An Untapped Opportunity to Reducing Friction of Using VR Headsets

Utilization friction—the effort and time it takes earlier than really beginning to do something in VR—stays a serious hurdle for extra mainstream adoption of VR. Whereas hardware developments have and can proceed to cut back friction, there’s nonetheless a totally untapped alternative that’s purely on the software program facet of the equation: pre-headset choice and loading.

One factor that I assumed could be extra extensively understood by this level is low period of time between when gamers placed on their headset and once they really begin having enjoyable could make a given VR recreation way more interesting to play. That’s one purpose why Beat Saber has such a sustained viewers—it’s ‘time-to-play’ could be very brief; we’re speaking a couple of matter of 20 seconds between the menu and choosing the music you need to play.

Then again, a recreation like Robo Recall: Unplugged is busy displaying gamers logos and splash screens by the point a Beat Saber participant is already slicing into some gameplay. It takes Robo Recall about 1 minute and 24 seconds, in one of the best case, to get gamers taking part in. That’s greater than 4 instances as lengthy. Right here’s the comparability on Quest in real-time:

Now, simply to make the purpose clear, let’s take into consideration this from the angle of somebody posting their gameplay session to YouTube for others to observe. All of that loading and choosing time is exactly the type of footage that will be reduce out of the video. Why? As a result of it’s not attention-grabbing.

Worse than being not attention-grabbing, it leaves its mark within the thoughts of customers as friction. Subsequent time a participant thinks about doubtlessly taking part in a recreation, remembering that friction may nicely be the distinction between a consumer deciding to place the headset or, or not.

So that you could be saying “so what, even non-VR video games have menus and loading instances, so how’s this completely different?” I’m glad you requested. The factor that makes it completely different is that while you’re in VR, you’re successfully carrying a blindfold to the true world. So whereas ready for a non-VR recreation to load on my PC I can examine my smartphone or go seize a drink from the kitchen, in VR I’m simply standing there doing principally nothing.

So the repair right here appears fairly apparent, and that’s to decouple the boring loading and choice stuff from really carrying the headset. Ideally, gamers ought to have the ability to launch and management their recreation from outdoors of the headset till the second the sport is able to present them the enjoyable.

Now, that’s to not say that each VR recreation must be, and even will be, like Beat Saber; it’s a light-weight arcade recreation that doesn’t have to load complicated ranges like Robo Recall. However the level is not that loading instances have to be decrease. The purpose is that many video games may massively scale back the sensation of friction by being structured in a method that the preliminary ‘administrative’ duties and loading occurs earlier than the participant ever places on their headset.

Launching video games from outdoors of the headset is already potential on all platforms, and that may reduce out a little bit of the ready time. However what should be potential is for gamers to make lots of the preliminary pre-gameplay selections by way of their cellphone or PC lengthy earlier than they really have to placed on their headset. Moderately than placing in your headset and being prompted to ‘Press any button to observe a menu load’ gamers ought to be prompted with ‘Press any button to begin taking part in’.

And sure, I do know recreation like Robo Recall is utilizing its pre-level space (the workplace) secondarily as a way of immersing gamers on this planet, and that’s nice. However loading that area may positively occur earlier than the headset will get placed on, and maybe it may even be optionally available in order that gamers who know precisely what they need to do within the recreation (ie: load a sure stage) may achieve this outdoors of the headset simply as simply as contained in the headset.

Even in the case of Beat Saber, which is already on the forefront of time-to-play, I assure the sport would increase its utilization metrics if restructured in order that gamers may launch the sport, choose their mode and music, and be prepared to begin chopping blocks from the second they placed on their headset.

Additional, if that choice and loading time was decoupled from really carrying the headset, it might be parallelized with the opposite ‘VR prep’ that inevitably must be completed, like transferring issues out of your playspace, drawing the blinds, closing different PC purposes (if utilizing PC VR), and checking your cellphone for essential notifications earlier than diving in for a protracted session. In that method, friction is decreased but additional.

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After we’re speaking a couple of scale of a minute or two, it’s straightforward to brush this off as ‘not a giant deal’, however it actually does matter. Think about, for only a second, that each time you wished to examine or ship a textual content message in your cellphone that it took your messaging app 60 seconds to load as a substitute of 1 second. What number of much less messages would you ship all through the day?

There’s a non-linear relationship between how lengthy it takes to do one thing and the way individuals will use it. So it’s essential to ask—if it takes 60 to 120 seconds from the time a consumer places on their headset to the time they’re really taking part in, how a lot much less typically will they select to try this than if it have been 10 seconds, or 5, or 1?

Friction to utilization for VR is a problem, and whereas the hardware facet of the equation is steadily decreasing that friction with issues like seamless audio, extra streamlined monitoring know-how, and pass-through, there’s a lot that untapped potential on the software program facet of the equation. Rethinking the consumer expertise from earlier than customers even placed on their headset—and the way video games ought to be architected round that—is a key space with large untapped potential to cut back friction for VR.