Predictions that the VR headset will be the new accessory in living rooms around the world have been brewing over the past couple of years, and now it looks like those predictions were right.
In 2016 the first Oculus Rift experienced a few puberty problems, which caused some scepticism about the future of VR. But new advancements in programming and cost have transformed the market. Does this mean VR headsets will replace game controllers forever? Not only will VR effect gaming it will also transform film, animation and learning programs used for training and education. The increase in models of VR headsets, along with recent investments and improvements to programming, means the future really will be virtual.
A whole new world, of headsets
In 2016, PlayStation launched PlayStation VR and sold nearly a million headsets. Although on a grand scale this may not seem like very much, it is important to remember that PlayStation VR has seen a rapid sales growth in a short amount of time. Since then, more headsets have been released including the new Oculus Rift, which now has touch controllers and can access the power of the latest PCs meaning it has more pixels than Sony's headset. The latest Oculus Rift is a worthy competitor of the Playstation VR, while Samsung's Gear VR has been heralded as the current favourite mobile VR headset by Wareable.
As confirmed by ROAD TO VR Windows announced they will be joining the game, and are set to launch their first VR 'Mixed Reality' headset in October. Microsoft are joining Apple and Facebook by making major investments in VR. With global revenue for VR software expected to hit 11.6 billion U.S dollars for VR video games in 2020, Microsoft are wise to invest in the VR industry. Their contribution to the global growth of the VR market proves that VR is more than just a fad.
Micrisoft will be releasing headsets from Dell, Lenovo and ASUS. The Dell visor will officially be launched in October, while ASUS have revealed the new product name, the ASUS HC102. They haven't confirmed the launch date but we can expect the headset to hit the market before Christmas. New features of the Dell visor include a weight balanced headband that allows the user to wear the headset for long periods of time, which is good news for the sustainability of VR software as films and games can now be experienced for longer periods of time. Similarly, Google Daydream the new VR headset for smartphones from Google has prioritised comfort in the design. Google's head set has removable padding that can be washed. The stylish and comfortable design makes the future aesthetics of VR headsets less like robot helmets from a Sci-Fi film and more like an easy-to-use product.
Lower prices will increase accessibility
Comfort and wearability is not all that is making VR headsets more accessible to a wider market. Another Windows VR Headset will be released from Lenovo this autumn, and is expected to be extremely affordable. Cost has previously limited the market, but now VR headsets are around the same price as the new iPhone 8, with the Oculus Rift costing $499 including touch controllers. The new price of the headset will change consumers perceptions of VR. Considering the comparability between VR headsets and the latest iPhone, VR suddenly seems much more accessible. This Christmas will be the season of VR.
VR investment will rocket over the next three to four years and in the meantime VR programmers are making ground-breaking progress in the development process to create a smoother VR experience for users. Granola Studios recently upgraded to Unreal 4.17 which saw major improvements for graphics and performance. Unreal Engine made improvements to the functionality of Sequencer, including a new composure engine plugin to make complex real time compositing pipelines, making more efficient methods of 3D visual composition. The better the programs become for making VR, the more possibilities for interactive VR storytelling. Smooth programming systems are crucial for the success of a product, and although there is still room for improvement, creating VR experiences has never been more effective. With touch controllers increasing the sensory experience of VR and inspiring new interactive forms of storytelling, making the VR market an exciting environment for both the tech and creative industries.
There's still work to be done
One limitation to the VR market which won't vanish overnight is that VR streaming requires a high internet speed, higher than the average person will have at home. A VR video stream will require roughly 50 Mbps, which considering the average internet speed of most US living rooms is 22.69 Mbps high speed internet needs to be more available in order to make VR accessible to all. If you thought buffering problems were annoying when watching Netflix just imagine what it would be like when using VR. A recent Juniper report recommended that network operators joined the VR game by making high speed internet more accessible. Indeed, it is now up to the network providers to find ways of introducing high speed internet for affordable prices, so that VR can become the home entertainment platform of the future.