Virtual Reality is now reality. With hundreds of millions of dollars invested in VR technology and content to date, venture capitalists and heavyweight backers like Sony, Disney, Samsung, Facebook and Comcast are betting on a breakout year in 2016 for Virtual Reality. Our Research team embarked on a comprehensive study of VR’s growth this year. We analyzed thousands of articles, blogs, and social post to find insights into what people think about Virtual Reality and what lies ahead.
Significant spikes in mentions occurred five different times during the analysis1. All of these spikes typically involved an announcement of a new piece of hardware, an on-stage demo or an announcement of pricing for a retail release. In particular, the announcements of the HTC Vive and Microsoft Hololens, the Samsung Gear VR pricing announcement, and Oculus Rift’s final version being unveiled all contributed significantly to the conversation. Some additional contributors to spikes in mentions across the board are innovative uses of Virtual Reality such as Disney animator Glen Keane recreating some of his most famous works in VR
Conversation Behavior: Quarter over Quarter
While total mentions grew in each quarter, potential impressions from those mentions decreased in every quarter. It would appear this is due to an increase in interest among the general public, who have less reach2 than the influencers and media outlets that had previously been discussing VR. In other words, Virtual Reality is becoming a broader consumer conversation as the release of Hardware products nears.
Who are the influential authors that are helping to spread the word about Virtual Reality?3 They run the gamut from traditional taste-makers and news outlets like the New York Times, TIME Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and The Economist to modern online tech focused media like Mashable, TechCrunch and WIRED. Additionally, the NFL is the most significant author that has a demonstrated use-case through it’s Virtual Playbook software. Lastly, Samsung is the only hardware manufacturer in the top 10 authors likely due to their product reaching retail spaces first.
The 5 countries with elevated mentions of VR are as follows (in order of Share of Voice4): United States, United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Mexico. It is important to note that the United States and the UK comprise 93% of the conversation among these five countries5.
Geography Word Could
An examination of the word clouds6 for each of these regions gives us some sense of their areas of interest. For the smaller markets in Brazil, Mexico and India, there seems to be less of an interest in specific hardware manufacturers or software developers and more of an interest in experiencing VR, along with what possibilities may hold. On the other hand, the US and UK are very interested in the major players and business impacts. Interest in the possibilities of virtual reality remains high among UK and US audiences, but they are also equally or more interested in seeing retail versions of the Hardware. This could also tell us where the US and UK are spending most of their advertising money.
Six separate industries were identified as most relevant to the virtual reality space: Education, Entertainment, Gaming, Pornography, Sports, and Medicine. Of the six, Gaming and Entertainment comprise 74% of the total conversation. The reasons for this stem from two very related developments: the hardware was developed with these specific industries in mind and also that these two are the industries that are most easily monetized.
That isn’t to say that the monetization process is an easy one to figure out either. In the case of gaming, Oculus Rift was the first device to reach some level of mainstream consciousness. It was conceived as an inexpensive VR experience for gamers, first and foremost. Oculus and curious developers then evolved the offering into something used for non-gaming experiences. Competitors emerged that focused less on the gaming capabilities and more on the ability to craft a substantive VR experience.
At this stage, monetization remains elusive for the industry. Much of the technology is currently running demo software that’s unavailable for sale and the hardware makers themselves have only recently launched storefronts for burgeoning VR content. With that said, the gaming and entertainment industries provide the most direct route to eventual monetization because of the built-in audiences that consume—and more importantly, pay for—the sort of media that’s popular on VR.
Industry Based Word Cloud
For the last item in part 2 of our analysis, we looked at the vocabulary and hashtags being used when discussing VR:
- Gaming discusses major developers, publishers, and hardware that have direct ties to the gaming industry.
- Entertainment is less specific but touches upon movies, television, a major movie that had VR integration, a major studio and the need for content for these devices.
- Medicine speaks primarily to the fact that VR is being used as a rehabilitation and therapeutic device with some mentions of the training required to properly use this new technology to help patients.
Sports conversations revolve around applications that are making the most use of the device as both a way to transport consumers to the game from the comfort of home and as a training device for the players themselves.
- Pornography understandably sticks to the actions that one would be able to recreate in a virtual reality environment.
- Education is the industry that doesn’t yet have a particularly strong focus. However, the idea of using VR as a learning device that would augment textbook learning or as a way to take night classes is there.
- For the purposes of this analysis, it was most convenient to divide the timeline into standard quarters. As the final quarter of the year is ongoing, that period of time will be excluded.
- Defined as the number of people who have seen a social media post. In this context, it means the possible number of unique people may see a post by an author. This does not take into account repeat viewings of content.
- Limited to users with a Klout score over 85. Klout is a measure of the influence an author has. It is measured on a 0-100 scale and the closer a user is to 100 the more people they are able to reach with their posts.
- Share of mentions within a specific category
- Only conversations in English were analyzed for this report
- An image composed of words used in a particular text or subject, in which the size of each word indicates its frequency or importance.