CES Forum Speakers Discuss Future of VR/AR

Ramasubramanian, Jeffery Powers, Dr. S. “Jay” Jayaram, Nonny de la Pena and moderator Lane Cooper at the "AR, VR and the Future of Content" conference at CES on Jan. 4, 2017. Photo by Yujie Xue/BU News Service

By Yujie Xue
For BU News Service

LAS VEGAS — Analysts, entrepreneurs and journalists gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday to discuss the current and future applications of virtual and augmented reality.

The markets are still nascent, but investors and manufacturers believe that VR and AR have the potential to impact many industries.

VR/AR headsets and cameras are not unapproachable to consumers anymore. People can buy a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR on Amazon for very little. Thanks to the success of smartphone game Pokemon Go, the terms “AR” and “VR” are no longer strangers to the general public.

But many consumers still don’t understand the definitions and basic technologies of VR and AR. “Education is a crucial part,” said Meenakshi Ramasubramanian, a senior research analyst for the Consumer Technology Association, adding that consumers will know where VR and AR can go after they understand the basics of the two terms.

The key to increasing understanding is to create more content for non-gamers, Ramasubramanian said. Currently, most AR/VR content is limited to gaming. Consumers need to be taught that VR/AR technology can be used for practical purposes and to engage content.

“Most of the AR/VR headsets are only supplemental — they are not essential,” said Jeffery Powers, co-founder and CEO of VR startup Occipital.

Some media outlets are already taking action. Nonny de la Pena, the CEO of Emblematic Group, spoke about how VR/AR can bring content to the field of journalism. Pene spoke about “immersive journalism” — integrating virtual reality technology to put the audience “on scene” and making them feel like “being there”.

She talked about how VR/AR could help with reporting on Syrian refugee camps and thus raise the public’s empathy. “New York Times has a VR team. It may give you an idea of where VR/AR can go,” Pena said.

Though content creators are embracing VR technologies, the consumer market is still facing its challenges. One limitation is design: Most of the current smart headsets are heavy and ill-fitting. Another limitation is cost.

“Many millennials found VR headsets unaffordable,” said Ramasubramanian.

Sankar Jayaram, Chief Strategist at Voke VR and Intel, doesn’t think price should be an issue. “Price doesn’t matter,” he said, raising the iPhone as an example. “Once they realize the importance of AR/VR and how it can make people’s life better, cost will not be a problem.”


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