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VR needs a killer app, not games, to become mainstream

Samsung's Nick DiCarlo says games won't bring it to the masses

It won't be gaming that breaks virtual reality out of the niche and into the mainstream, says Samsung's VP of VR Nick DiCarlo, but a native app that couldn't exist without the platform.

Speaking to The Verge ahead of tomorrow's Samsung developer conference, DiCarlo said that it's going to take something along the lines of Twitter or Instagram to make VR a concept for everyone rather than a niche luxury.

"For virtual reality to really cross into the mainstream, it's gotta be more than just really awesome, killer games," he said. "What is the most important use case in VR? We haven't figured it out yet, but there are lots of ideas. What is the Twitter or Instagram of VR? By that, I don't mean having tweets in VR or having filtered photos in VR - I mean that it's native to that platform, it's born of that platform and would not have existed without that platform."

Samsung is due to deliver its own VR solution, the Galaxy Gear VR, this year - which should put it ahead of both Oculus and Sony in the race for public affections. That aim will no doubt be assisted by the fact that it uses the Galaxy 4 smartphone as its base technology, lowering consumer entry barriers considerably. Nonetheless, he freely admits that much of the pioneering work in VR quality has been done by Palmer Luckey's team at Oculus.

"It's fairly easy to put a phone into a pair of goggles, which gives you a good basic idea of what virtual reality can be, but what Oculus has really delivered is a really high quality VR experience," he said, referencing the Rift's low latency. "It means if you turn your head, the light that you expect to see is coming off the screen."

Many developers are already working on VR games for the Samsung hardware, with Imangi producing a Temple Run title for the device and the Room developer Fireproof confirming that it's working on a game, too. The nature of DiCarlo's 'killer app' remains up for grabs, however, with potential candidates ranging from Harmonix's 'relaxation simulator' to virtual tourism, immersive cinema, face-to-face conferencing and, inevitably, adult entertainment.

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Latest comments (8)

matthew bennion Web Development 2 years ago
What VR needs is to not be so expensive! We've got a few years before that happens...
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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 2 years ago
Of course, 'really awesome, killer games' wouldn't hurt.
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Bo Larsen Reviewer 2 years ago
We can beat around the bush and pretend that a 'killer app' might be virtual tourism or immersive cinema, but the question everyone would ask for when buying something like a VR headset is "Can I have Virtual Sex?"

Of course there is a stigma with owning adult entertainment products, but I think it will be the #1 reason why headsets will be popular or why one headset will be more popular than another brand. We saw it with VHS and with Blu-Ray, so why shouldn't it happen again with VR headsets? :)
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Show all comments (8)
We understand that Samsung has been "surprised" by the reaction to their GearVR - the call for a "hoard" of indie developers to support the platform, or the comments about a need for a "killer app" - we get it, this is a pony that is difficult to ride - and the "face melting" issue is a difficult surprise (though one warned about some time back!)

For those of you that have not been unlucky enough to be bored senseless by one of my presentations on VRE (Virtual Reality Entertainment); I try and envisage the mobile phone VR as one of three approaches (Handheld, PC/Console, and Commercial). Selling a $200 holster for a $400 mobile phone to view VR will always be a tough order at the best of time - and looking for support (and the elusive killer app) are mandatory requirements to survive! (mainstream or no mainstream)

Will the killer app be a game - more than likely; but the fundamental question is, when that killer app appears will it be able to be viewed on a hand-held VR approach (cardboard+), or will it need the grunt of a powerful system to avoid the underlying issues (the elephant in the room of sim-sickness)?
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James Coote Independent Game Developer 2 years ago
There's loads of industrial applications in areas like architecture & construction, engineering, defence, medicine, geospatial etc. Basically anywhere where you need to visualise 3D data. Gaming is a bit of an anomaly in that it's the only obvious area of consumer application. The sooner VR companies work out who their real customers are, the quicker we can stop flailing about for "problems to which VR is the solution" or fretting about VR never reaching mass market
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Rafa Ferrer Localisation Manager, Red Comet Media2 years ago
What is the most important use case in VR? We haven't figured it out yet
So first you design a solution and then you look for a need it can fulfill? It used to be the other way around... That's why I'm still skeptic about mainstream use of VR la twitter or instagram. I can't possibly imagine my non-gaming, non-geek acquaintances wearing VR goggles beyond the curiosity test.
My bet is on games and niche tech (as James above says) - which are quite large areas anyway. Movies and adult entertainment can also draw a lot of sales, that's for sure.
the Room developer Fireproof confirming that it's working on a game, too
Yay!!
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee2 years ago
I agree and that killer app may or may not be a game, but it has to be something that really validates the technology.
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Dan Wood Visual Effects Artist 2 years ago
I tried out the DK2 for all of 20 minutes, with a couple of basic demos, and it validated it entirely in my eyes.

I think the thing that will really validate this technology will simply be getting people to try it. They've already got more than enough in the software deparment to blow most people's minds, and it's still very early days - the apps/games will only get stronger with time. What they really need to do is to create as many public opportunities to test-drive the thing, across as much of the world as possible, and then let word of mouth do the rest.
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