How to Cash in on Virtual Reality

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Get in on the Next Big Thing -- either by using the technology as it emerges, or by investing in companies at the forefront of development.

Only hindsight will tell us if virtual reality (and its cousin, augmented reality) is the Next Big Thing, or the 21st century version of the eight-track tape. Either way, eight-tracks made a lot of people a lot of money when they had their moment, and it seems VR’s moment is dawning. If you want to get in on it, you need to know how VR can be applied. Then you can cash in on the trend — either by getting directly involved in VR- and AR-based business, or by investing in VR companies that lead the way.

First, in case you’re still struggling with the concept, here’s how virtual reality is described by the Virtual Reality Society, an informational organization:

Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.

Let’s take a look at money-making opportunities that are emerging from the technology:

1.  Developing games and hardware for VR

So far, the gaming community presents the closest thing to a mass market for VR technology. The number of people with VR headsets remains small. But all it will take is that one killer app for the hardware end to really take off. In other words, if a really cool game comes out that is embraced by the people with VR headsets, more people will buy the VR equipment so they can play it, creating a bigger market for the next game developer to make cool games, and so on. Some companies are using popular name brands to bring in users: Want to fly an X-Wing Fighter or stand on the deck of a Starfleet vessel? Those are coming soon to tap into demand from early adopters. Once the snowball starts rolling, the market could be huge. Some experts predict that by the end of next year, game developers could make between $10,000 and $50,000 per day in revenue from advertising within VR apps.

2. Make videos for VR

As the technology expands, there will be a growing need for people who can shoot the videos necessary to make VR happen. VR technology is being used for things from training people to work in nuclear reactors to providing virtual college visits for prospective students. Someone needs to film these experiences.

This could also expand to on-demand VR content that would allow customers to virtually “attend” a concert or sporting event.

3. VR storytelling

Books, movies, radio, television and the internet all had (or are still having) their moment dominating forms of entertainment. Virtual reality is poised to join these modes of storytelling. It may be difficult for most of us to imagine what VR storytelling will look like, but when a new medium emerges, so do ideas about unique ways to use them. So think about how to tell a story that involves complete immersion in a way that just watching it unfold on a flat screen in a movie theater or living room couldn’t do justice. Then get writing — or watch for creative companies that show promise in using VR as a storytelling medium.

4. VR pornography

Yes, VR pornography already exists. If the past is a guide, it will be one of the first industries to turn a profit in this new form of media (some say it already is profitable). It’s probably best to leave making it to the professionals, but there may be investment opportunities.

5. VR for educational purposes

You’d probably need a good programmer, and maybe some actors, but if you’re an expert, you could design a lesson. Imagine a history class that puts students inside Independence Hall when the Declaration of Independence is being signed, or that lets them study astronomy by walking on Mars. Virtual reality could take students to such places.

6. Tourism by VR

Nothing will really beat the experience of traveling to a new place, but sometimes that’s just not in the budget. Instead, VR will make it possible to get a guided tour through the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel or see the view from atop China’s Great Wall.

7. Experience design through VR

It’s one thing to describe your vision for redesigning a client’s living room, but by using virtual reality, you could put them inside your vision. While they won’t be able to feel how comfy the couch is, they could get a better sense of what the fabric’s texture will look like. If the customer doesn’t like what they see, show them another couch, and another, until they get one that’s just right. Then repeat the process with everything from wall colors to doorknobs.

8. Augmented reality games

AR is related to VR, with its own promise. What this technology does in various ways is superimpose information on the user’s view of the real world. The best-known example of this technology is surely Pokemon Go — a game that became an overnight sensation this past spring and summer — which allows users to spot and capture the iconic little monsters that appear to dwell in the user’s surroundings when they view the scene on a smartphone screen.

Once again, games are leading the way to make money with the technology. Pokemon Go reportedly raked in $200 million in just its first month. It wasn’t the first AR game, but it proved there’s huge potential in the market. Finding the bottled lightning of smartphone-meets-millennial-nostalgia won’t be easy to duplicate, but whoever can do it will generate serious profits. Watch this space.

9. AR as a tool for technical support

Microsoft’s HoloLens is headset with goggles that allows the wearer to look at the real world, while having other information superimposed on the view. So, if you’re good at something like, say, fixing a lawnmower engine, you could theoretically explain it to someone who needs help by using AR. Their goggles would allow you to see what they are looking at and let you superimpose information on the view that guides them to the end of the job. It might even be possible to “draw” on your screen, so instead of telling the person to put a wire into the third port from the right, you could circle the location, and the wearer would see the circle on the goggles’ display. It’s an area that could take tech support to a whole new level.

10. Investing in VR and AR

Think about it. Where would you be if you had been an investor in other forms of technology when they first came on the scene (think televisions, mobile phones, personal computers, social media or online retailing)? Virtual reality is still in its early days, and if you have some money to invest, it’s a good area to explore. Could you research companies that are working on VR or benefiting from it, and then make an educated financial bet? Sure!

Here are some of the listed companies that are active in the industry:

Google (GOOG)(GOOGL): The internet search giant created the much-maligned Google Glass and then Google’s “Cardboard,” which can turn a phone into a VR headset of sorts.

Facebook (FB): The social media company purchased Oculus VR, which makes a VR headset, for $2 billion in 2014.

Microsoft (MSFT): The software behemoth makes the augmented-reality HoloLens.

Sony (ADR): The Tokyo-based electronics company makes a VR headset that works with their PlayStation console.

Want to explore? There are hundreds more.

As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says,Before you invest a dime, you always invest your time. You read about things, you consider them, and then and only then do you decide when, or if, you’re going to do anything about it.”

What’s your million-dollar idea to make money from virtual reality? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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