After you deal with VR as extensively as we do, it becomes inevitable that you stumble across the ongoing debate of whether 360 video can be considered as VR or not. One side is arguing that it is not, and that it is bad for VR if 360 video is perceived as VR, because there are so many bad 360 videos out there, which we can confirm. According to them (and the dictionary), VR has to feature interactive elements and should not be a passive experience forced upon the viewer.
Others, however, argue that 360 video can be the gateway that is needed for VR mainstream adoption. 360 video is oftentimes viewed through VR gear, and if consumers can be accustomed to the use of VR headsets, all is set for a future adoption for other purposes.
While this debate may seem a bit irrelevant, it is very important in our opinion to at least be familiar with the different arguments. Especially for tourism this could prove to be a necessary debate. While we dedicate this blog to VR in tourism, we realized in the course of this debate that we are not familiar with any true VR examples in tourism that offer full interactivity (reaching, touching, strafing…).
Henry Stuart, CEO of VR studio Visualise (creators of Thomas Cook Virtual Holidays, South Africa VR Experience and more), sees 360 video heading into a very particular direction.
360 video is going to evolve until it is inherently more interactive and the line will blur more with passive and interactive VR. 360 video will probably evolve as being non interactive, because it’s the best way to deliver an immersive story experience in VR. Interactivity is the enemy of good storytelling.
We think that it is too early to debate about this. While there are undoubtedly bad 360 videos out there, a good one shown to someone through VR gear as simple as a cardboard still generates a great wow-effect that leaves most people in awe. We feel that the bad experiences might only dampen the interest in few viewers, bu that on the long term they, too, will come back and try another (good) 360 video experience that will bring them one step closer to VR adoption. Additionally, it could be of great advantage for a tourism stakeholder to release a true touristic VR experience, something even more immersive than all the 360 videos we can see today.