Virtual Reality: The Distribution Dilemma

We’ve all heard it before, “content is king.” However, without an effective means of distribution, even the best content could fall short of its potential within its respective market. In this blog post, I will explore the current state of the virtual reality (VR) industry, the two main distribution problems it has, and one company that thinks it has a solution to these problems.

virtual realityThe Current State of the Virtual Reality Industry: If you have been on Facebook within the last year then you’ve probably noticed the recent trend in the amount of 360 degree videos distributed online. 360 video allows the viewer to choose their own journey, as these videos are created with smartphones in mind, allowing for the user to watch the video on a device they already own. Although 360 video is an early form of immersive video, a truly immersive experience will come with VR.

VR can be defined as an environment, either one that currently exists which is simulated or one that is created from scratch, that can be explored by a person with proper VR equipment. Some of the equipment needed can be as simple as a smartphone that is mounted in front of a person’s eyes via cardboard (Google Cardboard). However, in order to create a more immersive VR experience, the VR industry is making a push towards head mounted displays, or HMDs.

Some of the more popular HMDs created recently are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive which both allow you to consume VR content with the intended effect of being extremely immersive. There is no doubt we have the technology, but much like the current situation of 4K television content, we are missing an effective and efficient distribution method to consume this VR content.

 The Distribution Problem: The problem with VR comes with its distribution and getting the content to work on all of the different VR platforms and devices. First, the bandwidth needed to consume VR content smoothly is fairly significant and creates problems for large files. Because of this large amount of bandwidth needed, VR content creators are forced to give up quality in order to make the files more manageable which results in heavy compression.

Another problem that emerges when trying to distribute VR content is transcoding and making the content viewable on many different VR devices. Before we had the two major smartphone operating systems (iOS and Android), we had a similar problem of guaranteeing applications to work on multiple devices (forcing developers to choose one platform over the other). Although these two problems are major obstacles for VR content creators, there are still companies looking to solve these issues. This is where Jaunt comes in.

virtual reality jauntThe Distribution Solution: Jaunt is a cinematic VR start up that gained major attention after Disney invested in them in September of 2015. Since then, many employees from Disney owned production company, Lucasfilm, have joined Jaunt’s team to expand their presence in the VR industry. Why does this matter? Jaunt is looking to solve the distribution problem the VR industry has by creating a way to consume VR content via their website and a mobile application full of curated content from many content creators in a way that is efficient in terms of bandwidth.

virtual reality contentJaunt’s website and mobile application not only provide a way for people to access high quality, cinematic VR content, but it also allows them to view the content on many different VR devices. Jaunt is able to transcode their VR content in order to guarantee that it will work on the majority of VR devices that consumers currently own.

After looking at the problems with VR distribution and Jaunt’s attempt at addressing these issues, it is easy to see that we are still in the early stages of VR, but we’re not too far away from VR becoming a common way to consumer many types of media.

What do you think? Once VR content can be easily distributed and consumed, would you buy a HMD? Also, what are some of the other ways you can see VR technology being used in the future?

-Kyle Stoutenberg

6 thoughts on “Virtual Reality: The Distribution Dilemma

  1. VR is mind blowing when you try it for the first time, but not a setting I want to live in. Would hate to see VR take over as the primary form of media consumption. It feels isolating and strange. Good for solo gaming but I don’t think it works for social experiences…who knows?

  2. It is interesting how the importance of distribution can spread beyond typical media of TV and Movies. Does VR need to utilize devices we already have or will dedicated devices stay relevant with better distribution paths in the future? Hopefully VR will last and not see a downfall like 3D technology. It is exciting to see the development of these technologies and watch them grow!

  3. I think a lot of the hype that came with VR regarding the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive stems from the gaming industry. It isn’t uncommon for alternative markets to spark massive advances in technology, and as long as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift hold strong, production costs and retail prices will hit very affordable levels and with more availability to consumers, the VR distribution scene will start seeing a lot of competition.

  4. I think I would buy an HMD if they were cheaper and more accessible for sure. I’ve used VR headsets and I’m not a person to get motion sickness but it is pretty trippy the first time you use it. But for now I can live without it. When it becomes one of those ways to view necessary content or to do my job then I’ll for sure look into more as well. I think training purposes for any company would be a good way to use VR technology. Instead of having people stop their jobs to train new employee’s, you could have them watch a 360 video on the VR like you are actually being trained. So many uses for VR technology that hasn’t been explored yet.

  5. I’m really glad you pointed out how file size/tethering is such a hindrance to effective distribution of VR content. While VR content is incredible, getting it in front of people at the moment is difficult. I believe that’s one of the reasons why “Old People Reacting to VR” videos are currently trending. Regardless, technological advances will only make distribution easier and thus more accessible to the layman.

  6. Though there exists the distribution problem mentioned in your original post, the issues that I largely have with VR lie in the issue I have with HMDs themselves.

    HMDs have their fair share of issues that would be fairly offputting from my experiences and for one large customer issues as well. The issue of motion sickness caused by shift in elevation and disorienting visuals as well of the issue of an isolated media experience are the largest issues for myself. As much as the concept of VR sounds so interesting in theory, there lie fundamental issues with HMDs that I still struggle with when it comes to VR.

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