Up until recently, virtual reality (VR) had not actually been considered a disruptive technology, especially given the cost, availability, and lack of practical options. Even when consumer-electronics companies started to develop affordable devices – some even just giving users a means to “wear” their smartphones as headsets – uptake had been low.

This is about to change, however, and it seems content will be the driver of growth for VR and AR technologies. We have featured before on e27 how developers in China, for instance, are moving their investment away from hardware toward more content-driven initiatives.

After all, once the hardware has seen some refinement, it will be the content that can drive growth and adoption. In fact, one of the recent VR and AR-oriented viral hits had been in the gaming industry, particularly Pokemon GO. While it can be argued that the viral hit has lost its lustre in such a short span of time, there is no arguing that a combination of accessibility and content (as well as nostalgia) can make for a good marketing boost.

Also read: 5 myths about virtual reality debunked

In this article, I will share three means by which content and applications can help impact the uptake of VR technologies.

1. Gaming can still take the lead, and with real-world nuances, too

Virtual reality gaming will be a US$45 billion market by 2025, according to Grand View Research. One way by which game developers and publishers can mitigate the perceived lack of accessibility when it comes to devices is by supporting VR game arcades – which can support the devices, infrastructure, and the environment that will facilitate a more immersive experience.

Of course, content will still lead the effort, and in this regard, game developers are attempting to pull gamers’ nostalgia strings once more, much like how Nintendo got Pokemon GO to go viral among the millennial crowd. One such developer has built Decentraland, a platform aimed to be the modern equivalent of Second Life – the virtual avatar game that had been a hit among the more mature crowd in the mid 2000s.

Image credit: Decentraland

Decentraland bills itself as a decentralized equivalent of Second Life, wherein the platform is neither owned by the developers or publishers. By running on top of the Ethereum blockchain, all content, transactions, exchanges, and interactions, are run off the distributed network, with no possible control from a central entity.

Unlike Second Life, however, Decentraland plans to become more VR-heavy, with the use of VR headsets and controls, and not simply a 3D-representation as with Second Life. Like the iconic avatar-based game, though, it will heavily feature an in-game economy, where virtual goods and services can be bought, sold or traded – all through an in-game cryptocurrency token.

What’s interesting is that being a virtual reality equivalent of the real world, the Decentraland platform is also heavily featuring in-game “real estate”, wherein users can bid on space with cryptocurrency.

To promote interest in the platform, and in an effort to provide a platform for content creators to build their virtual property, Decentraland is auctioning off virtual land – somewhat of a pre-sale for its token-based digital property ownership.

Which brings us to our next point …

2. Real estate will also benefit from VR and AR tours

A recent Goldman Sachs report predicts that the VR and AR market in real estate will reach at least $80 billion by 2025.

VR tours can be simple, online presentations that anyone can access, requiring just a downloadable smartphone app and a cardboard case for a smartphone, and within the year, more intricate tours can be done with a special VR headset.

Singaporean proptech startup Panoleh utilizes virtual reality videos to help agents narrow down where to take clients, particularly international buyers. Prospective buyers will be able to get an intimate feel for a home without going inside and looking – and it works even when they are located abroad.

Image credit: Panoleh

This makes the home showing process easier and more seamless for clients. The technology allows viewers to enter a simulated three-dimensional environment, where, in many cases, they can get a sense of how things would look as they walk through a home and turn their head in various directions.

After toying with the technology for years, many Singapore agents are experimenting with 3D video tours to showcase condos and other homes available for purchase. In the case of off-plan properties, buyers can experience a feel of the space even before construction has started, giving them a better understanding of floor plans and layouts.

Also read: 6 Virtual Reality trends to look forward to in 2018

Hit by a languid market, the number of licensed property agents has fallen from 31,800 three years ago to fewer than 28,400 in January 2017. Technology could make a major impact on the real estate labour market in the next 2 to 3 years as VR technology matures and the labour market shrinks.

3. VR and AR can also augment travel and tourism

Virtual Reality is more than just an immersive technology. It does not only teleport you to a place less imagined, but makes you believe that you are actually there, enjoying the serenity and beauty of a Utopian world which you haven’t seen before. However, transportation to a new world comes with a huge cost that you would spend on buying the device, and paucity of content will surely be a big disappointment.

VR/AR has lots of potential in travel — digital nomads and families can be virtually present at the destination that they are seeking or want to travel without leaving their couches. They can analyse and hand-pick the best place to stay by navigating the place before-hand that will completely eliminate the need of calling the reception desk and ask for details of the room or places to visit.

Many companies are realising the fact that the consumer needs and demands are changing rapidly and it is important to think way ahead of them in order to create top of the mind recall.

For example Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau, affiliated with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, has released 360-degree virtual reality videos, which recommended locations in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions of Japan as well as Tokyo. The new virtual tour videos offer future tourists more immersive introductions to recommended locations.

YouVisit, a New York based company creates virtual reality marketing content for marketers, agencies, travel destinations, and educational institutions to connect audiences with brands. The company partnered with a couple of hotels to provider solution for its customers.

Image credit: Youvisit

There are also a lot of VR videos shot in 360 degrees that you can find on Facebook and YouTube, that have been shot by professional photographers/filmmakers. You can swipe left, right and center to navigate the scenery without a VR headset. If you have one, you can have a more immersive experience. Nowadays, you can simply capture a panoramic view using your Android phone and upload it on Facebook for your friends and relatives to like, comment and share.

Conclusion

To conclude, virtual and augmented reality technology can be considered as an extension to the existing video formats that we are currently see when we watch films or play games on our computer, smartphone or tablet. With constant innovation and advancements, these will emerge as the primary medium of experience, providing a more immersive experience to gamers and consumers, and helping people experience both virtual and real worlds without having to spend a lot on travel, transportation, and incidental expenses.

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