Virtual reality promised so much and has yet to deliver.
You would be forgiven if this is the opinion you held after the initial buzz surrounding vr seems to be suffering from a major hype deflation. The problems that seem to stalk the industry is its age and relative lack of experience as there is currently no model for virtual reality business and certainly no major success stories which could inspire younger startups to go a similar route.
Pragmatically most of virtual realities problems seem to be connected to its relative youth as a platform, the whole endeavour of commercially available virtual reality sets is merely four years old. The Rift, is less than two years old, and despite the relative youth of the medium the success of the technology is staggering. It will undoubtedly take longer for the medium to come to mainstream fruition, but the foundation that’s in place is currently extremely solid and set to expand more in the next 18 months than ever before.
The most interesting development in the field is the arrival of location-based virtual reality spaces that serve as a modern version of arcades that offer a completely immersive space. Not necessarily a reboot of arcades where we spent countless hours as kids but rather game specific locations that will foster a space where players can actually interact with one another and simultaneously enjoy an immersive space dedicated to one world.
Although these are not expected to be as common as arcades of old but this seems to be a model for business where there currently is none that’s proven tangible. These interactive spaces have already emerged in the Dubai, New York, Seoul and Tokyo. What would be interesting to see would be game specific centres emerge globally and perhaps usher in a new era of esports that are far more engaging than their current manifestation.
The traditional console-based market has been declining slowly but surely in the last couple of years.
While vr tech is not currently ready to replace the console market completely it’s very interesting to observe how consoles have tried and somewhat failed to integrate vr into their marketplace. Playstation sold moderate amounts of its vr headset, even at a time when the PS4 was selling at its peak levels. Interestingly, Microsoft have confirmed that they are not going to integrate vr into the Xbox as they believe that pc is the ideal platform for vr and ar integrations.
Next year the predictions for stand-alone vr is expected to exceed current levels of console sales, this trend has already begun in China where there the market currently accounts for 80 percent of all vr headsets sold. Estimates for q4 of this year put overall units sold at a higher total than the last two years combined.
HTC just released their new standalone vr kit in China, The Vive Focus. So far the device is not expected to reach the European or US markets but the reviews and specs are extremely impressive so far and certainly seem to be the first standalone vr kit that provides an immersive experience with comfort for the user.
Google are also the Google AR and VR headset that’s in development will reportedly be self-contained and powered by a Qualcomm chip, rather than tethered to another device. It will also include cameras and microphones. The headset is currently going by the name “Google A65.”
Google has created the most impressive vr feet yet.
Google says the upper bounds of human vision exist at 9600 x 9000, 2,183 ppi, and 160 x 150-degree field of view, their new vr device will be an astonishing 18-megapixel OLED display at 1443 ppi, with a 120Hz refresh rate contained on a 4.3-inch screen with a 120 x 96 field of view. This will be the most powerful piece of vr tech in existence when it is released and shows that the levels of realism we will be able to incorporate into the experience will soon surpass any level of human detection of the simulation.
Google also have another major play in vr which is their astonishing Open Heritage project, which is designed to protect, albeit in vr, some of the worlds most threatened historic sites and render them in stunning levels of accuracy in vr. The collaboration is just another that shows the applications for vr are not limited to simply a new generation of gaming experience. “With modern technology, we can capture these monuments in fuller detail than ever before, including the color and texture of surfaces alongside the geometry captured by the laser scanners with millimeter precision in 3D, these detailed scans can also be used to identify areas of damage and assist restoration efforts.”
Speaking of games, some of the new games announced for Occulus have a new trick up their sleeve, open world vr games. Stormland is set to be the first vr game to open up a vr world rife for explanation. In fact the game rewards open world exploration without necessarily sticking to a path based progression. The decision to reward exploration over quests may be partially because there are very real concerns with vr fatigue when exploring an open world.
Other highlights for vr gaming that arrives this year is coming from Darksouls creators, For Software, releasing a vr game for Playstations vr set up titled Déraciné. This is again another major player to throw some money and skills into making vr gaming as immersive as possible. Interestingly, PlayStation is set to ramp up their work on vr as Microsoft are backing away, this could be a tell-tale sign of who will be on top of the console market by next year. Microsoft is planning on releasing its HoloLens 2 early next year, The HoloLens 2 is set to improve on all fronts from its predecessor, being both lighter, more comfortable and including a custom A.I chip.
Standalone vr sets and the emergence of location-based vr and the spread of vr tech to industries beyond gaming will continue to grow; the question is now that the ball is rolling are you going to keep up?