Most people think of virtual reality (VR) as a futuristic technology, the stuff of science fiction novels, instead of a real thing. People play games, watch movies and experience environments that are completely virtual. This brings up a couple of important questions.
Q: Where are the VR screaming masses?
To answer this question, look at the product from a marketing standpoint. The creators of virtual technology, like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR, have made virtual reality products that work, but only in tandem with specific hardware. The Rift works on a Windows 7.1 or higher desktop computer, while the Samsung Gear VR only works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The limited hardware options make it difficult to sell this type of product to gamers who prefer consoles, laptops or Macs.
A: They're Waiting
Virtual reality creators are sticking to a niche marketing campaign, hoping they won't inadvertently advertise their product to a consumer base they can't reach, thus disappointing them and potentially losing them as customers. These products aren't ready for the masses yet, but Oculus is still testing a wide release at the beginning of 2016.
Q: Why do people think of VR as "imaginary" technology?
This second question is more complicated. There are a number of reasons why people doubt the viability and believability of virtual reality. One reason is the inherent human bias to distinguish a "real" reality from a "fake" one. This bias may stem from subconscious existential fears about the realness of reality itself.
A: They're Not Sure They're Ready
Whether people actually want a simulated reality indistinguishable from their own is a valid question. Interacting with a virtual environment can cause queasiness that isn't always from motion sickness. A psychological effect called the uncanny valley occurs when people see something close to reality that is not reality, making them feel uncomfortable. This is why, even in movies and video games with realistic graphics, we still have CGI characters that look "cartoonish" or stylized to some degree.
More Questions Remain
Other questions about VR ponder its social acceptability and whether consumers will see major franchise titles on the platform. Some games, like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, fight the social isolation stigma associated with VR by putting a strong emphasis on cooperation. While no major franchises have officially released titles, some franchise games have been bootlegged and become popular on Oculus Rift.