GB: What about the picks and shovels strategy? If you don’t have the volume at the start to sell a lot of units, maybe selling tools will help?
Chennavasin: The idea is that if you’re building tools to make building content easier, that’s always important and valuable. Look at Unity. They started out as a failed game developer, but realized the engine they built could be worth something. As investors we always try to look for those opportunities, but they have to be scalable. If I’m building this tool that only makes a small part of the chain better, and it’s not very wide-scale valuable, that’s a problem.
People often say that picks and shovels make a lot of sense in this early stage of the market, but a lot of indie developers have no money. How are they going to pay for your tools? You always have to balance both sides of that. But I do think there’s going to be this transformation in the way that we create VR and 3D and games and movies that VR can help impact.
Question: On the topic of how this is a platform, not just a game machine—when it comes to something like traditional broadcast media, do you think it’s going to take an event on the level of a Super Bowl in VR to change that perception?
Chennavasin: A Super Bowl that wasn’t broadcast in 360, but broadcast in real volumetric capture, where you could walk around the field, that would be the game changer. I’d estimate that’s five to 10 years away, still, at least at that scale. We’re already seeing people do some cool tests with volumetric capture. Microsoft has been sitting on some great tech for the past five years and they’re starting to roll that out. But to be at that scale, it’ll be a little while longer.
Question: How much is being invested in the production of that kind of content?
Chennavasin: Lytro raised another $50 million or something ridiculous like that. There’s definitely a bunch of other companies looking at similar technologies. 8i also raised a good amount of money. Microsoft has probably spent hundreds of millions. Capture technology is a very active area of investment. There’s going to be a lot of different experiments, and we’re not sure which one is going to win yet. I think we’ll see volumetric movies, experiments in that area, at the next Sundance. Then it’ll just roll from there.
Tarnie Williams: I’m from Blueprint Reality, and we have a tool we made on top of building a game. One thing we saw that’s been really helpful—it’s very difficult to communicate through a 2D screen what’s going on in VR. About a year and a half ago, we saw that mixed reality, taking a camera and placing a person in a scene, is a good way to communicate that. Last week we launched MixCast VR, which takes about five minutes to set up, and it makes it very easy to communicate what’s happening with the person in your VR application. It’s also a very fast streaming solution.
These are some of the things you’ve already said, but it is going to take longer. People aren’t used to being in VR. There’s going to be long period of time where the key thing we need to do is communicate to people on these screens what it’s like in VR. We’re trying to help everybody tell people what’s going on in there.
Chennavasin: The stuff that Vreal is doing, in terms of getting people inside VR to spectate and view other VR, all of this stuff is very important for the ecosystem. We need to get people excited about what VR is, what VR titles are out there, building a community of people. Going beyond that, what are the new experiences? How are people going to interact with media in new ways? We’re used to a little rectangle, but we’ve got to go beyond that. Finding that, whether it’s with mixed reality or realtime VR stream, all of that is stuff we need to invest in.
Castle: I’ve seen some pretty cool designs from startups that are thinking about the relationship between—we talk about the 2D screen, but there’s the 2D screen on your phone as well. I’ve seen use cases where companies have made very clever ways you can quickly swap between mobile and VR. Let’s take architecture for example, or real estate. You can have eight different building designs or properties you like that you’ve found on your phone, and then you click a button on each one to go into VR mode to put on your Daydream. We can go toward where users are today and meet them somewhere in the middle.