Virtual Reality Execs Advocate VR Standards, Open Systems

Execs from HTC, Hulu, GoPro and Black Box VR looked at “Tapping Virtual Reality’s Real Potential” during a panel discussion at CES 2018. Each company had its own strategies, but everyone agreed on one thing: the need for the nascent industry to create standards and adopt open systems. “If you’re making a fitness app, you don’t want to have to optimize for every platform,” noted HTC senior vice president of virtual reality Rikard Steiber. “It’s too hard, doesn’t scale and isn’t sustainable. We as an industry must push towards an open platform.”

Hulu tech vice president Julian Eggebrecht agreed. “With a single standard, there will be stronger hardware support,” he said. “A standard means that Nvidia and Qualcomm can make the experience better.” He reported that his company promotes Hulu as the platform, but admitted an open-system-based platform is desirable.

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“It would be nice to be able to share between the ecosystems,” he said. “Someone who likes a specific social feature of our platform is stuck in the ecosystem.”

GoPro senior product manager Jess Bonner said that her company allows users to output to a variety of platforms. “We want the content to shine no matter what platform it’s on,” she said. “It would be great if we had a single system for every platform.”

Everyone working in the VR space is dealing with challenges. Black Box VR is in the midst of creating a location-based VR fitness experience and co-founder Ryan DeLuca explained theirs. “Not a lot of people have the headsets, which are still expensive,” he said. “The easier it is for people to use your product, the better.” Black Box VR combines games and 360-video for its fitness solution. “You can use your body if you’re in VR space to win the games,” he explained.

Bonner noted that GoPro users have been making VR content for some time, but users wanted a camera that was less expensive without sacrificing quality. She also noted the importance of developing best practices for producing VR content, urging industry players to share what they learn.

Eggebrecht stressed the increasing importance of social integration in VR experiences. “That is the killer app,” he said. He experienced it firsthand, using Oculus to project his avatar and watch a movie with buddies across the country. “Combined with voice chat, it becomes a very social space,” he said. “VR has the stigma of being very lonely, so now that’s not the case.”

“We’re all convinced that VR will take over the world, but it takes a minimum of time,” said Steiber. “Two years ago, we had 30 apps — now we have over 2,000. The value proposition for VR is coming into place. The customer experience is better. We believe [we’re poised for] a mass-market adoption.”