Last week I had the pleasure of moderating a panel with some amazing VR entrepreneursat Chetan Sharma’s amazing annual conference including VReal’s Todd Hooper, Baobob’s Maureen Fan, and PlutoVr’s Forest Gibson As you can see above, Chetan picks the worst location for the event but we made it work. As part of the event I contributed the essay below which I wanted to share more broadly for discussion with all awesome people that are coming together for Oculus Connect this week!
We are nearing the tipping point of mass market virtual reality (VR). It has taken a bit longer to get here, with the delay stemming from the cost of first generation hardware and manufacturing capacity. However, that’s changing. Earlier this year Mobile VR platforms like the Samsung Gear reports more than one million monthly active users and Google Cardboard reports that VR apps are being downloaded more than 25 million times. Google’s Daydream should quickly enable hundreds of millions of phones to power great VR experiences. I’m excited to see what Oculus shares at Connect to continue this momentum.
Over the next few years, tens of millions of folks will have Vive / Oculus / Playstation VR at home or in their offices, as well as a Gear VR next to their beds. Beyond the total number of users, we should see meaningful amounts of time spent “inside” of VR as it captures more people’s attention. In fact, the question I am most often asked is: What are the killer apps beyond games and entertainment content? This is a strong indication that everyone is now searching for the next set of killer VR apps.
Venture-backed high growth companies are often successful because they bet on new platform shifts ahead of incumbents. Recent examples include Salesforce and Whatsapp. An increasing number of smart, curious entrepreneurs are investing substantial time exploring VR opportunities. Some promising applications areas I keep hear them outside of Games and Entertainment verticals include:
- User-Generated Content – New mediums require new ways of telling and discovering compelling stories. There is heavy investment from incumbent media companies both in-house and via strategic investments. If you look back in time at web and mobile platform innovations, a key area of value creation were user-generated content platforms, YouTube and Facebook, that paired easy creation (or upload) with audience networks. Google’s acquisition of Tiltbrush pre-empted the first clear opportunity in this category There are many great teams thinking about this category.
- Communication – Every new medium has created a massive new communication company. In the 1990s, Hotmail created web-based free consumer email. In the 2000s, Skype created a free global telecommunication platform, and later, WhatsApp & Facebook Messenger created the industry’s largest free text messaging networks. History indicates being a nimble startup focused on communication is a great
- Workplace Collaboration – Companies, especially ones focused on knowledge workers, are willing to pay a premium to enable greater employee productivity. For example, engineers often use a whiteboard to collaborate, but when the team isn’t physically collocated, it doesn’t work. VR enables shared whiteboard experiences that could increase productivity by light years.
- Training and Education – My single favorite VR impact story is how a surgeon used Google Cardboard to prepare for a complex, pediatric operation that had never been performed before. Dr. Redmond Burke used a 3D model of the infant’s heart to “view” how it was situated in her chest cavity to plan out the surgery, and he saved the baby’s life. Whether it is practicing a hobby, improving a vocational skill, or preparing for a high stakes operation, VR can help.
- Considered Purchase Tools – Just as the internet radically changed how consumers turned from physical stores to ecommerce, VR can drive a massive shift in purchasing behavior. Audi’s Virtual Showroom offers shoppers with an innovative way to visualize every detail of a car in VR before they customize their car and place an order. It’s an amazing buying experience.
Of course, these ideas are just a few of the possibilities. Risk-taking entrepreneurs are rapidly exploring many more killer application ideas which I’m excited to learn about!