If you look at the Virtual Reality development scene, it would seem that it’s a somewhat free and loose arena. There are hundreds of headsets which are all variations of what Google Cardboard was when it launched. However, this might soon change, at least for some. Six companies have come together to create the Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA). The aim: promote the development of Virtual Reality but also to ensure responsible development.
Last week, GVRA released a short press release detailing their mission statement. It reads: “The goal of the Global Virtual Reality Association is to promote responsible development and adoption of VR globally. The association’s members will develop and share best practices, conduct research, and bring the international VR community together as the technology progresses. The group will also serve as a resource for consumers, policymakers, and industry interested in VR.”
The first point to come from this is that the GVRA seems to be an attempt to make future VR development a more fair process. If the statement is to be believed, then there won’t be too many stark differences between headsets. Considering that the founders are HTC, Sony, Oculus, Acer Starbreeze, Google and Samsung, there is plenty of corporate clout behind the organisation.
The business head of each company also added their words. Rikard Steiber, Senior Vice President of HTC for example, writes, “It is important that we as an industry are working together to establish best practices and common resources for our industry that will drive toward the $120 billion projection by 2020. The GVRA represents industry leaders and hardware manufacturers across the globe who are creating the best VR experiences available.” Sentiments like this are shared by every founding member. However, how the GVRA is going to promote this mission isn’t entirely clear. The site mentions educational materials, hosting discussions and sharing best practices. However, nothing seems to be slated yet. We will probably have to wait until next year to see the GVRA come into full effect.
The VR Police
There is a secondary aspect to the GVRA which is more an implication. The mission statement highlights the importance of ‘responsible’ research. There is also the concept of best practices. The wording is ambiguous enough to suggest steps can be taken to prevent issues arising as we’ve seen in the mobile space or just a casual sharing of information.
Then there is the issue of membership. The site says there are two tiers of membership to the Association. Sponsor members, who can vote on issues but not propose them, and regular members. To become a regular member, an organisation has to be, “an international VR headset manufacturer committed to the association’s purpose of growing the worldwide VR industry and has its membership application approved by the Board.” This makes sense, but could unfairly freeze out smaller companies starting to work on VR. So long as the whole industry benefits from the material created by the GVRA, this isn’t too big a problem. However, this could accidentally become some big boy’s club if the current members aren’t careful.