As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) mature, Gen Z is poised to become the first generation to truly adopt these new experiences. For instance in our study for WP Engine, 75% of Gen Z stated they believe VR will become a normal part of digital experiences within four years. While immersing themselves in a digital world is already a part of their daily “normal” lives—VR and AR will intensify the degree of immersion.
Barriers of Access to VR Technology are Rapidly Declining
Currently, the main source of VR engagement is gamers who use high-end headsets that feature positional tracking (head and hand movements are simultaneous within the video game experience, making people feel as if they are physically in the game). While overall adoption has been slow, as technology improves and prices drop, VR may become something Gen Z experiences many hours a day.
VR and Gaming Experiences
For example, the high-end, fully-loaded Oculus Rift headset with positional and hand tracking has become more affordable, dropping down from $2,000 to about $400 in a very short time period. Additionally, Oculus has launched an even more inexpensive headset, the Oculus Go ($200) with limited positional capabilities. The Oculus Quest is the newest iteration of standalone, tetherless VR headset, launching next year. Fully wireless with an arena-size field, it may be just what Gen Z is looking for.
And Oculus is only one company. Other players in the VR space, such as HTC, Samsung, Microsoft, and PS4, are all hard at work pushing affordable, high-resolution equipment and immersive experiences forward. Regardless of manufacturer, VR equipment still requires powerful PCs to run on, so the total price of a VR setup may still be out of range for most teens.
VR and the Workplace
From retail and startup to enterprise level companies, many members of Gen Z may already use VR at work. Industries like construction, mining, oil drilling, and healthcare, etc. are implementing VR training for employees. Eventually, VR will become more than a tool for training. Gen Z may be the first generation to fully interact with their office mates virtually—high fiving in VR!
Will Gen Z Help Make Mobile AR Technology Mainstream?
On mobile, Apple and Google are moving into augmented reality with the iPhone X and development platforms like ARKit and ARCore. When it comes to using smartphones to augment reality, there are still many technical hurdles to overcome, as well as many questions about how to use the technology. Will enough people want to see how an IKEA chair will look in their living room?
If mobile AR does eventually become mainstream, the barrier between what is real and what isn’t may become even thinner to Gen Z—especially in the workplace. AR may kill the laptop screen as we know it. Instead of a screen, people might use AR to open tabs and organize them spatially in 3D, rather than lined up in a row on a laptop’s 2D screen.
Gen Z is Poised to Pioneer the Social Uses for VR and AR
Right now, the perception of VR is that it’s a solitary experience that isolates individuals. But it’s very probable that Gen Z will be the ones to transform VR and use it as a tool to bring together people socially. And this is already happening with Social VR.
For example, companies like BigScreen VR can deliver the movie theatre experience at home. When users put on the VR headset, they feel like they are in a movie theater with their friends and family. And as the person moves their head around, they can wave to friends in another state or country who are sitting next to them virtually and watching the same movie. This kind of VR technology could even be used for sporting events, replacing the typical Monday Night football game on a 2D television.
YouTube (where Gen Z spends much of their time) is also working hard to bring Social VR to members of Gen Z by introducing a new feature in its app that allows them to watch and discuss videos with other people in a virtual space. With the new Watch Together icon in the YouTube VR app, you can explore new worlds with friends, and chat about them too. YouTube is home to more than 800,000 virtual realities and the number continues to grow—from VR backstage concert experiences to exploring caves in Antarctica.
Gen Z’s Couch May Become Their World
If VR can break out of the gaming world and offer more compelling experiences in a social virtual world, Gen Z may be in. If headsets improve in weight, total set up price (including PC) and user experience we expect Gen Z to drive adoption of the technology.
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We lead national and international Gen Z, Millennial, and generational studies for our clients every day. We also keynote events around the world, helping businesses better understand their customers and workforce.
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