Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality have been the new buzzwords in the home entertainment business for the past few years, but the hype is starting to meet reality (the real one) when it comes to the money-making prospects for these new formats in the entertainment realm.
That was the consensus at the “Next Up: Alternate Realities in Home Entertainment: VR, MR, AR” conference, presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.
“The challenge from my perspective is not the technology, but how you apply that technology,” said Mike Dunn, DEG chair and president, product strategy and consumer business development, 20th Century Fox.
Still, these new formats are here to stay, and the industry must begin to adjust, noted DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith.
“It’s not temporary,” she said. “It’s going to be permanent.”
“The near term is not going to be as dramatic as the long term,” said keynote speaker and author Charlie Fink. “We get very excited when we discover something new, but for it to become a product, it takes a long time.”
Fink noted, “AR [especially mobile] is hot right now, and VR is not so hot.”
“Virtual and augmented reality have nothing to do with each other,” he said. “They are not the same.”
What makes AR, which superimposes data and other content on real video, so exciting, he said, is that “the world is going to be painted with data.”
“Who’s going to be doing the painting?” he said, noting that it is an opportunity for IP owners.
Virtual reality requires an immersive experience that is “going to take a while,” he said. Disneyland, consumers being inside a movie, is an early attempt at VR, he said.
“Although I loved Ready Player One [the Steven Spielberg blockbuster about VR], I note that it takes place in 2045,” said Fink about VR. “I would say, ‘Don’t hold your breath. It’s going to take a while for VR to become as big as AR. That said, when you can walk around in the movie, it will be mind-blowing and everybody will do it.’”
Still, it’s all in the developmental stage, as many speakers acknowledged.
Location-based VR, meaning spaces at malls, etc., where consumers can experience VR, is the leading edge of the VR business, speakers said.
“It’s also bringing so many more people to experience VR, hopefully getting over the hurdles of understanding what it means and some of the scariness of getting the headset for the first time and working out that human interaction as you are first experiencing it and so our hope is certainly that the LBE market will not only be a business in and of itself but also encourage and support the home market,” said Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
“These arcades that are popping up, for us it’s a secondary licensing opportunity for the home entertainment product that we are creating,” said Brendan Handler, SVP and GM, virtual reality at FoxNext. Fox has produced VR projects around its ‘Alien’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’ properties.
“Ultimately, it’s going to come down to content,” he said. “It’s going to have to be breakthrough content.”
It’s also the practical aspect of VR, noted Schell.
“Content’s critical but you have to have great devices to be able to experience the content,” she said. “And to really make that accessible you’ve got to have a low price point, you have to have glasses that people can wear for a long time and watch longer form content without getting tired, without getting sick, you have to have it untethered so people can walk around, wireless, long battery life without warming up your face so much.”
The consensus was VR, AR, MR are still a work in progress.