A Look Ahead: Experts Discuss How VR Will Grow In 2017

The launch of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR (PSVR) and Google Daydream made 2016 a landmark year for virtual reality, but the technology is just getting started, and there’s still a long road ahead. However, many remain optimistic about the direction VR is headed, so [a]listdaily asked a panel of industry insiders and experts their thoughts on how they think virtual reality technology will grow in 2017. Here’s what they had to say:

“We are seeing two areas of growth emerge for VR in 2017. The in-home PC/console market and mobile VR will remain a niche but a growing one as more AAA content enters the marketplace. Location-based VR, whether in theme parks, malls, arcades, theaters or at events, will also be a significant driver. It really is remarkable to see how much fun VR is in a communal setting. For Lionsgate and Starbreeze’s John Wick Chronicles, we’re attracting huge lines at game conferences and Comic-Cons around the world. VR is a spectator sport in many ways. I think that’s why some major players, including IMAX and Starbreeze, with whom we are partnered, are investing heavily in location-based VR. It’s creating a new revenue stream for content creators and will be a very effective tool for broadening awareness and enthusiasm for VR.” – Daniel Engelhardt, VP of interactive ventures, games and virtual reality, Lionsgate Entertainment

“In all our years of business experience, we’ve never seen the reception or interest in a technology that intersects so many different industries. The biggest entertainment and consumer brands are all interested in virtual reality. We are just at the beginning of what will happen with virtual reality. Think of it as the original brick cell phone—as we’ve seen with mobile phones and other consumer technologies, virtual reality is only going to get better. There has been incredible momentum within the last year and interest in virtual reality is only escalating. We continue to explore every opportunity with unbridled enthusiasm.

“The next two years we will see incredible growth in the adoption of virtual reality. As new flagship mobile phones add chipsets specifically for viewing virtual reality, which is already happening, and our platform is added to gaming systems, we will see adoption take off. As a company, we’re focused on maximizing our expansion into sports and large-scale event broadcasting, remaining open to the possibility of venturing into new fields in the future. We’re looking forward to continually producing exciting entertainment events for passionate, expanding fan bases.” – Danny Keens, VP of content, NextVR

“You only have to look at the media awareness to get a sense of where this is going. There are large predictions and financial publications that talk about how the growth of the industry should be $100 billion+ in less than four years. I think that awareness is driving tech development, and it will very soon drive quality content, but we’re not at a tipping point yet. Right now, we’re moving upward and I think we’re going to see more people get into the game in 2017. The business is going to reach unprecedented buzz by Christmas, and you’ll see the tipping point start to happen when we get into 2018. A myriad of things are going to happen then. The goggles, which are big, clunky things right now, will be streamlined and Bluetooth activated on hardware that’s much leaner and sleeker.

“We need to have the tech revolution continue on hardware, we need to see more producers get into the game, and I think all that will really start to move late 2017 and into 2018. So far, the energy seems to be there and we’re well positioned for success.” – Neil Mandt, founder and CEO, Mandt VR

“New native VR ad formats and questions surrounding metrics will become more complicated in 2017. Determining what an impression is and qualifying consumer engagements in the richer, multi-dimensional, more dynamic VR environments is a challenge industry stakeholders must embrace. We need to think about what counts and why, especially as this sector evolves toward a sustainable, long-term business partly financed by a vital advertising component. In 2017, the VR advertising industry should seek out the forward-thinking publishers and creators, and help them work closely with brands and media buyers to test and discover the best ways to measure people’s experiences within VR environments.” – Vince Cacace, founder and CEO, Vertebrae

“We expect VR to be huge, but mass appeal will be led by VR video consumed through high-end mobile VR devices. Apple is taking a risk by not having a high-end VR solution on the market. The NBA advertises their VR service with images of the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Anyone with an iOS device and an interest in watching NBA games (or other entertainment content) live in VR will be forced to try one of the cheap solutions which deliver an extremely poor experience compared to devices that are optimized for VR such as Samsung’s product. This can harm the initial adoption of VR as well as the brand image of Apple in addition to the risk of losing mobile phone users to Samsung. Chinese manufacturers, Xiaomi and Huawei, have recently launched high-end solutions for the China market that has, similar to Japan, had a high adoption rate of VR.

“VR games are cool and will entertain the enthusiast, but partially because of mismatch in business models (pay upfront entertainment while the whole industry has just moved to games-as-a-service), initial revenues will be limited. It is the natural match (in terms of business models) between concerts and sports, in combination with the mass appeal, that makes us more interested in the VR video space at the moment. If 10,000 people per NBA game from everywhere across the globe put up $10 to watch a game in VR, it would open up a new revenue stream of over $100+ million a year for the NBA.” – Peter Warman, CEO, Newzoo

“I’m excited about the chances of mainstream VR in 2017. Broader manufacturer and developer support for Google Daydream will push mobile VR forward, and the first truly must-have content will arrive for high-end VR. In addition, Microsoft is well positioned to take advantage of the mid-generation console releases to push console VR forward. The Scorpio’s power will be able to play more advanced VR content and competition between third-party HMD manufacturers should lower the cost of console headsets.” – Patrick Walker, VP of insights and analytics, EEDAR

‘Sausage Party’ Director Talks About Serving Up A Sequel, VR and Video Games

Sausage Party started out as a joke, according to Conrad Vernon, director of the Sony Pictures computer-animated film. Whenever Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen were asked what their next project was, they’d say “Sausage Party.” Then one night, the two—along with writer Evan Goldberg—actually started to think about what that movie would be. They started riffing on ideas about a grocery store where the sausages got out of their package at night to desperately seek buns out to have sex.

The end result was a $19 million R-rated comedy that earned over $140 million at the box office. Vernon, who spoke at the VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy, talked to [a]listdaily about the impact that success is already having on Hollywood in this exclusive interview.

sausage-party-movieHow challenging was it to convince Hollywood to have an R-rated computer animated movie?

Extremely challenging. Three years’ worth of challenging, and pretty much striking out at every major studio in Hollywood. We went everywhere. We thought people would just be clamoring for this. We had Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill promising to star in it. We had Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg writing it. We had my good friend and co-director Greg Tiernan, whose Nitrogen Studios was on board to animate it. All we needed was the thumbs up and some money and we were ready to go. We would pitch it, and people would laugh and crack up and then say, “I’m sorry, we’re not doing this.” We did this over and over again for about three years.

What role did advances in technology play in allowing you guys to make the movie at a lower budget?

We used all out-of-the-box technology and software and programs. The major studios have major R&D departments that will figure out how to make things better and push technology further. We just wanted to make sure we made it look good. All the advances the studios had made over the years definitely furthered the off-the-shelf software, so it got to a point where you could make the animation look good and the lighting beautiful. All the artistic elements were solid, and then we could make the movie look really good without having to create any new technology.

How did you go about creating these characters?

One of the great things about being able to do it with food products in a grocery store was that everything was a box or a jar, so all we had to do was slap a face on a box or a jar. And then the main characters were a taco shell, a hot dog bun, a sausage; they didn’t have hair. We didn’t want them to look humanistic with knees and elbows and stuff. It started to look grotesque when you did that. So we basically went right back to the old 1930s Mickey Mouse cartoons, with the rubber hose arms and legs and giant funny Mickey Mouse gloves and big flappy Mad Magazine Don Martin feet and make it as cartoony as we can. That did two things: it simplified the rigs, but it also let us explore doing more of a Bob Campett Warner Bros. type of style where we could have wiggly arms and stuff like that—and really get more cartoony and animated with it rather than having to try and make beautifully designed characters act as real as possible.

What did the R-rating open up for this film?

We never looked at it as, “We have to write this animated and then because it’s R we have to make it as dirty as possible.” It is dirty, of course, I’ll admit that, but we didn’t try to make it dirty so that it would be rated R. We just basically wrote a movie that made us laugh and because we have dirty minds to a certain extent—that stuff made us laugh really hard. We didn’t have to cut it out or sanitize it because it was rated R, so we could do whatever we wanted. We were sincerely trying to make a funny movie where you cared about the characters and it had a good story. The fact that we did it with food dictated that we do it in CG because we weren’t going to dress up actors in costumes and do this in live action.

Did the MPAA have any issues with the film?

The fact that it was actual food helped. None of them are wearing clothes to begin with. I mean, we had a food orgy. The MPAA just drew a line at the fluids. They said no chocolate syrup, no ranch dressing, no mustard squirting out. They just said no fluids at all, and so we do have a version of the film where we do use the fluids quite a bit.

What impact do you feel this film’s success will have on broadening computer animation?

From day 1, we always hoped we were going to kick down the door of the idea that animation is only for kids and that there wasn’t an audience for it unless they’re dragged to it by their child.  People go see these movies because they like them. I remember seeing Shrek 2 at 10:30 pm and the audience was filled with adults. I always knew there was an audience for it, but no one really wanted to take the risk that no one would show up. I hope that we’ve shown that there is an audience, that it is viable financially, and that it will give a lot of other animators out there—who might have ideas for films that don’t fit in this little box that the animation industry has been forced into over the years—the chance to tell their stories and make them any way they want.

When you were mapping this out, were you thinking bigger picture in terms of sequels or where these characters could go next?

Yeah, we started talking about a sequel, what it would be about, and what would take place. We finally realized that we’re not going to do a sequel unless we have a damn good idea for it. That being said, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to make more R-rated animated films. We probably will. We have a ton of ideas for other R-rated animated films even if we don’t make a sequel for this one.

sausage-party-movie-2We’ve seen a lot of animated films turned into video games. What would the Sausage Party video game be?

I’m sure we would come up with something you have to collect in each aisle and then go to a place where you would fight a boss. Then, at the end of the game, there will probably be sex between all the food. It would be pretty funny if we actually used 8-bit graphics and the old Atari 2600 sound effects for the orgy. I would love to see Sausage Party turned into a video game. It would be fun. I’m a gamer, so I would like to play it.

We’re seeing Hollywood start to explore virtual reality. What are your thoughts about what that new medium is opening up for storytelling, especially comedy?

I’ve tried VR—it’s unbelievable. The trippy side of me says that I just want to put those goggles on and be in a place. I’ve done it where this guy turned on a little fan while I was in virtual reality and it felt like this beautiful breeze over me because I was on a ship on the water. So it totally trips your brain up.

The key is in making sure that you roll it out the best way it could possibly be rolled out. Don’t jump straight into trying to do something that hasn’t been thought about deeply enough. If you’re instantly going to put movies into VR without understanding it and how it affects people, it might hit the public the wrong way. But if you do VR more like a video game, where people can control how fast things move and people can march forward, backward, or look around and experience it and get used to it, then people are going to be intrigued by it and they’re going to want more. That’s when you can pounce on doing something more with it. Let the technology guide you to where it needs to be, instead of forcing it into something.