While countries around the world are dealing with the new normal that COVID-19 has created, complete with social distancing measures, restrictions on businesses and more, there are certain things that people simply can’t do right now. Football is a big one for fans in the UK, with stadiums sat empty and broadcasters funnelling computer-generated crowd noises to help immerse fans watching at home, but it’s certainly not the only area of the economy that has seen drastic change in recent months.
The arts, particularly theatre, is suffering in the UK. The packed seats of many small UK theatres mean it’s simply not viable to offer shows with social distancing in place, and that has put thousands of jobs at risk. It’s a horrible time for a lot of people, but there’s one option that affected industries arent considering - virtual reality.
Virtual reality has gained a lot of traction since the successful funding of the original Oculus Rift on Kickstarter way back in 2012, with plenty of VR headsets including the Oculus Rift S and high-end Vive Cosmos Elite offering incredibly immersive virtual reality experiences.
However, despite the leaps and bounds in terms of virtual reality technology, it’s still a niche. Gamers enjoy virtual reality, but it’s rare to find an average consumer donning the standalone Oculus Quest, and that’s a shame because VR is a great source of entertainment when you can’t leave the house.
One emerging area of VR that corona-stricken industries could take advantage of is virtual events. These events allow the viewer to feel as if they were in the room, enabling them to look around, take in the environment and hear the same sounds as those physically there. It’s not an alien concept; Oculus Venues provides Oculus users with free comedy nights, performances and more - all broadcast live - and there are plenty of VR-ready performances on YouTube.
Now, take that idea and transfer it to premium performances like the theatre, or football, or even a concert - all things that aren’t possible right now. If an Arsenal fan could’ve paid a few quid to watch the game with Chelsea last weekend and feel as if they were there, in the front row, why wouldn’t they? It’s not the real thing, but it’s certainly a lot closer than you’ll get in the physical world right now.
Charging a few pounds to watch live premium events is an avenue that many aren’t considering, but depending on the content, it has the potential to be the next big thing - especially if worldwide social distancing measures aren’t being lifted anytime soon. It’ll admittedly not bring in as much cash as a packed stadium, arena or theatre, but it’s certainly better than nothing, and it’s an industry that’ll become more popular with consumers as more virtual content is created and the prices of VR headsets come down.
With the rumoured release of the second-gen Oculus Quest coming in months, that could knock down the price of the £399/$399 first-gen Oculus Quest and make it more of an option for the everyday consumer, not just hardcore gamers and VR fans. There’s also the Oculus Go for an entry-level experience, but parent company Facebook decided to end support in the coming months, so it’s not as great an option as it once was.
Crucially, VR events are a lot safer for support staff and spectators, with no risk of transmitting COVID-19 unwillingly to those around you, and that’s something we can all get behind.
You can also wave goodbye to one of the biggest annoyances with seeing a live performance, the extortionately-priced food and drink. Just wander to your kitchen and knock yourself up a snack to eat during the performance, free of charge!
Mark my words, you’ll be watching the 2021 FA Cup Finals in VR if social distancing measures aren’t lifted soon...