VR traction over the past few years has been slower than many had anticipated. But it’s still finding small wins and is growing at a fairly healthy pace. So the question is how well it’s landing with consumers today, and are those sentiments trending in the right direction?
So we set out for answers. Working closely with Thrive Analytics, ARtillery Intelligence authored questions to be fielded through its established survey engine to more than 98,000 U.S. adults. The result is Wave VI of the research, and a narrative report we published to unpack the results.
Known as VR Usage & Consumer Attitudes, Wave VI, it follows similar reports over the past few years. Five waves of research now bring new insights and trend data to light. And all five waves represent a collective six-digit sum of U.S. adults for robust longitudinal analysis.
Among the topics tackled: How is VR resonating with everyday consumers? How often are they using it? How satisfied are they? What types of experiences do they like most? How much are they willing to pay for it? And for those who aren’t interested in VR… why not?
Building on the Familiar
Building on our recent Behind the Numbers installment on consumer desires for VR content improvements, what types of experiences are they most interested in? As examined, they want more quantity and quality of apps and games, but what use cases resonate most?
According to this year’s survey, cinematic content leads (67 percent) such as watching 2D movies in a 3D environment. That’s followed by gaming (54 percent), social networking (50 percent), travel & tourism (44 percent), and education (44 percent), and healthcare (36 percent).
Starting with the leading category, it’s notable that users are most interested in what they know: cinematic content. Though 2D movies and TV don’t harness VR’s full immersion, they’re still what consumers want. This means VR is most successful when it builds on the familiar.
Similarly, social networking is a familiar use case that had a strong showing in this year’s results. It was the third highest-ranked use case as noted above. But more notable is its year-over-year trending, jumping from 41 percent to 50 percent year-over-year.
We also introduced a few new categories to the survey in this wave – specifically, watching sports (29 percent), watching news (24 percent), and dating (15 percent). Sports and news are “familiar” use cases, just like cinematic content, while VR dating still has to materialize.
Ups and Downs
One thing that jumps out in these figures is social networking’s rise, as noted above. It grew more than any other desired use case in this year’s survey wave. Could this mean that Meta’s marketing and other metaverse hype are stimulating demand for immersive social experiences?
Conversely, there was a decline in interest in VR travel & tourism. Could this be due to the dynamics and demand signals of a post-Covid world? We’re in a period when consumers are able to travel after two years of lockdown, which logically dampens interest in virtual travel.
Another key finding is that these results show a mix of native VR activities (fully immersive 3D) and standard 2D content that’s been brought into VR (e.g., watching movies). The fact that the latter represents the most popular activity is telling of the early stage in which VR lingers.
Eventual VR successes will build around native experiences. In other words, they can only exist in VR. They’ll apply unique capabilities to immerse users in 3D sensory experiences. This will be a learning curve for developers, just like we saw with native smartphone app design.
In the meantime, consumers need time to wrap their heads around VR’s experiential departure. Their desired VR activities will continue to be conceptualized in the activities they know. This will be the case until new/native experiences effectively reframe their thinking and interests.
We’ll pause there and circle back in the next installment with more survey data. Meanwhile, see the full report here.