Our Founder, James Dearsley, takes a look at the Virtual Reality news from the week and offers his thoughts about the present and future state of the VR industry.
A Topsy-Turvy Week in Virtual Reality News
In a week that China announced it was building an entire village to promote and support 50 VR companies, there were also wider questions about the viability of VR as a medium and whether it had already reached peak capacity.
This was exacerbated by the announcements at GDC (the Game Development Conference held in San Francisco each year), which stated it was the best week ever for virtual reality. This was supported by figures from Sony stating they had already shifted nearly 1 million PSVR headsets and also that Oculus had just lowered their headset cost by $200.
It is that latter figure that interests me in this topsy-turvy week. Not only does it suggest that I spent too much on our headset but also that they are concerned that they cannot compete on quality (many acknowledge the Vive is the better headset) so they have to compete on price – especially considering LG and Microsoft have started to show off their own headsets (interestingly using similar room scale capabilities to HTC). Or is it a wider sign that sales are slowing and need some impetus?
It is the wider sign that sales are slow that has piqued my interest. Further reports from the Mobile World Congress showed that Nintendo were predicting to sell over 2.5million units, so were nearly 1.5 million short.
Virtual Reality News: Is VR Dead?
Is this a concern? In an article on Techradar, entitled VR is not Dead, they think not – and neither do I having followed this technology for nearly 5 years now.
Firstly, some are defining success (or progress) by the deployment of further improving headsets – I do think this needs to be considered. We are not talking about mobile phones here where there are new handsets announced by the plethora of manufacturers almost monthly – especially given the raft of different mobile phone models available. We simply don’t have that in VR yet.
Equally, the quote below by the author of the article is quite apt:
“We looked a little deeper, and found good reason to feel positive about VR in 2017: two of the biggest companies in the space focused on accessories to enhance their VR experience, and both impressed us enough to feel like we’ll be enjoying virtual reality a lot more this year.”
The point about accessories is right; we are augmenting our experiences now which is correct. Currently, visual stimuli are the biggest winners of our VR experiences, and other sensory experiences aren’t quite there yet. Therefore, the focus on hand controllers, giving you a far more hands-on experience in VR, should be applauded.
Other factors like battery life were worked on as well with HTC releasing remote battery chargers giving up to 5hrs of juice for their headset. All of these are important to make the experiences more natural.
The general consumer is still learning about VR and they need it to be as natural as it can be. Having a solid battery life and being able to manipulate environments with their own hands all play a part in mass adoption by the general public.
Take this article in the FT, which is a rather generic take on someone experiencing VR through a Vive for the first time – it shows the power of what it can do for the uninitiated. Drawing parallels with an experience he had just had with a medical practitioner scribbling notes on paper about why a tumour was inoperable were particularly pertinent. We can forget this power sometimes, and the ways it gives us a glimpse of what the future holds for everyone.
So was this a topsy-turvy week in virtual reality news coverage? Yes. Does this mean anything in the longer term? No. Will there be conflicting coverage moving forward calling for the death of virtual reality? Yes.
All this is a sign that the sector is maturing. It is hitting the mainstream and some will get it; some will not. For me, these sorts of weeks are needed as we see VR (and the world of Mixed and Augmented realities) become more established.