As a concept, virtual reality (VR) has widespread applications to gaming, education, entertainment, media, fashion, business, scientific visualization, travel and much more. Being able to ‘travel’ without paying airfare, go ‘outside’ the room on a sick day, and browsing products in immersive 3D are only some of these applications that could improve the quality of life, and the imagination allows for many more.

After 20 years of struggling to enter the market, VR is finally getting market share and attracting developers and consumers’ interests. The top VR systems are currently priced $100 – $799, with the high-level ones priced at $399, $599 and $799. The $399 one requires a game console, and the more expensive ones actually require at least a $1000 PC (additional) to run smoothly and a room dedicated to ‘walking around’ in the VR world. In addition to that, Google is launching $79 and $20 headsets.

For the immersive, in-depth experiences customers are expecting, the prices are still too high, the set-up is too intensive, there are not enough games and apps being offered in the headset and the experience doesn’t yet meet consumer expectations. While a player is expecting to be able to freely interact with the world and explore the places of their dreams (which is due to the heavy positive PR by companies who see VR as ‘the next big sub-sector’), the actual experience does not yet deliver on those expectations. Users experience nausea and discomfort, see pixellation in the visuals, and often cannot move themselves through the virtual world.

At this rate, first year sales may not be enough to entice customers and developers to buy or develop more apps, and the limited profit made may not be enough to sustain the VR platforms.

What can someone in Computing and Financial Management do to advance virtual reality? Here are some questions for thought:
– How can headset prices be lowered?
– How can the in-home VR setup be simplified?
– Which feature of VR is improvable, most impactful on the user experience, and profitable? Do a profit/risk/reward analysis on 10 possible features and vouch for 3.
– How can the lowest-cost VR (Samsung Gear VR and Google’s upcoming Daydream and Cardboard) be immersive and high-quality enough to meet consumer expectations?
– What is one VR appplication you are deeply interested in, and what can you do to advance its development? What have others tried so far?
– On the technical side, how can you improve the viewing experience in a cost-effective way?
– On the technical side, how can you enhance the hands-on interaction between users and the virtual world? What is a simple and affordable way to do that?
– How can you educate VR game and app developers on how to make non-nausea-inducing apps?
– How can you incentivize VR developers to make more apps?
– How can users interact with the virtual world in a way that is natural? Without being restricted to a game controller or a keyboard.
– If you had all of Facebook’s user data, and knew what their preferences were and what they would want to see from virtual reality, how could you tailor a virtual reality experience for each user? How would you categorize users?

For further reading and to find out where I sourced the information in this article, check out these links:

VR system pricing – Yahoo
Google’s new VR, ‘Daydream’
What Nobody Will Tell You About VR – Huffington Post
Why VR will Fail – PC Magazine
VR as a hotel travel experience at Mariott – Wired magazine
VR’s next steps
VR as the next step in immersive learning
9 things Sony sees as the next step for virtual reality gaming

This post was written by Linna Zheng, 3B CFM.