In this guest post, Max Piantoni (pictured below), head of creative at Melbourne tech firm FGMNT, casts a keen eye on the burgeoning world of virtual reality and discusses how VR will thrive with development of specific solutions to commercial problems…
It is a common misconception that VR must be truly mainstream before it can be deemed a success. That millions of headsets must be sold, and sold immediately, and that the early days of VR will belong to games. I disagree.
Success in Virtual Reality should not be measured in units sold, rather success will come in the form of applications that engender return visits, reward continued use and provide concrete benefits beyond entertainment. The real success in these next few years of VR will not come from games, rather from niche tools that solve specific industry-based problems. Tools to help people get their jobs done more effectively, or to do jobs that were not possible before.
As in any kinds of design, a seductive hangup in the VR discussion is the idea that it should be a platform for generalist tools. One hammer to strike all nails. But how do we get to our generalist tool without first solving the component problems? The real value in VR lies in the identification of niche tools with specific uses for specific people. This is the area that we are operating in with FGMNT.
The VR world is not ready for a generalist tool like Microsoft Word. Headsets are not mass- market consumer products yet. Until they are we need specific solutions to suit specific industries. To continue the analogy; VR doesn’t need a Microsoft Word like approach, VR needs a Final Draft like approach. Final Draft is the desktop software that every screenwriter uses to do their job, and that everyone else has never heard of. It is a successful product because it addresses one very specific group of people, serves their exact needs, and ignores everyone else. It doesn’t want to serve everyone, and if it tried to, everyone would just buy Word instead.
VR designers need to be humble in their approach. Just look at one problem at a time. Don’t try to ‘change the world’, don’t try to ‘shift computing forever’, don’t even try to ‘alter reality’, or aspire to any other broad but ungraspable missions. Just look at one thing.
Another prevalent and misguided attitude is that buzzword ‘Virtual Reality’ alone will be the solution. Yes VR is the display technology and the input technology, but really it is the tip of the iceberg. True VR problem solving will leverage the headset as the entry point into understanding the results of the complex services that are built to form the actual solutions. Good VR problem solving will use this new technology to humanise and make digestible the kinds of data that belong in the machine, and that the average human cannot make sense of without VR.
VR is far more than just a ‘tool for looking at things’. It is a tool for achieving things; it can be a tool for making, a tool for analysing, and a tool for fostering greater understanding both in the mind of the user, and the minds of their audience.