The VR ecosystem: A goldmine for developers and startups

By: Srikant Nayak, Interactive Art Director, Happy Finish

FOMO is the ‘anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere’. You know the feeling that makes you salivate for a cup of Pumpkin Spice Latte, a new iPhone, or even for a ride in a self-driving car. Such consumer trends have always compelled innovators and marketers to push forward with a concentrated profit-driven agenda on a real-world global scale.

Today, we have new worlds beyond the real. Virtual Reality has opened the floodgates to an eventual metaverse. Marketers will have infinite worlds to choose from, and hence infinite opportunities to advertise, sell, and profit from. Imagine a metaverse where you traverse virtual worlds and shop or interact like you would in the real world – fully tactile and sensory experiences.

In the history of technology, the biggest and most successful ecosystems have been built on the hard work of a vibrant development community around the world. From the real-world Silicon Valley in California, to the cloud-based app stores, developers have moved in and logged in large numbers to adopt and earn. The same companies building the framework for these ecosystems are now laying the foundation for the VR ecosystem. The profit machine of advertising is slowly making a paradigm shift to this new ecosystem, and as a developer or start-up you should too.

‘Killer App’ is an industry term that means ‘a feature, function, or application of a new technology or product which is presented as virtually indispensable or much superior to rival products’. While applications like word processing and spread sheets propelled much of the PC revolution, and email made consumers and companies adopt the internet, today in VR we’re already seeing apps like Google Earth VR (on HTC Vive) inching forward to take that lucrative title. Flying around the world, down to street level, has incredible potential. Imagine, in the near future wearing your headset and flying into San Francisco to your friend’s home to check out his or her brand new Tesla self-driving car and then going for a ride in it.

Killer apps need killer ecosystems. Killer ecosystems need entrepreneurs with unlimited creativity and vision. As developers, this is the new frontier. It’s one that needs exploration, with rewards that not only bring the first-mover advantage, but also opportunities to build in worlds not yet seen, or even imagined, worlds for consumers and enterprise that make the globe even smaller than it is now- a different world for everyone, and a different experience to suit the context.

Before marketers pick up their flags and head to conquer unexplored worlds, those worlds must be built on code. With the behemoths of tech funnelling billions of dollars into VR research, the influx of talent and technology has consumed the mindshare of Silicon Valley. This push forward is unlikely to stop, regardless of how unlikely a world full of headset-wearing people may seem to a few. VR is here to stay, the investment is made. A meta-ecosystem is rising. Feel the FOMO now?

In early 2016, Google announced its major VR platform aptly named ‘Daydream’. With Daydream, Google plans to build mobile VR for Android devices by integrating it right down into the innards of the operating system. This move was met with mixed reaction, as VR purists have never gotten around to accepting mobile VR due to the limits of the devices powering it. However, Google has always looked to the developers to absorb its APIs and help grow the ecosystem, while it takes care of the OS and hardware manufacturers. This is a healthy sign for the industry, as it brings developers closer to achieving high market penetration by building VR apps for the mobile OS currently on an overwhelmingly large number of mobile devices worldwide – Android.

As content creators, we are not just bullish on the VR ecosystem. We are constantly in awe and executing concepts. As Daniel Cheetham (Chief Interactive Officer, Happy Finish) puts it – the time to “start developing stuff that has never really been thought about before” is now. VR has our mindshare.

To the larger development community out there, the message is simple. VR is here and is to stay. Along with Augmented and Mixed Reality, Virtual Reality will make an indistinguishable and indispensable addition to the marketing mix. That’s the real gold mine, and with your tools and skills, you as developers and startups stand chance to strike gold and keep reaping the benefits.

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