One Big Question: Will virtual reality kill off TV the way music streaming did CDs?
Next Thursday, "The New Normal" conference will be taking place in London. Attendees will be looking at the place of TV in a world where more and more people are getting their visual entertainment online and through streaming devices. One of the topics to be discussed is also the question we asked conference host Frank Radice as part of our regular One Big Question series:
Will virtual reality ever kill off TV the way MP3 players and music streaming did CDs?
In my experience, the one constant in our industry is "nothing is constant". I've seen TV go from black and white to color; from film to tape; from tape to DVDs; from DVDs to digital files. I've lived with vinyl, 8-tracks, then cassettes and CDs. Now it's all about Spotify and Soundcloud and apps that let you stream or download audio, and YouTube and Vimeo that lets you do the same with video. Now with augmented reality (AR) experiences like Pokémon Go and virtual reality (VR) experiences, we are once again going through a major shift in the force.
The one certainty is that the internet will completely replace TV. The idea of television is now as old-school as radio. In fact, TV is just radio but with moving images in two-dimensional space, yet we experience our surroundings with all our senses, in three-dimensional space. That is why VR is the flavor of the decade, but only once we are able to incorporate other senses, such as smell and touch, will we have the next generation of immersive experience.
So it won't actually be VR that tops the leader-board. It is AR that will become the most useful tool to access what we now call the web (and ultimately TV), and it will be AR that paves the way forward. While VR offers an immersive experience, you are physically confined by the four walls in your home, with AR, you have virtual experiences in real-life situations so the world is your playground.
As for VR, that is what will replace what we know now as the operating system. So no longer will you need a desktop or mobile screen to access an app, you'll have voice-activated AI that will be directed through VR, providing you with a more elegant method of navigation.
But all these things will be interconnected and the one thing that ties them together is the content, the holy grail of which is video and audio. Marshall McLuhan said it more than 40 years ago: "the medium is the message" – the message is dependent on the delivery system, which we will come to see in the form of notifications. Content is still king, but the method of consumption, and distribution will be what changes (until something better comes along). That is "The New Normal."