In 2006, I was working for a web hosting provider that sold server space from their data centers worldwide.  Not long thereafter, we started hearing the terminology “cloud” hosting.  It was the new and catchy term that IT folks were slinging and that marketing was excited to start using.  As an account manager, I was responsible to work with customers directly.  At first, my end users, agencies, and web developer clients I had just couldn’t comprehend the “cloud”.  They didn’t know what it was, and why it differed from their regular servers or shared hosting products they were use to buying.  Although some of the infrastructure they were already buying were shared processing, resources, and on demand (which the essence of cloud computing).  Further down the line, and thanks to AWS, a more refined types of cloud deployment models were defied, which included: (regular) Cloud, Hybrid-Cloud, Private Cloud, Public Cloud, etc.  Not a month later, our marketing department removed “cloud” from front of site and product listings.

Fast forward today and relevant to the topic at hand, let’s look at Virtual Reality (VR) and how it’s defined.  We’ve seen tremendous market reaction to augmented reality with games like Pokemon Go!  During this past holiday, we’ve witnessed the first go-to-consumer-market with VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift and the Sony Playstation VR.  Although, the VR battle for market adaptability is dependent on many things, there is one thing the VR industry has to figure out to see it’s success:  what the HELL should we call it?

Evidence of VR Today:
When we look at virtual reality today (in 2017), we see the use of it predominantly in gaming (ie. Playstation VR headset or the Oculus), and or in entertainment (ie. documentaries, music videos, live events, like at Coachella).  After visiting the Virtual Reality Los Angeles Expo (VRLA) this past month and meeting with several key leaders in the VR world, I was quick to be corrected on the varieties of VR.

Several Types of VR (defined):

  • Augmented Reality (AR): technology that super imposes a computer-generated image on a users view of the real world, providing a composite view
  • Mixed Reality (MR): merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments where physical and digital objects co exist
  • Virtual Reality (VR): simulation 3D environment that can be seemingly real by way of using special electronic equipment
  • 360° Video/Photography: also known as immersive or spherical video/photos, 360° is a media format in which every direction is recorded. The viewer has control of viewing from the camera’s point-of-view.  Lastly, with 360° video, activity progresses on a linear timeline, whereas 360° photo, the user is a static environment.

While I understand there are dissertations written by PhDs on the differences of the different VR environments, and as much as I’d love to bore the audience with the precise differences, I’ll refrain from doing so.

Learn From Tech History
Technological history can teach us many things.  During the birth of cloud computing, we clearly saw the struggle on what to call the cloud. Today, consumers know it just as the “Cloud”, or for Apple users, known as “iCloud”.  What I’ve observed is if you give consumers too many varieties of what to call a particular technology, it can cause confusion and a loss in market adaptability. (A great read via Time Magazine: 10 Biggest Tech Failures of the Last Decade)

Let the Techies Be Techies
With VR, there is a difference, and as a VR professional, you are going to know the difference.  However, your mother, wife, sister and kids may never know the technical differences, and that’s okay.  VR professionals: YOU WILL LIVE another day.  Anecdotally, I see the coining of “smartphones” for example, there are a variety of smartphones, and tablets but a common name for the device made it easier consumers to comprehend, adapt and purchase.

Pick One, Seriously.
In college, I sold computers at big box retail store, and I learned consumers are quickly intimidated by things they don’t understand.  Giving them too many choices, with technical definitions will turn them off from purchasing and adapting.  My advice for the VR community is to pick a streamline definition for “VR”, and market the hell out of it.  360° Video or 360° Photography, no it’s called Virtual Reality.  Augmented or Mixed Reality… that’s an aspect of Virtual Reality too.  I think you get my point.  At the end of the day, this technology is still very much in its infancy, on how it’s developed, produced, and sold/cost.  If VR is to win, the VR industry needs to agree on a consistent definition and name, that the market can get their eyes and hands on, literally.