News about VR headsets has been dominating tech industry headlines for a while now, and so far this year we’ve seen release dates of some of the biggest players in the industry announced – Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and so on.
While the channel, retailers and gaming enthusiasts have been focusing on how much a headset is going to cost, what GPU will be able to run the latest VR titles, and if gamers need to buy a whole new PC to get the most out of virtual reality, there may be a big opportunity for selling headsets to non-gamers.
PCR attended the Wearable Technology Show this week. This year, the show had a dedicated VR section. Within it was a whole host of gaming applications, developers and headsets. There was one stand in particular that was cram-packed with attendees.
vTime is a VR social network. And the company appeared to be inundated at the show with people trying it out and interviewing CEO Julian Price about the virtual reality mobile app.
Using just your smartphone and VR headset, you can meet, chat and interact with friends, family and strangers in virtual locations, such as a Parisian terrace, a forest at night, or hanging off the side of a cliff.
You can create a virtual avatar and chat with one to three other users, with the option to interact with your friends or have the system randomly pair you with other users.
The result is kind of like Skype meets The Sims, with a bit of Second Life thrown in.
With Price revealing that site already has “tens of thousands of users in 150 countries around the world”, could VR social networking be a way to sell headsets to non-gaming enthusiasts?
Keeping in touch with loved ones and friends is big business in the tech industry. How many people do you know, especially the younger generation, that aren’t on Facebook?
Despite the impressive numbers already on vTime, PCR wondered how enthusiastic users have been about the social network so far.
“We’ve had a lot of really good feedback,” said Price. “The best thing we’ve seen so far is a Facebook user page. In one of our Night Forest destination we have a snake that comes through camp every now and then. And we noticed on the Facebook page that someone had baked us a cake in the shape of the snake!”
Price also touched on what vTime has planned in the near future: “We hear back from our users constantly. So we know that they want a personal experience and they want share that. So top of our roadmap now is sharing your own photos and videos.”
He added: “We’re working on getting more users on board and extending our destination list. We’ll be adding new features and seeing what works and what doesn’t.”
vTime is currently only compatible with Gear VR and Google Cardboard. It’s basically an app on your smartphone, so in theory, it will work with any headset that you have to put your phone into.
With the likes of Google Cardboard costing less than £15, if VR social networks really start to boom, tech retailers might want to start thinking about stocking these cheaper smartphone headsets.
Developers Starship Group plans to make vTime compatible with all virtual reality headsets in the future, including the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.
Check out the vTime social network at vtime.net.
There were plenty of unusual and innovative products showcased at this year's Wearable Technology show. Check out our list of some of the most interesting WTS2016 products here.
Do you think VR social networks will take off? And if so, how will you get invovled as a retailer/distributor/vendor? Let us know your thoughts by sending an email witht he subject line 'VR social networks' to firstname.lastname@example.org.