Stop Thinking Killer App, Think Killer Experience

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Since hopping back into the VR/AR space, I’ve been having many conversations with people about what’s needed to make VR/AR the success it should be. With the announcements at Facebook F8, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for AR right now and there’s no doubt as I say quite often, that we will live in an AR world in the near future.

But I’ve had many conversations about why VR in particular isn’t where we thought it would be and why there still isn’t great content for the most part. Many friends are asking me what’s holding up creating better VR experiences. We hear content makers talk about the technology not being up to par and the tech people complain they don’t have great content to show. As I wrote about here, I do feel that we focus too often on the limitations and not on the possibilities of the technology and that’s not helping us to move forward at all.

I also hear and read about the need to create the killer app for VR/AR and I think that’s also hurting us as we try to build a new industry. The truth is that there will be many killer apps, not a single one. I think we should focus on creating killer content instead, to help drive the change and show people the real capabilities of the technology. How do we make these killer experiences?

    1. Stop with the limitations. As I wrote about here, we need to stop focusing on the limitations. Everyone knows they exist, but we still need to make great content. I’ve had so many conversations with friends who were doing VR/AR 10 or 20 years ago and they were all doing awesome, cool things. With all of the limitations we had back then. Just make it good!

    2. Add the other senses. We’re slowly starting to see more experiments with other senses coming into the space and I hope that continues. Jacki Morie is doing great work on bringing scent into virtual worlds. As she says – Scent, as the most evocative of our senses, should be used more widely in virtual environments.

Jacki Morie RemniSCENT™

Do more with spatial sound. Lots of really great work being done in 3D spatial sound and more needs to be done. Charlie Morrow has been doing awesome spatial sound for years and knows how to create soundscapes that are truly amazing. I was just introduced to DearVR, another company bring spatial sound to VR environments. Of course, we’re waiting for a head mount with excellent built in headphones…

ExtremeTech has a good overview of tactile feedback suits that are being developed and while I think they will be used a great deal for commercial applications (training, etc.) and some gaming, I don’t think people will be using them for every day VR use for quite some time. But it’s still important for developers to play with haptics and see what they can do. But, there are simple ways to bring that sense of touch into the experiences as well. I love that The Walk experience had you actually walk on a wire. Have people stand in a sandbox if you’re doing an experience by the beach. If I’m walking through a forest, have branches brush against me. As I say below, set the environment!

Tesla Suit
    3. Set the environment and bring in the physical. Many years ago, we were pitching the tourism board for a resort island. In addition to talking about what we could do within the actual virtual world, we talked to the client about creating a set for their experience. A sandbox would allow people to feel they were walking on a real beach. Heat lamps would remind them about the warmth of the sun. I don’t understand why people aren’t using the power of creating a set.

    For example, I love what Diesel did in their Only the Brave experience for heights. The more you engage the whole body, the more you increase the reality of the experience. When we did the Cutty Sark Virtual Voyage, you actually stood on the deck of a ship and that floor was on springs. That little motion enhanced the experience of being on a boat.

So often we walk into a brightly lit room, with no cues at all to enhance the experience. There’s nothing there to set the mood of the experience or at least break us from the reality of being in a plain space. Make it a set and see the difference in the experience.

VR Scout

    4. Think cycle time. This point is specifically for location based entertainment and promotional efforts. After doing tens of thousands of events and watching many, many people waiting in line, I can tell you that you need to complete a story arc in no more than about 7 minutes total. It’s very hard for guests not familiar with either video games or VR to step into an experience and then wander around trying to figure out what to do. They need to have a story that’s easy to understand and navigate. The need to feel like they completed something or they will walk away frustrated with the technology. Back at the CyberEvent Group, we looked at a 5 minute cycle time to get the throughput at about 12 people per HMD per hour. This was done for two reasons:
       a. To make sure that the client had some idea as to the number of people that would enjoy the experience. While there’s no way to create ROI off of VR using traditional metrics, it’s important to have some measure of how many people can have the experience.
       b. To make sure that the guests waiting in line know how long they’re going to wait. It’s frustrating not knowing how much time they have to wait while someone plays an entire video game.

I’ll be at the Tribeca Film Festival Virtual Arcade later this week and I’m hoping that I’ll see some experiences that go beyond what I’ve been seeing so far. I’ve heard great feedback already, so I am looking forward to it.

And as I get some of the old VR band together, I’m planning on exploring all of these as well and hopefully I’ll be part of a new team building some killer experiences.

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