360 VR Cameras landscape. Image courtesy of http://www.roadtovr.com
In the last couple of months, many Virtual Reality cameras have come to market which try to put content creation into the hands of consumers. However, sales of these VR cameras have been only moderate with the Ricoh Theta and Samsung 360 leading the pack. Because the unexceptional sales volume surprised us, we have collected the feedback to see what is holding down the pace of purchase.
Most consumers who bought a 360 VR camera mentioned that the big thrill in owning a VR camera frequently faded after a few weeks, and after only using it a couple of times. This feedback was consistent and widespread and really surprised us because purchasing a VR camera is not only expensive but also requires time and effort to learn how to operate. Therefore we looked carefully at the user experience, storytelling and day-to-day integration to try to determine why consumers are not completely satisfied.
The first barrier is simply getting consumers ready to actually make a purchase. When consumers enter a retail store like Best Buy and walk past the unusual ball-shaped camera devices, at first glance it does not quite resemble a camera at all, and it’s not very intuitive in terms of how to hold it and see what it captures. The biggest difference between a techie and consumer is the amount of effort he or she is willing to put in to learn a new technology. While a techie would spend hours researching and learning how to operate a 360 VR camera, the average consumer is more impatient and wants the device to directly function. Since the 360-degree camera capture experience is completely different from traditional digital cameras, there is just no obvious reference point for a consumer to know how to easily use it.
The second barrier to purchase or use is related to the 360 content itself which is very different from what consumers are used to — the 16:9 frame. With 360 degrees you pretty much capture everything, meaning you have no option other than to include things you want and things you do not want in the frame. This raises two more problems. First, consumers like presenting themselves from their best side and in the best light, but now they no longer can control that because it would take too much effort to make sure all 360 degrees look great. Second, consumers like telling a story by framing the perfect moment, and now they have to find other ways to direct the viewer’s attention. Given these challenges, it makes more sense that most 360 VR cameras are bought by professionals now. They either have the time and resources to stage 360 degrees or know the ins-and-outs of storytelling with sound and movements in 360 VR.
Lastly, portability and ease of carrying is a huge factor for consumers. Most of today’s pictures and videos are taken with smartphones because it fits into what you are already carrying like your phone in your pocket. However, 360-degree cameras are normally the size of a ball which often does not quite fit into your pocket and requires a bag or a mount in order to carry them around.
The only one which does fit is the Ricoh Theta which is almost the size of a smartphone, but still needs to be connected through wifi to a phone. The best integrated solution would be a 360-degree camera embedded into a smartphone, but since today we don’t want to buy thick or bulky phones, it would have a huge impact on the design of the smartphone.
360-degree Virtual Reality cameras are a great invention, but their value add compared to a standard panorama shot by a smartphone is small compared to the price you pay. We do not know if 360 VR will hit mass consumer adoption, but we know that professional videographers and content creators love capturing and developing commercial experiences with it. Therefore we believe that consumer adoption of 360-degree cameras will be way behind actual 360 content produced for commercialization.
Founder & CEO – Lucid VR
Check out Lucid Cam at http://www.lucidcam.com