2019 Virtual Reality Trends – Ninjawards

Each year, Cubicle Ninjas’ reviews the industry’s creative highs and lows to publish a curated list of notable efforts in each specialty. Think of it as a highlights reel of the years’ best and brightest, along with some cautionary tales.

One of the core ninja principles is to always question the status quo. The Ninjawards provides a platform for inspiration, constructive criticism, and ultimately, recognition of bright new areas of design or technology. We hope our thinking unlocks new perspectives about the future of your creative in Virtual Reality!

Want to download all of the 2019 Ninjawards? Click here!

What is Virtual Reality?

Before we dive into the Rad, Bad, and Next Fad, we want to address the most common question we receive: what is the difference between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)? In short, augmented reality places objects in front of you, while virtual reality takes you to other places. Simple!

Rise of Standalone VR Headsets WITH Controllers

Let’s face it: for VR to be successful it needs to be as easy to use as your phone. Standalone VR is ready and available for those who want to get more familiar with the tech and immersive experiences without emptying their wallet, with the added bonus of being very easy to use. Platforms like the Oculus Go, HTC Vive Focus, and the upcoming Oculus Quest are allowing more people to get involved and broadening the VR market. Having a built-in controller with each is essential for users to interact freely with this virtual world, and for developers it is key to build software which has a baseline standard of input.

Cost vs Value

5 years back it would cost $3,000 or more to enjoy a cutting-edge VR experience. In a few short years you can get exponentially better hardware for $200 – $400 today. Between VR capable computers, headsets, controllers, and the app/games themselves, the cost of a high-end virtual reality experience still isn’t cheap. Samsung, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, HTC, and Sony are all aggressively finding ways to reduce costs to bring these technologies to every living room. Meanwhile, software developers are finding mobile VR, standalone VR, and desktop VR have settled into market standard pricing.

Content that has Longevity

With so much of virtual reality being new, it is easy to fall into creating a project with a gimmick that only works for a single use, but content that lasts, keeping users coming back for multiple/continued use is key for the platform’s optimal performance and success. Content is king and experience is queen. Immersive storytelling is essential for a successful virtual reality experience, but isn’t the only factor. Your content should also offer an incentive for repeated use or contain the ability to grow and be built upon. Otherwise, your project will eventually fall to the wayside by the newest app/game on the scene.

Killer Apps

2018 has seen the rise of some serious contenders for killer apps in the VR space. For the socially inclined we saw the rise of VR Chat in popular culture, leading to explosive mainstream growth and meme status. Beat Saber made music games relevant again by smashing blocks with lightsabers and taking over Steam and Twitch. For the gamer, Astro Bot Rescue Mission has Playstation VR users enthralled. And for those looking to get things done, VR Desktop and BigScreen continue to grow into the future of the workspace, allowing desktops to be custom spaces.

Strange Ideas Win

In a space that is on the cusp of technological innovation, the opportunities for changing, or in this case, creating the status quo in VR are limitless. The depths of immersive storytelling give creatives and tech innovations a blank canvas to reach their audience. The capabilities of VR are still so undefined that creators have the opportunity to develop entirely new concepts. Every day creators get to try something that probably no one else have ever tried to do before. Games like Job Simulator are changing traditional menu systems by eating a burrito to exit a level.

People Willing to Pay for Content

Content is king. In this day and age of having more volume than ever before, people are willing to pay for good content with many of the top selling VR games on Steam being priced at $30 – $60. But it’s not just the consumer that is willing to pay, top companies like Google and Oculus are paying creators to create quality content within their market places.

Too Big To Bail

With tremendous amount of investment & hype created around VR, it simply too big for it not to grow. With any setbacks VR has faced, the hype around VR continues to surpass its critics, with fear of not wanting to miss out or be left behind in the next big wave of technology continues to capture more. Where VR has not seen the growth expected in the consumer markets, it’s getting larger across education, fitness, healthcare, and retail spaces. Having strong investments from companies like Facebook, Sony, Dell and Intel, will only make it easier for the VR market to reach the everyday Joe.

VR Workbook

In 2018, we refreshed and refurbished our VR Workbook, a comprehensive questionnaire designed to identify our clients’ vision and goals for their future virtual reality application. At Cubicle Ninjas, we believe that understanding our clients’ unique goals, audience, and experience vision helps us provide the most helpful creative and technical recommendations throughout the process for a more successful end product. Best of all, our VR Workbook is 100% free and available now.

The Trough of Disillusionment

In 2017 -2018, we saw virtual reality fall victim to the Trough of Disillusionment from the Gartner Hype Cycle. What exactly is the Gartner Hype Cycle? This is a methodology developed by Gartner to explain and visually graph the pattern of “how a technology or application will evolve over time.” In this instance, the dreams and expectations for VR were much higher than the current reality of the technology, leading to disappointment, disillusionment, and jeopardized investments. VR isn’t dead, but maybe now that the medium has reset expectations we can learn what it can become.

Limited Use Leads to Lack of Understanding

By and large, virtual reality remains a young technology that the vast majority of users have never experienced. This lack of exposure leads to a lack of understanding in the consumer market, limiting its opportunities for further exploration and broader use-cases. Moving forward, we hope to see VR become more accessible and more understood so that it’s true potential can be unlocked.

Poor Quality 360 Video

Okay, you got us. This is a repeat from last year. Unfortunately, despite new camera technology and the introduction of 5k stereoscopic video, 360 video still suffers from a disproportionately high amount of low quality videos. This can be caused by poor graphic cards, massive output files, and limited bandwidth. Many are also still learning how to create a seamless workflow in VR on the hardware and software level. The end result is nothing short of users who may think 360 video is bad VR, when it is more often than not badly implemented 360 video.

360 video production
360 video production
360 video production

Organizations Using VR for Training

Despite the popularity of VR games, virtual reality has near infinite possibilities as a practical tool. A perfect example of this is the use of VR for training purposes. Organizations like Wal-Mart, Siemens, and UPS have all used virtual reality to teach employees how to operate equipment and handle high-pressure scenarios as realistically as possible. In 2019, we expect more major brands to tap into VR as a valuable resource for training their workforce.

Increased Interactivity in Video

As the virtual reality space continues to evolve, developers and consumers alike are demanding more immersive experiences. We saw this first with the advent of controllers for VR, which changed the way users experienced virtual reality. Motions became more fluid and intuitive than ever before. Now, we’re seeing a push for increased interaction. In 2019, we predict choice and decision-making will begin to play a major role in VR storytelling and the user journey.

6DOF as Standard

We think there’s a revolution brewing with the Oculus Quest launching in 2019. Six degrees of freedom is a fancy way of saying both you and your controllers can move naturally within a virtual world. What makes devices like the Oculus Quest unique is that it is now wireless and affordable ($399). As this technology comes to market it will eventually become the standard, making every VR interaction seamless and awe-inspiring,

Opportunistic VR Market

Unlike over-saturated markets (mobile applications, we’re looking at you!), the virtual reality space is largely untapped. We haven’t seen as many major players inundate the market, which leaves a massive amount of opportunity for even underdogs to make a name for themselves. Now seems like an ideal time to focus on an underserved need or industry.

Increased Use of 5k Stereoscopic Video

Gone are the days of grainy, blurry, low-resolution VR experiences. When virtual reality first emerged onto the scene, poor quality 360 video was a huge issue limiting the technology and its impact on underwhelmed viewers. This year, we saw the introduction of 5k stereoscopic video, immersing users in a level of quality never seen before in this space.

Launch is the Beginning

Cubicle Ninjas is celebrating our tenth birthday this year. With thousands of design and development projects under our belt from some of the world’s greatest brands, we’ve noticed a clear trend: successful teams see the world differently. Project launch isn’t a finish line, it’s just the beginning. Companies that think this way see exponentially greater and more frequent success in every project they touch. As part of our mission to stop bad design, we wrote a book about this revelation. To learn how to implement long-term design thinking in your organization, download our 100% free eBook, “Launch is the Beginning”.

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