VR Pioneer Tony Parisi: Content is Where the Magic Is

The area that holds VR's biggest opportunity will also be its biggest challenge: content. Wevr VP of platform products Tony Parisi explored this and other insights to kick off Orange Silicon Valley's excellent Through the looking glass: Hollywood & Silicon Valley get immersive.

Amidst the VR excitement, the content angle seems to be a reality check that's gaining steam. Just yesterday at TC Disrupt, VRSE CEO Chris Milk estimated VR's available (non gaming) content to be about a "week's worth" -- not enough to sell 50 million headsets, he asserted.

To kick off tonight's session, Orange's Chris Arkenberg challenged Parisi on what makes this VR revolution different from past phases of excitement. "We're seeing echoes of the past," Parisi answered," but there are fundamental differences in today's environment."

Specifically there's Moore's Law: cheaper chipsets enable more powerful and affordable hardware. We also have more and better developers today in areas like gaming. Lastly we now have two generations of digital natives, which will be a receptive consumer base for VR. 

Arkenberg questioned if Facebook's acquisition of Oculus was a catalyst or at least partially responsible for the VR renaissance we're now seeing. And if that's true, to what degree will social media drive VR development/innovation as well as consumer adoption? 

Parisi believes social will have a big home in VR, but there are lots of challenges. For one, most of our online communication is asynchronous. So getting people together in the same virtual spaces -- a la AltspaceVR or the next Second Life -- will be a lot harder than it looks.

There are also rendering challenges in social VR scenerios that involve avatars. There, we see the challenge known as "Uncanny Valley:" When avatars are too photorealistic, but off by just a little bit, it freaks people out. So he advises for more "cartoony" avatar styles in early days. 

Other content challenges include building room scale immersions (a la HTC Vive) that go beyond passive or stationary ones (a la Rift). Next-generation VR design will involve input + motion he says. And it's early days, so the process of getting there is largely iterative.

"A lot of it is experimental," he said. "There's no style guide for VR quite yet."

Mike Boland

Michael Boland is Chief Analyst and VP of Content for BIA/Kelsey, covering online and mobile media. Mike is a frequent speaker at top industry conferences such as BIA/Kelsey events, Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and WHERE 2.0. He has authored in-depth reports on the changing local media landscape including online video, social networking and mobile. He contributes regularly to highly read online news sources such as Business Insider and the Huffington Post. A trusted source for reporters covering the interactive media space, his comments have appeared in major news and trade media, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes. Previously he was a San Francisco-based freelance writer for business and technology magazines, such as Red Herring, Business 2.0, and Mobile Magazine. Mike began his career in business analysis and journalism as a staff reporter for Forbes magazine, where he covered tech & media.