Virtual reality revenue will explode more than tenfold over the next four years — to some $75 billion worldwide in 2021, according to one recent forecast.
I’m sorry, what? That’s just virtually insane.
The delirious growth expectations for VR are triggered by investments by the likes Facebook, Samsung and Google, which made several VR announcements this week at its annual I/O developers conference, among others. If they’re spending billions on this stuff, there’s gotta be a market there — right? But I think the fantastic projections for VR’s prospects amount to the tech industry huffing its own hype fumes. There are several roadblocks to VR becoming a big business, and none of them will be easily overcome.
Virtual reality makes for a fantastic demo, and it’s become an au courant accoutrement at film fests. At the Cannes Film Festival this week, Alejandro G. Iñárritu is showing his VR documentary on illegal immigration. The director said virtual-reality filmmaking represents “an art in itself.”
Sure, it’s a groundbreaking new frontier and, for some, an exciting new canvas to work on. But in the everyday, relax-and-unwind real world? I just don’t see a VR future as envisioned for us by Silicon Valley’s engineering brain trust making major inroads in the living room. We’ve seen a version of this movie before: 3DTV, which was hamstrung by the same clumsy headgear and lack of compelling content.