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Virtual reality: a vision of the future of social TV

24th October 2017

As a Brazilian from a traditional family, I remember the telenovela ritual, where after dinner my parents and siblings would sit in front of the TV, almost like if it was around a living room campfire and watch the latest episode of whatever telenovela was airing at that time. No one could talk before the ads, no one could disrupt that holy hour, it was the only chance of seeing that moment.

TV has become personalized

Over the years the ritual has changed. TV´s became cheaper and suddenly houses had TV everywhere. Then smartphones came and added some extra complexity, then tablets, YouTube and other on-demand services. The TV campfire is still there but the flames are, for sure, weaker.

Nowadays I can see that the ritual has changed. Even though my family still gather together in the living room, my sister now watches Netflix on her tablet, while my dad is playing around with his smartphone watching YouTube videos that his friends sent him via WhatsApp, and my mom is probably the only one paying attention to the TV, even though she checks her phone every now and then. TV has become much more individualized, and our new research at ConsumerLab illustrates this trend, as now almost 60 percent of consumers worldwide prefer to watch on-demand content in their own time, up from less than 40 percent back in 2010.

Can VR reignite the TV campfire?

But it already looks like a new technology is arriving to potentially re-ignite the TV campfire and bring back the habit of watching content together, though this time in a very different way. If you guess that I am talking about virtual reality (VR), you guessed right, congrats!  This year in our 8th edition of the TV and Media report, we used completely new research methodology, in which we interviewed consumers and had discussions around TV and media while they were immersed in VR.

I was completely overwhelmed by the experience, and at some point, I found myself hanging out in the sands of a VR replica of a Caribbean beach together with another 15 people. While we on this beach, we decided to watch funny YouTube videos together on a huge cinema-like VR screen.

Hard to picture, right? Maybe this picture below can illustrate what the experience was like, even though I could not get a screenshot with a good resolution equal to what I was seeing.

VR could be fundamental to TV watching in five years

After this experience, it was easy for me to see why VR users are so positive towards the technology and its applications on the TV and media space. In fact, over 55 percent of the VR users believe that VR will be a fundamental part of the TV experience in only five years, and our research shows that over a third of the consumers worldwide are expected to be VR users by then.

It´s not only the social viewing that VR brings to the table, it will also provide consumers with the opportunity to have cinema-like experience at home, without even having a screen at home! Or to get immersed in content in ways never imagined before, like watching a football match live as if you were actually at the stadium in the middle of the crowd!

I am not really a big fan of daytime dramas on TV anymore, but If VR allows me to walk around inside the scenes and watch together with my family, even though I now live half the world away, then I am very much looking forward to this future!

André Gualda, Senior Advisor Ericsson ConsumerLab



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