Sitting at home, locked up in quarantine and having finished everything available on Netflix, a lot of people have been desperately looking for an escape; Virtual Reality is just that – an escape.
Lockdown has undoubtedly caused a shift in our behaviour. Zoom calls are being used for birthdays, Netflix Parties to watch shows with friends and Virtual Games have replaced games night. Certain apps like Houseparty and TikTok have also seen tremendous success in the past couple of months. Zoom, in particular, now has 300 million daily users as of April 2020, according to CEO Eric Yuan (as opposed to 10 million in December!). The effects of Covid-19 on how we behave is not to be underestimated; we truly are in unprecedented times. But the question remains, does that mean there is a niche now available for VR to occupy?
In short – Yes. The Pandemic has boosted demand for VR entertainment and virtual social environments. People are using VR to host parties, visit museums and even go on virtual holidays. (Read more about some cool uses of VR). In the same vein, sceptics will question why, if VR is so revolutionary, isn’t it already popular?
Since VR headsets were revealed, it has struggled to become a household item. A study by Statistica concluded that the most commonly stated barrier to the adoption of VR is the price of the Head Mounted Display (HMD), followed closely by the lack of content available. This problem is unique because, without wide adoption, developers will not want to develop apps on a VR platform. Equally, without content on the VR platform, the number of headsets being bought will remain low.
Coronavirus could be what VR needs to overcome these hurdles. It is already causing dramatic changes to society, from the workplace to entertainment. This creates an opportunity for VR to finally see some serious adoption. Following the pandemic, many people will probably continue working from home as companies start to incorporate virtual working into their business strategy. The UK government has even proposed a law to give workers the right to work from home upon request, even after lockdown.
During lockdown, we have already seen a large increase in usage of platforms like AltspaceVR, for social uses, events, and team projects. Virtual meeting places like this could continue to prove useful for meetings in the future.
Additionally, not all of the solutions require an HMD. Cross-platform virtual spaces are being developed by Spatial to ensure versatility and widespread usage – whether from a headset or a laptop. This is pivotal in bridging the gap between the two platforms and will undoubtedly help the transition to VR.
As the world heals from the deadly virus, there is a need for virtual interaction and therefore there is an opportunity for VR to help people adapt to the new realities of life. The adoption of VR has already started in the last couple months and it is just a matter of time before more apps are built for it and the price of headsets fall.