VR is Here to Stay: Find Out What it Means
VR is advancing at a rapid rate with many of the biggest tech companies in the world working on the technology. We have Microsoft, HTC / Valve, Facebook / Oculus, Sony, Lenovo, Google, NVidia, AMD, LG, Acer, Samsung, Dell and more that are driving the industry forward.
VR is currently doing fine. Hardware sales are either being met or exceeded (in Sony’s case)
All of the companies manufacturing VR headsets will tell you that this is a long journey. It’s going to take 10 years or more to really get full mainstream adoption of VR. That’s how most technologies work. Smartphones took roughly a decade to become mainstream, and PCs took around 15 years. For some reason, analysts and people in the gaming industry thought VR would take off immediately even though all these companies kept saying that it’s going to take a while.
Every 1st consumer generation of technology has slow adoption, is expensive, and usually only sells a few million units across it’s lifetime
For this reason, PSVR in particular is doing pretty well considering how it’s sold 2 million units in just over a year, a lot of that time consisting of a shortage of stock.
Here are all the problems with VR and why most of these will be fixed in a few years:
- Resolution: Current VR headsets are not that sharp. You’re sometimes going to see a screen-door effect. We all know this is going to increase, but a lot of you don’t know how fast. Oculus predicts the standard to be 4k per eye in 4 years, and not only that, but it should be significantly easier to run than standard 4k on a standard display. This is because of eye-tracking combined with foveated rendering, which can reduce the number of pixels needing to be rendered by an order of magnitude or more.
- FoV: It’s not uncommon to hear people say that VR headsets are like putting on a scuba mask, because they usually have a 110 degree FoV. Oculus predicts at least a 50 degree improvement in 4 years time. Pimax 8K comes out early 2018 with a 200 degree FoV, so that seems realistic.
- Price: Getting a high-end VR setup is a bit expensive, but this has been getting a lot better recently. Right now you can buy a PSVR bundle for around $300, you can even find it as low as $180. Oculus Rift is currently $380, Vive is $600, Windows Mixed Reality headsets start at $300. So clearly the prices are getting better, and this will only continue as time goes on.
- Wires: So a lot of people don’t know that wireless VR is solved. The TPCast add-on for Vive allows you to use it wirelessly with pretty much no noticeable difference in quality. And Windows Mixed Reality headsets all use inside-out tracking, so there are no external sensors or base stations. 2nd gen VR headsets will start to incorporate wireless more, and by 3rd gen should be a standard.
- Motion Sickness: This will vary from person to person, but it ultimately isn’t as big of a deal as some people make it out to be. Quite a few VR games that release these days offer movement options, usually teleportation being one of them, so that everyone can play the game the way they want to. This isn’t going to work with every game due to balancing issues, but it still means that there is plenty of content for everyone to play. Many people who get motion sickness are able to adjust and get their VR legs over time as it is. There are various techniques being used to help reduce this whilst still maintaining smooth movement, and they have been proven to help to some degree. Once we have depth of focus in VR headsets in just a few years, VR sickness will be less of an issue. I’m sure one day we can get rid of motion sickness period no matter what you do in VR using something like Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation in a non-invasive way.
- Space: There are seated games, standing games, and room-scale games. Just because you don’t have much space doesn’t mean you can’t use VR. If you have room to move your arms around in one spot, you can play most VR games as is. Even if you can’t, there are plenty of seated games to enjoy, especially on PSVR.
- Games: We all want big AAA 50+ hour open-world games and VRMMOs, but realistically these are still years away because the user base isn’t there yet to justify these games, and consumer VR hasn’t been around long enough for the development period of those types of games. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t AA/AAA games that are actual full games and not just tech demos. There are a bunch of games like this.
- Isolation: You’re cut off from the outside world, so are therefore cut off from those around you. Yes, this is an issue. But VR headsets will incorporate more AR features as time goes on, so that you’ll be able to have a camera feed into the real world (Vive already does this), and future headsets will use computer vision to scan the environment, bringing real world objects into VR, which also opens up the ability to see your keyboard in VR.
So it’s not going to be long before many of those issues are fixed or improved upon, to the point where any remaining downsides are generally outweighed by what VR can offer. Afterall, every technology has it’s faults, but we still use them despite that.
The future of VR hardware is set in motion. Standalone VR headsets are starting to be released, starting with the HTC Vive Focus, then the Oculus Go, and later on the Oculus Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz in particular is notable because it’s basically no different than an Oculus Rift, as in it’s 6DoF and has two 6DoF controllers. You’re going to get mobile performance, so games will have to cut back a lot on the technical side, but the actual underlying technology is basically the same, but now it’s wireless world-scale with no cables. Eventually, I’m sure these standalone devices will be able to connect to a PC for much increased processing power when at home.