VR, virtual reality

A key factor limiting the amount of quality virtual reality content available today is the cost of producing it relative to the number of people who have the technology to can view it. Imagine how that value proposition would change if the number of people who own a headset doubled in the next 12 months. If respondents to a survey by research firm Magid are to be believed, it’s a possibility.

The data shows that 13% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 currently claim to own a VR headset, which could mean anything from a free cardboard apparatus to an $800 HTC Vive. Another 15% of respondents, however, said in April that they intend to buy a device within the next 12 months.

In presenting the data at Wednesday’s VR in the Sky conference, Magid svp, media and entertainment Debby Ruth was bullish about the fact that 28% of Americans, or 44 million people, own or intend to own a headset. She noted that segment, which is the “low-hanging fruit” for the industry in the short-term, represents a healthy market segment for advertisers that is fairly equally distributed throughout the country.

Also, given that about 33% of respondents said they had ever tried a VR headset, the own/intend-to-own figure indicates that most users have enjoyed their experiences. That is consistent with other Magid data, which says VR experiences are enjoyable and are exceeding peoples’ expectations. With the technology still in the early stages, that’s a promising sign.

One trend that might dampen enthusiasm about VR adoption is that, according to Ruth, the number of people who intend to purchase a headset, while significant, hasn’t grown over the past year. “People are waiting for something to break,” she said. “Either it’s content or some new shift in headsets.”

A key theme that emerged through panels and off-stage discussions is that VR is far from a mature medium. The highest-quality VR experiences still require users to wear expensive, bulky headsets tethered to high-powered computers. While there is quality content out there, there isn’t enough of it for most consumers to justify purchasing hardware.

Still, media companies are investing in the space. CNN vp, premium content Jason Farkas, whose work we highlighted recently, said the news net plans to launch its own app specifically for Oculus in October. Previously, CNN’s focus in the space has been on producing 360-degree video for users to view on desktop or mobile. It will be interesting to see what breaking news content for a high-end device like the Oculus Rift might look like.

“I hope this will change the way that people consume news,” Farkas said.

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