VR's Golden Rules -- Is Sky About To Break Them Both?

Ditch those 3D glasses, if you haven't already -- Sky's going for virtual reality now. Hot on the heels of closing down its 3D channel, which it had claimed was more than a fad, it is now taking a punt on VR. The app, by all accounts, starts off with a promotional film fronted by David Beckham, but there are promises of real content further down the line, including an upcoming ballet performance in London.

There are a couple of alarm bells ringing for me already. To start off, it's handing out Google Cardboard boxes as part of its promotional activity. In my opinion, and it's only my opinion, Cardboard is the quickest means of turning people off VR. Fans mention that it's so cheap it can be easily afforded and handed out, but unfortunately, therein lies the rub. Cheap VR is about as good as the word "cheap" suggests.

The second huge question mark over the new venture is it fails the one big test that speaker after speaker at the recent Dmexco conference in Germany agreed upon as the basis of good VR -- it has to be build around the consumer. The New York Times explained to delegates that this is why it has yet to make a branded VR film because there hasn't yet been a suggested video that puts consumers at the heart of the production and is all about them, rather than the brand.

So a David Beckham VR film about how great Sky's VR is going to be? With some extra films to have a look around? I'm just not so sure. The promise will be that football, boxing and motor racing, to name a few, can be transformed by VR, to make it feel like you are there. The trouble is, this can only be done by a hugely expensive, time-consuming production process. It's hard to see F1 cars stopping so a camera can get a 360-degree view, or the crowd not minding the ringside being covered by 360 camera technology and crew.

As you can tell, my jury is out on this one, but I have to caution anyone who is excited that cheap VR is bad enough, promotional VR is something we'll have to wait and see before making a judgement, but the omens aren't good.

It could be that Sky is ahead of the game and that VR is to go mainstream -- even on low-cost, much improved devices. I certainly can't see that happening for a few years -- and so it's hard to imagine that this, perhaps brave, experiment is VR equivalent of WAP -- overpromising and underdelivering while 3G and 4G were still being perfected in the lab.

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