Amazon Launches the Amazon Prime Video VR for Virtual Reality Experiences
Amazon has spread its wings wide across many technological frontiers but virtual reality seems to have been the last hold-out. Beyond selling virtual reality devices on its ecommerce platform, Amazon seems to have resisted the temptation to throw its hat into the VR ring until now, a domain which has attracted some of the technology greats including Apple, Facebook, HTC, Samsung and Sony among other players.
Now Amazon has plunged right into virtual reality with a new VR video streaming service which it launched last week known as Amazon Prime Video VR. Amazon is seeking to tap into the growing market for virtual reality video content. When we think of VR content, what probably comes to mind is virtual reality games and VR apps that deliver various kinds of immersive experiences. However, there is a fast-growing niche for virtual reality video content.
The website for Amazon’s new Prime Video VR was launched on July 24 and it already offers a number of virtual reality experiences such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Good Omens, The Man in High Castle and Jack Ryan. All the virtual reality content it currently offers are Amazon originals. However, there are other networks with virtual reality experiences which are on the platform including PBS and various independent producers.
The Prime Video VR will enable customers in the US and the UK to watch their favorite virtual reality titles inside their own VR movie theater on a number of devices such as Oculus Quest, Oculus Go as well as the Samsung Gear VR. On top of the massive library of movies and TV shows on Amazon, Prime Video VR will also give users access to some ten 360-degree videos at launch while continuing to incorporate additional VR-specific titles as time goes. Some of the VR-specific titles which are currently on offer include Greenland Melting, INVASION! and Return to Chernobyl.
How to Use the Amazon Prime Video VR
If you already have an Amazon Prime subscription, then you will be able to access the Amazon Prime Video VR at no extra cost. It is still possible to watch the virtual reality experiences without the subscription. You simply need to use the Amazon Prime Video VR app to access the experiences from your own collections. This, however, will not give you access to the exclusive content (such as titles that have been mentioned above) on the Amazon Prime Video VR.
You can download the Prime Video VR app from the Oculus Store using any compatible virtual reality headset. For this to work on Samsung Gear VR, the Oculus Store must have been installed on the mobile device. After you have downloaded the Amazon VR app from the Oculus store, you can sign in using your Amazon Prime account to access the content.
The Prime Video service offers a massive selection of content for users. By November 2018, it was the second largest video streaming service after Netflix by subscriber base.
The Amazon Prime Video VR service is likely to see a good uptake among virtual reality enthusiasts who already have Amazon accounts. It is also likely to attract a good number of new users who may want to try out the Amazon offering. VR streaming is still in its infancy and competition is not as stiff as in the conventional streaming services market. The prices for the new Amazon services may also be out of reach for the Amazon Prime users who may not have the virtual reality technology.
Adding the virtual reality service to Prime will not transform the tech giant into a VR leader overnight but it allows Amazon to lay the groundwork which it could leverage to make some inroads into the VR space, an attractive prospect that would add something new to the virtual reality space.
With the way the virtual reality headsets having been commodified in the past few years, it is unlikely Amazon will enter that hardware market at all. The platform market has also been zoned in by both Oculus and Valve’s Steam which currently command a massive share of the market. The industry is still nascent, though, and Amazon could make a play for this but it will take a massive effort for it to develop a heavyweight service that will compete with some of the established players. That leaves content and a distribution platform as the last low-hanging fruits for Amazon.
Building an app that has a massive content library seems to be the clear path for Amazon currently. The good thing is that Amazon has the resources necessary to build some serious content platform within its app. For now, the content will be limited to 360 videos but there is a high likelihood that it is going to expand and include full virtual reality content.