VR and the rise of ‘the Improbable’

VR and the rise of ‘the Improbable’

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 Posted by Totally Gaming
Chris North from GamCrowd delves into the latest VR news and looks at what challenges the gambling industry faces when it comes to widespread adoption

Before it got swept up in large-scale M&A activity, the payments provider Worldpay – which has accepted a £9.1bn bid from US rival Vantiv – issued a research paper in May into what it termed the 360-degree consumer.

Suggesting the line between the physical and virtual world had never been more blurred, the paper went on to suggest that the consumer appetite for both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) “has never been higher.”

Yet, in surveying over 16,000 consumers in eight countries, the survey found that there were still significant barriers to mass adoption, including in particular the current lack of affordable hardware.

“People must see a genuine need for virtual reality in their daily lives, and it will fall to headset manufacturers and businesses to inspire them with compelling experiences,” the report suggests.

Of course, we know that many of the tech giants are working on providing the world with just such accessible kit, from Facebook with its Oculus Rift to Valve’s attempt to crack the gaming world with its Vive headset. Indeed, stories earlier this year suggested that the latter company now had a third of its workforce dedicated to working on VR applications – and that it is working on three full-VR games.

Then there is the news that GamCrowd reported on in May of the UK VR startup Improbable which announced it had received a total of $502m from its second funding round led by Japanese tech investor Softbank.

The company said all funds were to go towards developing Improbable’s Spatial OS distributed operating system. “We believe that the next major phase will be the emergence of large-scale virtual worlds which enrich human experience and change how we understand the real world,” said chief executive Herman Narula.

But the question for anyone hoping to exploit the potential for VR – and there are many in the gambling sector who have said publically that they believe the opportunities are potentially boundless - is how can operators and suppliers exploit the opportunity when VR ubiquity arrives.

The Worldpay report addresses some of the issues that that the sector will face in the near future, particularly around trust in the transaction. When looking at retail, the report makes the point that for the line between real and virtual brand interaction to blur completely, the experience of buying services in a virtual environment needs to be as simple as completing an online transaction.

“It also needs to feel as comfortable and secure,” the report states.

The bad news is that for now at least trust remains low. Concerns around security remain high for the consumer and it is the second biggest barrier to adoption after the high cost of the actual devices.

But as the report goes on to point out – and as the gambling sector can testify when it comes to eventual mobile adoption – “people’s fear will subside once the convenience of VR payments outweighs the perceived risk.”

Worldpay says the challenge is to make consumers feel secure when making VR payments and although it is similar to online payments, “the input mechanism will need fine-tuning.”

The report cites the quandary over how consumers will submit details to complete a transaction, pointing out that it clearly cannot be done by voice as there is no way of knowing who else is nearby while wearing a headset. Meanwhile, a virtual keyboard would likely be slower than using a desktop or a smartphone.

A simpler option is to replicate the real-world experience of inputting a PIN at the till, though the number pad would have to be replaced with a random distribution of digits to avoid watchers replicating a buyer’s movements. Meanwhile, retinal scanning is also being explored as a security measure, but as the report says, similarly to fingerprint identification on smartphones it will take time before consumers are comfortable with this approach.

Totally Gaming says: Intriguingly, Worldpay make the point that the user experience will “make or break VR” as a payments platform and suggests that a process that forces consumers to switch from their headset to their smartphone won’t be good enough. The same will surely go for gambling – if VR is to work, and to coin a phrase, operators that wish to exploit the opportunity will have to go all in.

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