Alongside the continuing praise for VR content that continued to flow out of Sundance, the other big VR news story this week was Entrypoint’s $2 million raise. Led by Samsung NEXT and Two Sigma Ventures, the round will enable the expansion of a company that aims to make creating 360 content as easy as dragging and dropping elements — basically, as some have referred to it, a Squarespace for VR content.
Entrypoint also aims to eliminate the need for users to download an app in order to view 360 content on mobile devices. Right now, most major publishers have their own VR apps, which need to be downloaded and eat up memory, and in cases where 360 content is viewable without an app, the process to watch it is clunky and unintuitive. The whole thing is expected to launch over the summer.
To be sure, Entrypoint’s goals are lofty, and many would argue they are very needed. The costs of creating 360 content remain high and in most cases require specialized editing skills, and at minimum lots of time and patience. Letting anyone with basic skills create and share 360 content will lead to more people consuming that content, and more interest in exploring other forms of immersive content and perhaps even purchasing headsets. Crowd-sourced 360 storytelling could be great for reporting provide deeper and more complete coverage of current events.
But that content has a major downside, as well — most of it is frankly, well, not good. Remember those old Geocities pages that most of us would rather forget? Or the ubiquitous MySpace pages of the mid-aughts, which allowed users to add elements that would then give visitors a seizure when they landed on the page? For all the viral hits of Periscope and Facebook Live, not to mention YouTube, there are probably a hundred times more videos on each platform that are boring at best and nauseating at worst. And in the cases of those platforms, it’s mostly fine, because flat video is a known medium.
But 360 content is still new enough where people can be scared off easily. Plenty of people try VR once, feel sick, and are scared off forever; another and probably larger group of people see a boring 360 experience and come to the conclusion that it’s all hype. Recently, I saw a clip from a brewery I love and expected that it would be amazing — instead, it looked like the social media intern got a GoPro, wandered around for a day, and (poorly) stitched something together. I’ve seen enough VR to know that this isn’t representative of the medium, but many people haven’t.
But the answer isn’t to continue to make it difficult for people to create 360 content — rather, it’s to make sure that there’s enough great content out there that it can offset the inevitable bad content. To echo the point above, no one would ever look at blinking mess of a MySpace page and determine that social networks are bad — they’d just blame bad design on that site. Headset manufacturers, brands, and others with a vested interest in making VR successful all need to start investing in content and getting it out in user-friendly ways, so that when someone comes across a mediocre piece of content, they can simply move past it.
Entrypoint’s goals are lofty, and if they succeed, it can hopefully be a net positive for VR. But the goal for everyone should be a balance of content, because if the scales tip too far in either direction, no one benefits.
On Friday, we provided a detailed recap of the week’s VR/AR business stories which we produce with our partner Vertebrae, the VR/AR monetization platform and ad network. Here’s an analysis of the top stories in VR/AR heading into this week.