How retailers can embrace the opportunities around VR devices

Utopia Computers director Craig Hume says that retailers should cast their nets wider when it comes to virtual reality and the Oculus Rift headset, and instead embrace other opportunities around the device.

In the ‘90s, both Nintendo and Atari had a go at trying to bring virtual reality into the home. Both failed in spectacular fashion, so much so that I think any tech firm considering entering the VR marketplace was scared off… until Oculus.

I have been fortunate enough to have an Oculus Rift DK2 headset for the past year and every time I slip it on I get reminded just how amazing this new technology is. I’m currently playing my way through Fallout 4 and have been playing it on a Rift from the start. I literally feel like I’m in the game when I’m playing it. While it’s not optimised for the Rift, it provides an incredibly immersive experience.

I was hopeful of Rift coming out at the £300 mark, making it arguably affordable to the masses. However, the £500 price tag, while expensive, still offers incredible value. As Rich Marsden of VIP pointed out in his recent VR column, it is basically the price of a high-end graphics card and is still a huge amount of technology for the price.

Importantly, as an industry we should want the Rift to be a great product and a great success. At Utopia we don’t foresee us making money from selling the device itself. Similar to Apple products, we see the ecosystem of surrounding hardware being the most exciting opportunity. With gaming accessories, for example, who wants to hold an Xbox controller when you can hold a lifelike lightsaber? Just be careful to clear the living room first!

There’s the hardware upgrade around existing PCs, allowing them to play Rift at its full potential. And of course, new PC sales. We are already getting enquiries almost every day about VR and the upgrades customers require.

For Utopia, 2016 is going to be an incredibly exciting year as we position ourselves as the leader in all things VR in Scotland. We see ourselves as the destination for consumers looking to take advantage of this new technology.

While the obvious gaming revenue streams are there, our industry should be mindful of other avenues worth considering. One project we are working on just now is with a large kitchen retailer who would like its clients to be able to walk around its new kitchens before they buy.

Taking this idea a step further, think about next time you are looking to move home and being able to have a virtual tour of the property. The possibilities are endless, and IT firms are in the ideal position to deliver these goals.

This is one of those landmark moments when I need to pinch myself that I get to work with technology like this for a living. It’s amazing to work in an industry that is so innovative and exciting.

Now it’s our job to make sure the people on the street understand the potential in this incredible new piece of technology.

Craig Hume is director at Utopia Computers.

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