almost daily drafting behind the giant speeding truck that is VR. Consulting and research firm KZero which has predicted that the market will be worth $5.2 Billion by 2018, is also doing a great job of following what they call the “Face Race” which is tracking the release of VR headsets which will explode in Q4 of 2015 and Q1 of 2016.

Finally there’s the content. It’s also exploding. Some of it is extraordinary and groundbreaking and some of well…not so much. It seems a little early for VR Awards shows but we’ve got them. Facebook is now 360-video capable. (I must admit I am having a blast with thanks to the consumer 360 cameras available). YouTube has had the capability for while and Vrideo is indeed becoming the home for 360/VR creators. Coming from brands, studios and TV networks we have mostly immersive experiences with some bit of narrative and some fall into the gimmick category. Then there are of course the games. Lots of games. Personally, I have found the most artistry in the independent VR community. The Kaleidoscope VR Film Festivalcurrently touring the U.S. is solid evidence of this. I’ll write more about that in the next installment but trust me when I say both innovation and imagination are at work here from art to immersive narrative. Even Samsung’s VP of Content Strategy Matt Apfel knows this, announcing the Gear Indie Challenge “There in 60 Seconds” at the festival.

 

 

 

Then of course you have immersive journalism. Conflict journalist Christian Stephen creator of “Welcome to Aleppo”, speaking at the VRFF in Los Angeles, referred to VR as “the most important journalistic tool I have ever had.” And, we at StoryTech are educating television show runners, networks and production and media companies as fast as we can, separating the wheat from the chaff, the real opportunities with audiences from the knee jerk reactions and helping them to make the right marriages of creative and tech.

All the classic signs of a bubble are there. The green field is here. The race is on! The question is not if but when the bubble will burst. I’m not being pessimistic because perhaps it will be the best in content creation and technology that survive. The dot-com bubble grew roughly from 1997 to March of 2000 when it collapsed. The investment is just starting to pour into VR and while I am certainly not a financial analyst, I have the same feeling I had in my gut relative to the Internet Bubble. Yet, the VR industry seems to be growing at a much faster rate, so how long until the bubble…well you know. Adam Draper, CEO of Boost VC a company placing bets in VR said as reported by Forbes at the Augmented World Expo “We’re in a virtual reality excitement bubble, but it’s not just hype. Everything is getting so much better so much faster.” What will the timeline be from excitement to investment to the shake out? I don;t know but it’s certain the revolution will be teleVRised.

 Brian Seth Hurst is Co-Founder and Chief Storyteller at StoryTech