The potential of VR is often thrown under the bus by virtual reality critics; arguing against its universal implication of isolation. Since its big break, VR has been plagued with one question that rises above most: do we really need another breakthrough that will further dampen human interaction? Devs and enthusiasts have tried to show the world what could be with the power of virtual reality but have fallen short of removing these doubts without certain proof. But not anymore.
With corporate giants such as Facebook and other firms jumping in the race of innovating entertainment, the possibilities of shared VR experiences have begun to pop up on the map of technology. Already, the companies have started to showcase projects that let the participants share their virtual journeys. Facebook has taken a step further and is in works to transform the virtual reality into a social platform for people, much the same as its flagship social media site. At their F8 conference, people were allowed a sneak peek to social VR in the making where they explored how shared experiences could change the entertainment industry.
On top of social VR, location-based virtual reality is becoming more and more popular for its ability to let people have a shared experience. Devs are coming up with games where a team of people, within the same experience, are connected through the story, leaving off gaps for the players to strategize, communicate and interact with each other.
“My favorite moment of witnessing the value of social VR in action was seeing a group who had been randomly paired together coming out of our Anaheim location at Downtown Disney exchanging email addresses. The four of them had become friends as they took on the Empire together! I love that they were able to build a friendship out of their shared experience.”
Ian Bowie – Lead Experience Designer at ILMxLAB
However, it is necessary to remember that creating the app, headset or platform in itself cannot create shared VR experiences. The social aspect of virtual reality doesn’t depend on the virtual encounters by more than one participants, rather it lies on the ability of a specific VR project that can move the participants emotionally and connect them with one another and the worlds they present.
Although it’s still not likely that VR experiences will become a natural part of our social lives immediately, the possibilities are endless and slowly getting more traction. Firms need to start thinking about what they are offering to the people through VR experiences: not just for its connection but for the raw entertainment as well, whether it’s done by immersing people in a thrilling quest or connecting them to discuss about a VR film. Furthermore, creators and devs need to stop looking at social and shared VR experiences as a novelty and should change, adapt and value exceptional storytelling if the goal is to keep attracting customers.