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You won’t get very far on the INTX show floor in Boston this week without seeing a bunch of people with virtual reality headsets on, indulging in technology made possible by billions invested in VR. So, is VR really a big content delivery opportunity and if so, what part will service providers play in this whole ecosystem?

It’s all still developing, of course, but a session at INTX’s Imagine Park did try to shed a bit of light on the issue on Monday. Jefferson Wang of IBB Consulting reviewed some results from just-published research into the consumer VR market opportunity beyond gaming. The survey included more than 1,000 U.S. online consumers that expressed an interest in VR.

A majority of respondents (54 percent) said they think it is here to stay and not a fad. But less than one third (31 percent) of people interested in VR have actually tried it. More than three quarters (77 percent) say they are willing to spend on VR gear, with 18 percent noting they’d pay more than $250, according to the survey.

The research also showed that movies and TV via VR had about 50 percent interest in almost all age groups. No other content category attracted a higher level of widespread appeal, Wang reports.

The content distribution market is up for grabs according to the survey with respondents planning to access VR across Internet video providers (55 percent), gaming platforms (41 percent), wireless providers (29 percent), app stores (28 percent), cable or satellite providers (26 percent) and social networks (17 percent).

“VR is on the radar of almost every mobile, cable and media client we work with and the most frequent question we get is whether this makes sense for their business right now,” Wang observes. “Initially, IBB predicts that the VR market winners will be companies that can break down the barriers to entry with an end-to-end play.”

IBB Consulting sees what it calls an immediate opportunity to reduce the friction points involved with experiencing VR to convert those in the “not interested” camp. The firm advocates that ecosystem players able to leverage a retail presence will have an advantage as they can simplify getting consumers started via in-store demos, existing billing relationships, physical and online distribution, sales staff and post-sale support.

Other presenters during the VR session at INTX showed off gear and applications. Avegant’s Edward Tang demonstrated a new product to the audience dubbed the Glyph, which is screenless. A video reviewing that technology is available here.

VRTIFY’s Facundo Diaz overviewed what he calls “the world’s first VR music platform.” A how-it-works video is available at the company’s website.

Julian Price of vTime highlighted the company’s VR social network that allows users to “meet up” with friends to chat in virtual reality in real time, and also watch video content together in VR. A demo of that is available here.

When it comes to how service providers can monetize VR opportunities, the panelists pointed out the chicken-egg dilemma. They agreed that users don’t “get it” until they try VR, so until consumers have wider opportunity to do so, a big challenge remains.

New advertising opportunities also abound in VR, but trying to use older styles of advertising probably won’t work, the group agreed. The trick is going to be “integrating advertising so it adds to the VR experience, not ruins it,” vTime’s Price observes.

 

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