Building a more inclusive VR/AR community, focused on the potential users

Hi, dear enthusiasts, developers, industry experts and content connoisseurs of all things VR/AR/MR!

As a fellow enthusiast in the middle of a vibrant local VR ecosystem, it’s truly fantastic to consider how far we’ve come in the five years since the Oculus Rift Kickstarter got this whole ball rolling again. Finally we can glimpse the advent of “the era of immersive technology”, a post-VR time in history when this amazing tech is out there in everybody’s hands (or, rather, on everybody’s heads).

Photo from VR Open House event by vrsverige.se

The above quote really hits home. Last year the high-end consumer products finally became available, and we all now have Vives, Rifts and PSVR´s to play around with — gear that would cost more than 10x the price and with inferior features and specs back in pre-2012. But the cost/value ratio still doesn’t go all the way to make high-end VR an attractive package for the mass-market. For the industry to go from a couple of million to billions of users, we all know that the tech has a ways to go still.

Michael Abrash, Oculus Chief Scientist, about the technical challenges ahead on the engineering side.

And that’s why it’s lovely that the industry has such great support and camaraderie. Being in VR truly means being part of a great community of people driving the tech forwards, innovating at the edge of our understanding of consciousness, user interface, hardware performance and so on. There’s all the great sources of information from hero evangelists like Will at UploadVR, Ben at RoadtoVR, Kent at VoicesOfVR, not to mention all the subreddits where we can all nerd out together. In addition, it seems like VR inherently attracts and promotes diversity — we see a bigger ratio of women and people of varying ethnic backgrounds among the budding VR creators, compared to tech in general. The collective passion (not to mention the huge numbers of invested dollars by VCs and the tech giants) to promote the industry and the technology is real, and is something to be cherished and appreciated. We all want to help nurture and protect ”our baby” VR so it can survive, grow strong and go out and take on the world.


The road not taken

But. There’s still a huge majority of humans out there who haven’t tried VR, haven’t had a reason to contemplate the impact this tech will have on everything and everyone, and aren’t inclined to stand in the front row to cheer on and welcome any new and disruptive technology. And yet, these are the people who will also have their lives, lifestyles and livelihoods massively changed, just like the rest of us, when VR/AR becomes the next (and final?) computing platform. If they have no voice in the discourse about the direction that immersive technology is developed, how will the industry be able to cater to their needs and wishes? This change might come in the next 1–2 years, or over the next decade, but however rapidly or slowly it happens we think there is a role and a hole to fill when it comes to more actively approaching and inviting the mainstream audience to the conversation.

These are the teachers, the healthcare professionals, the construction engineers, the web designers, the students, the parents, the elderly citizens and the blue-collar workers – people of all walks of life. They deserve to have their minds blown and their minds f***ed by a proper intro to VR, so they can’t help but start sprouting powerful ideas and forming tangible desires relevant to their lives. Furthermore, VR makers and developers need the mainstream audience’s loud input to inform their design decisions when creating this new reality. And, yeah, the industry also actually needs the mainstream audience to see the benefits of the tech so they become willing to part with their money for fancy new VR products. After all…


If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

In summary, yes we need the industry to keep evolving and attracting engineers, developers, investors and evangelists. We absolutely need a tight-knit community of industry insiders. This is the top-down way to figuratively ”enable VR to descend upon the market and seep into everybody’s lives”.

On the other hand, we need to balance this by going out in the normal world and presenting the potential of immersive tech in a simple and accessible way — so the mainstream audience can feel included and that they also have agency, a way to adapt to what’s coming rather than overwhelmed and powerless.


How we’re building a user-focused VR/AR community up north

And yes, here’s how our company, VRS Media, has started a VR community-centric media business based on that very premise, up in Sweden of all places.

First, the vrsverige.se news site:

For the editorial content on our VR website, we try to embody the notion of ”post-VR”: if it’s inevitable that immersive tech will eventually impact billions around the planet, what kind of info do people need NOW in order to be prepared THEN? And how do we make a connection through the content we create with the pain points felt by our visitor in their daily life? Our editor in chief Johan Hägerström launched vrsverige.se in 2013 and it’s grown to the biggest VR news/information website in Scandinavia.


Next, VR/AR Open House events:

From our first VR Open House in June 2016

Even for those curious about immersive tech, we believe that first-hand experience is necessary along with inspiration and gentle encouragement, to be fully convinced of its potential. That’s why we run regular (monthly) events focused on bringing in the public and creating a platform where the industry, the early adopters and the “eventual adopters” can meet and share experiences. The feedback from local VR companies as well as from the public has been great!

We always fill our venue to capacity, featuring free food/drinks, popular speakers and lots and lots of VR/AR demo stations (Vives, Rifts, Gear VRs and the odd Hololens) for new people to try. We believe that the “VR/AR Open House” event format should be rolled out in any city where there’s already a VR enthusiast/developer community. If you’d like our help in getting started in your city, please reach out and we’ll share our learnings!


Lastly, our B2B offering at virtualreality.se:

After we capture the attention and interest from regular people in all kinds of professional roles, we simply offer them services: to visit their office and bring VR gear for their team to get an intro — just a fun team activity or we can hold an intro lecture/presentation at the same time. And for those who are ready to start exploring VR implementations for their business, we can help them get to the point of scoping and specifying a project. After that, we can matchmake them with VR producers from our network so they get started. In this way, because of the highly relevant audience we’re reaching, we’re generating a much faster revenue stream than the “eyeballs to CPM advertising” business model of traditional media companies. Content, events, services.


Towards a post-VR world: join us!

If you like the philosophy behind what we’re doing, we think you’ll love our grander plan for the future — we’re taking our “user-focused content and services” approach out on the global scene! Together with other enthusiasts, experts and influencers, we’re now expanding into an international indie media network and a global landing page for business and consumer guidance in the VR/AR/MR landscape. This new “curated aggregator” site is immersive.ly.

As a fellow VR/AR enthusiast, YOU are invited to become a shareholder in our company. Please check out the launch presentation of immersive.ly and our crowdfunding campaign here.

(Unfortunately, for US citizens you need to be an accredited investor to participate in equity crowdfunding).