Peter Guber believes virtual reality will change the way people experience everything from sports to concerts to travel to shopping in the very near future. The billionaire is diving into the industry by making a multimillion dollar investment in startup NextVR.
“You can’t think of VR just as a technology, you have to think about the benefit it renders,” Guber says. “VR actualizes the experience of an NBA game or a concert or an awards show for an audience that is quite different than a live mediated television broadcast. It allows the distant audience participant to actually be engaged in a unique way with the experience without physically being at the stadium or arena.”
Guber, founder and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and owner and chairman of Dick Clark Productions, will chair the NextVR Advisory Board, which also includes Scott Teissler, formerly of Turner Broadcasting, and Doug Perlman, founder and CEO of Sports Media Advisors.
Guber oversees multiple sports and entertainment franchises that can capitalize on the capabilities of NextVR, as the company will use smartphones and portable VR headsets to livestream sporting events and concerts for users.
“When I saw what NextVR was able to do in taking a curator’s experience and turning it into an audience-controlled experience, I thought this was going to be very successful not only for sporting events like horse racing, the NBA Championships, and the World Cup,” says Guber. “I see opportunity with all the awards shows that we have such as the Hollywood Film Awards and Miss America and Country Western Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, plus the live concerts that you have around the world and festivals like Coachella.”
Guber believes that eventually virtual reality will become a huge business—a large percentage of what reality is today. People who don’t want to physically travel to a live event or can’t afford tickets will pay for the virtual experience instead.
And the numbers agree with Guber. Digi-Capital forecasts that VR will become a $30 billion industry by 2020. Piper Jaffray forecasts there will be over 12 million VR headsets available by 2016, and that the mobile VR segment will be the fastest-growing area for mass market consumption.
“Some percentage of that market is going to find this product tremendously compelling, but it’s so versatile that it will be used in so many other areas like travel and shopping and education,” says Guber. “This is a product that can move across all levels of human interaction, where images and capture want to be transmitted and utilized at a distant location as if you were there. This allows anybody to be anywhere at the same time and experience an event through their own eyes as if they were there.”
Guber sees NextVR adding a social component to shopping online. Instead of staring at a screen, customers can enter a virtual store with other people and look at products in real-time from every angle, just as they could in a real store.
“Your store can become a shopping social experience, and I think you’ll see lots of applications in this area,” Guber says. “NextVR isn’t a one-trick technology that’s only good for sports or concerts. Shopping is another immediate experience happening in real time.”
Education is another area where Guber sees unique opportunities for VR. “If you want to teach a cooking lesson in VR you can put the person in a three-dimensional kitchen and immerse them in everything but the smell of the food,” Guber says. “You would give the participant a greater likelihood of enjoying the experience and remembering the technology and information and tools that are necessary to execute it in real time when they cook. If people see something as more functionally valuable, they will pay for that.”
“VR is a very exciting and dynamic space to be an investor in and participate in,” says Guber, “and that’s why I did it with NextVR.”