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2016: The Year of Virtual Reality?

The Consumer Electronics (CES) Show Big Tent has been put away for another year, along with its cars, phones and drones…but you can still hear the echoing buzz of the Show’s media star, virtual reality.

And it’s getting louder: The Consumer Technology Association (CTA, the trade group behind CES) predicts a 500% increase in sales of virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets this year -- from the 200,000 sold last year to more than 1.2 million in 2016, led by the usual suspects of Samsung, Google, Facebook, Sony and HTC.

This got us thinking: Could 2016 be the Year of Virtual Reality? There’s some pretty cool reasons to believe, just ask anyone who’s “been” there lately. So is there really a “there” there for virtual reality in 2016?

Analysts predict it will take about 10 years for VR/AR to become the standard medium for content and delivery across consumer, business and healthcare platforms, with a market valued by Goldman Sachs at $80 billion by 2025.

Still, 2016 promises more mainstream critical mass than virtual reality has yet to achieve, as technology has approached the point where devices are affordable and content is available. This year should see virtual reality’s potential mature from early-adopter gaming into an impressive portfolio of consumer media innovation, as presented at CES. Jen Villani, SVP, Business Development & Innovation at The STORYLAB who attended CES, summed it up perfectly: “Technology, media and content are symbiotic, and CES is the place that brings it all together.”

Specifically Jen, also an AWM-NYC Board Member, noted content is a continued focal point of at CES. We’re encouraged that content remains the common denominator of media innovation, from next-gen virtual reality to next week’s streaming video. We’re even more excited to see a new media need that can create new opportunities for women.

Jen’s CES networking proved that point, as she spent most of her time “…in content partnership and distribution discussions -- and not on the show floor!" 

Jen suggests those new VR/AR opportunities may already be surfacing among producers, programmers, and travel-related industries. “Now, for those 'interested but not ready' brands, 360-degree video is interesting,” she added. “These videos are more accessible for consumers and allow them to ‘play’ with dimension – it’s actually a great primer for VR adoption."

That’s in line with the recent Fortune article out of CES, 7 Ways AR and VR Will Change Tech in 2016 , among them 360-degree video cameras, drones, tourism, augmented reality’s rapid adoption by the automotive industry.

 Consumer adoption appears to be the big target of this year’s VR offerings. As Market Daily reported, “...Consumers will expect better-quality experiences, no matter where they are…Developments in VR/AR such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift allow consumers to be engulfed in rich, immersive experiences….What this means for advertisers: Advertisers need to re-learn and improve the art of storytelling. New visual platforms open up a whole world of immersive, rich opportunity.


 “There is a lot of hype and promise around virtual reality,” said Carat’s Jan Weinstein, who also attended CES. “Having experienced it firsthand, I have to say the promise is real.  It’s transporting, and it’s amazing!  The opportunities for marketers and content creators are as endless as the experience feels.”

Jan’s insight reflects one reality of virtual reality in 2016: As cord-cutters, streamers and bingers rewire entertainment media consumption, the industry must follow….with content ready to be rewired and reinvented for consumers and competition.

Virtual reality is demonstrating a new kind of human connection with media. And it is putting the potential of media literally into the hands of the consumers. We like that. And we’re watching this space very closely, because we believe the increasing need for content can create more opportunities for women in media.

Jan puts this best: “I now think of it as true experiential sampling.  Media is exciting, yet again!”

 Among current media content leaders, we’re most intrigued by the Discovery Channel’s VR approach.  The network is casting a wide net around the virtual viewer experience, developing VR and 360-degree video apps that can be a showcase for its beloved cable programming portfolio, or a cross-promotion advertising opportunity.   Five words: Shark Week in virtual reality. 

 Blog post by AWM - NYC member Tricia Geoghegan 


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The Alliance for Women in Media, NYC Affiliate is a professional organization dedicated to women in the field of media in the Greater New York area with an emphasis on peer-to-peer experiences. Through unique events and programming, AWMNYC provides its members the opportunity to make connections both personal and professional who inspire as well as educate. We welcome members that are interested in making authentic connections, sharing their experiences and have a desire to develop themselves professionally.

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