A recent YouGov survey shows that VR challenges to adoption remain – with cost leading the way. Basic familiarity with the technology has grown slowly with a third of adults saying they know something about VR companies and games.
The percentage of people who closely follow the developments or consider themselves close to an expert has grown from 10% to 13% in little more than a year. It’s all moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.
VR Challenges to Adoption
As we know, the price of our HMDs and related technologies has been a long-running challenge for VR. Many people don’t realize that standalone headsets like the Oculus Go and forthcoming Quest are bringing prices much lower. But what’s most interesting in the data is when you put aside cost and look at the other barriers.
Here’s the chart from Statista:
Surprisingly, both the lack of a social dimension and concerns over health issues were raised by a fifth of the respondents. While we have social VR platforms like AltSpaceVR and VRChat, some in the public are probably looking for more. Something like a Facebook-like experience where you can hang out with family and friends. That will happen once VR headset ownership spreads. But the social platforms can also feel like a tech-centric, Wild West kind of environment to novice users.
If you look back, it wasn’t that much different with Second Life. It took a while before it moved from being a frontier for the adventurous to a home for everyone.
Health concerns also remain a stubborn issue. Some of this may be due to how people are introduced to VR. Anyone that’s done Google Cardboard for too long ends up not feeling well. And if you have the misfortune to have your first VR experience be a 360 video of a roller coaster ride, that’s enough to send you back to your flat screen monitors. And swear never to do virtual reality again.
The Barriers are Real
Despite the incredible potential for VR, these challenges are real. And they surface across the variety of ways VR is used, from retail and professional development to the learning environment. Even if you’re using state-of-the-art equipment, a few people will still get motion sickness. Whether or not that completely disappears remains to be seen. If it doesn’t, it’s one more accessibility issue that must be addressed.
It also remains a challenge that not all HMD’s are designed for the differences in the distance between our eyes. The ability to make IPD adjustments (the distance between the lenses) in VR headsets is more important than we realize. An uncomfortable experience can be worse than no experience at all.
We expect the VR challenges to adoption will change dramatically in the next two years. Standalone HMDs are bringing down costs and serving as a more accessible entry point. And with better designs, incidents of motion sickness should decline.
That last barrier to adoption – lack of quality content – remains a challenge for all of us. Incredibly creative work is being done – and we encounter it all the time. But it doesn’t always get beyond the film festival or university lab. And where the work isn’t good, it’s on us to help make it better.
We owe it to the future of an amazing medium.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.