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Why the VR Startup scene is far more important in Singapore

Whenever someone says VR, most often people think about one of the prominent leaders in the industry. Whether its Oculus and their kickstart to new VR, or HTC with what is currently the best consumer grade headset, it’s the big names that dominate. However, this doesn’t do justice to the import work startups are doing. After all, Oculus was a startup VR developer before the Facebook money came in.  Now that money is starting to be made with VR, could potentially reach even higher heights, it’s time to get in on the technology. Singapore has the potential of gaining a lot from VR. However, it has to be through the use of the VR startup scene. Here is why:

Startup VR and the element of risk

Image courtesy: Forbes
Image courtesy: Forbes

No matter what report comes from Goldman Sachs, getting into VR is a risky venture. So many things can go wrong, and it’s not like exciting technology hasn’t utterly failed before. Therein lies the problem in Singapore: risk-taking, or the lack of it. If you didn’t read the link, it says that Singapore is far more risk averse regarding trading than its global peers. The same can be stated in some industries based in the country. Without risk taking, no real innovation can be achieved.

This is why startups are the way to go here in Singapore, because unlike big established corporations, they are more willing to take risks. Whether it’s down to a lack of corporate stakeholders to satisfy or youthful exuberance, there is a greater willingness to do something out the box.

Image courtesy: Tonya Ward Singer
Image courtesy: Tonya Ward Singer

That is not to say that innovation doesn’t happen in large corporations, far from it. Eon Reality, for example, has done some interesting developed in both AR and VR. However, organisations tend to frame their innovation around existing business practices or products. Startups, however, are more willing to try something completely different and out of left field. A good example is in gaming, where you compare a simple change of perspective (Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight) to a complete shift in mechanics (Job Simulator).

The fan connection

Image courtesy: entrepreneurfail
Image courtesy: entrepreneurfail

Think about the services you enjoy the most. In Singapore for example, one of the most appreciated Telecom providers is MyRepublic. In the gaming sphere, Valve has (apart from some bad decisions) often been considered fan favourites. What makes these stand out? It’s that you can tell that they are all fans of their craft. When you love your work, your work gets better, and what better way to show your love of technology than working for almost no money on something you love?

Now, just because larger companies like HTC or Facebook are working on VR doesn’t mean there aren’t passionate individual involved. Far from it in fact. However, unlike startups, where you have more free reign to do your own thing, it isn’t the same in a corporate structure unless you have billions at your disposal. Yes, the Google daydream team has a lot of leeway, but that’s an exception rather than a rule. Normally the primary focus is to make money, not to make the best possible technology. Why do you think the latest console iterations were so limited? Money is the primary focus.

Image courtesy: TechCrunch
Image courtesy: TechCrunch

Startups and smaller companies also want to make money, but it isn’t the sole thing that is driving their design. Even if startups fail (and that happens a lot), at least it’s mainly because of overambition rather than anything else, which is what VR needs. Right now, the vast majority of content is slightly more developed 360-degree videos. It takes vision and passion to push for more, and startups have always been better at that.

Will it make VR succeed?

So will having a strong VR startup scene make VR immediately successful in Singapore? Not necessarily. But it will make the industry far more dynamic, and it would be a good way to get the country on the map. There is some excellent work happening here, and should it succeed it would help VR reach its full potential. Or it could quietly slip away, just like motion gaming or HD DVD formats.

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