The people have spoken, and they want virtual reality to be social.

When you show most people VR for the first time, their reaction is almost inevitable: First their jaw drops, then they say “wow,” and then finally, after taking off the headset, they say something along the lines of, “That was amazing. What’s next?”

Although consumer virtual reality is still a fairly new technology, having been widely available for only a year and a half or so, the “what’s next” question has been hard to answer. There are numerous games, and lots of short cinematic experiences. There are 360-degree travel videos, some music, some live sports, and a variety of other single-person content. All told, reported analysts at Greenlight Insights last fall, VR is expected to become a $38 billion industry by 2026.

Now a new study from Greenlight Insights suggests that if makers of devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream View want to lure in the masses, they need to make it possible for people to do things together in virtual reality.

To be sure, there’s no shortage of efforts to meet that need. Last month, for example, Facebook unveiled Spaces, its first public social VR project, which allows Rift users to hang out together in a private room, create and share virtual objects, and even video chat with people in the real world. Other companies that have invested heavily in social VR include AltspaceVR and High Fidelity.

Those companies may well be on the right track.

According to Greenlight’s study, 67% of those surveyed said they are interested in social VR. And of those who have already tried virtual reality, that number shoots up to 78%.

Perhaps more interesting, the percentage of respondents who said they’d use social VR apps at least once a week was 75.7%, including 28.1% who reported they’d want to spend time using social VR every day.

And why not? While some worry that VR presents just another way for people to lose sight of their real lives, it also offers people who are far from each other a way to spend meaningful time together doing things like playing games, watching movies, or just hanging out and chatting. No one says it’s a replacement for actually being together, but if that’s not an option, why wouldn’t you want to go into a virtual room with your best friend who lives on the other side of the country and do things together?

That’ll be even more true when the quality of the social experiences improves, with realistic-looking avatars, deep immersion, and high sound quality.

You think it’s a coincidence that Facebook, of all companies, spent nearly $3 billion to buy Oculus?

Source: FastCompany.com