I spent most of last week in New Orleans, enjoying the food and learning about promising start-ups at the Collision Conference.
I enjoy talking to young entrepreneurs at Collision; they come from all over the world to pitch their start-ups and get noticed. I saw over 100 new companies that showed everything from travel apps to new social networks and a host of others dealing with health, education, regional solutions, and finance. Every start-up got a few minutes to sell their idea on a “Pitch” stage and a small kiosk in the demo area for demos and longer conversations.
As you can imagine, virtual reality was a hot topic this year. But one session really stuck out: VR as a new platform for storytelling. The panel included two Samsung executives, David Eun of its Global Innovation Center and Marc Mathieu from Samsung Electronics America, and Jacques Methe of Cirque du Soleil Media.
VR “is inventing a new way to tell a story,” Methe said, pointing to Cirque du Soleil’s 360-degree Kurios VR app, which is in the Oculus Store. “They put the 360-degree camera in the center of the performance and people come up and say hi, putting you in the center of the action.”
Kurios was one of the first VR videos I saw that made me realize how VR will someday revolutionize all forms of entertainment. If you have a Samsung Gear VR headset and a Samsung Galaxy S5 or above, I encourage you to download the app to see for yourself how this could change storytelling within the entertainment industry.
Samsung’s Mathieu said that cavemen told stories via cave drawings, a medium that eventually moved to frames in painting and pictures, where it has stayed for centuries. Even today, HD video is shown within a frame on a TVs, PCs, tablets, and smartphones. According to Matheiu, 360-degree VR breaks us out of that frame.
“This may be the closest to teleportation we will ever have in our lifetime,” he argued, and I kind of agree with that view. The really good VR apps put you in the center of the story.
Eun agreed that professional storytelling like the content from Cirque du Soleil will be big, but he added that the greatest content creators may just be average consumers. He urged attendees to imagine capturing a child’s first steps on a 360-degree video camera and using a good set of VR goggles to go back and relive the moment at any time.
One could imagine putting a 360-degree VR camera on the table at a child’s birthday party or friend’s wedding in order to share the experience with those not in attendance. To that end, Samsung in February introduced a 360-degree camera, which it expects to be a key content creation tool for consumers and semi professionals.
Our VR research at Creative Strategies shows that user-created content will be an important catalyst to getting consumers to back VR. But what is not clear to date is what type of VR headsets or platforms consumers will adopt. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are currently too expensive to garner any serious interest from consumers beyond high-end gamers. But the Gear VR and Google Cardboard headsets are too low-quality to drive really broad adoption, although Eun said more than 1 million Gear VRs have to been sold to date.
The good news is the industry is moving fast to create higher-end VR headsets that don’t break the bank. Next week, I’ll report on what the Chinese are doing to create top-of-the-line headsets at cheaper prices, based on a recent trip I took to check in with suppliers. But after listening to the folks on this VR panel at Collision, I am convinced that storytelling could be at least one of the killer apps that will drive VR adoption in the future.