If you have any interest in Virtual Reality technology, then you’ve probably come across articles claiming that “VR is dead.” However, this claim lacks awareness and understanding of what is really going on within the industry.
Here’s Why VR is Not Even Close to its Deathbed
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to… What does history tell us about emerging technologies? In particular, what do Atari Pong (the 1st commercially successful game), the internet, social media, and VR have in common? Well, two things come to mind – they are revolutionary, and they initially advanced at a fevered pace.
During the early adoption phase of the Internet, there was high cost and limited accessibility. You had to go to a particular location-based facility (similar to VRrcades) to access content. What about today? You can casually read this article over a low-cost and easily access the internet connection on your smartphone or PC. This technological trend is not isolated to the internet. Back in 1979, a team of visionaries from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center created the Alto, which was the first personal computer and the product of years of technological developments compiled in one device. Here’s what one of the greatest minds of our generation had to say in about it:
“And within ten minutes it was obvious to me that all computers would work like this someday. It was obvious. You could argue about how many years it would take… You couldn’t argue the inevitability, it was obvious.”
Similarly, David Whittinghill, an ICT and computer graphics professor at the Purdue University Polytechnic Institute, who has been in the VR industry since the early 90s reiterates Steve Jobs’ statements in the context of VR when he states;
“We’re still in the Wild West phase on this…This is going to happen, but there are some basic problems we’re still chipping away at. We’re still figuring it out.”
Over the last decade, investment in VR continues to rise at a rate of approximately 21% annually. According to a report by the intelligence analyst, CB Insights, VR investment in 2017 stood at $2.3 billion and Facebook invested over $100 million in their Seattle Oculus hub. Additionally, YouTube VR Creator Labs, Oculus for Good, and Google’s Jump Start program are still supplying funds and tools to immersive content creators. If these developments don’t prove that VR is still alive and kicking, maybe the recent Pulitzer prizes gracing the cabinets of the USA TODAY NETWORK for their VR experiences will.
Hardware is Etching Closer to Unveiling the Full Potential of VR
One day we will look back at the expensive and bulky hardware associated with VR and laugh it off – remember the size and limited functionality of the first mobile phone? With the heavy investments in VR highlighted in the section above, VR for the masses is coming sooner than you think. Take the example of the Oculus Quest, which is expected to be released in 2019. For as low as $399 this 6DOF headset is an all-in-one standalone device with revolutionary capabilities.
The promise of VR is reminiscent across the board as evidenced by the recent CES 2019, whereby different startups and big players alike showcased their remarkable strides in making VR an even more comfortable, and realistic experience. Examples of a few interesting developments include DisplayLink’s wireless VR compression technology, omnidirectional treadmills, haptic gloves, photorealistic displays, and Anti-latency’s little IR emitter that will make it easier for developers to offer warehouse and room-scale VR at an affordable price. (No wonder Rowan Atkinson’s latest Johnny English Strikes Again film featured a VR setup complete with a standalone headset, a treadmill, and real-world simulations.)
The CES 2019 set the pace for an exciting year and future for VR technology. The headsets we’ve been waiting for are finally within reach. It’s up to the hardware manufacturers and content creators to work together.
A Sustainable Developer Ecosystem: The Driver for Exponential Growth
What comes first? Head-mounted Displays (HMD) or quality immersive content? Like the chicken and the egg, this is a cycle that doesn’t seem to have an end. It also highlights the potential and future of VR technology. Now, to answer the question: the team at Immersive VR technologies doesn’t believe that it matters which comes first. We need both aspects to grow and sustain the VR developer ecosystem, which has been patiently waiting for its big moment. As these developments catch up, the ecosystem will flourish as HMDs sales increase and companies scramble for a piece of the pie.
The Naysayers’ Perspective Debunked
There are often two sides to a story – but there is always a middle ground. To provide an unbiased picture of the topic, we will highlight the concerns voiced by critics regarding the ‘health’ of VR along with our counter-arguments. So, what are the reasons behind these ‘death’ accusations?
- Focus on Gaming
In a 2017 article appearing in Tech Crunch by Natasha Lomas, the author argues that This VR cycle is dead. Although she makes a decent attempt to discredit the future of VR, her argument contained one critical flaw, she focused solely on gaming. What about the use of VR for military simulations, in the medical field, education, industrial application (as recently announced by Tesla), user testing, retail, or even for employee training? Don’t these commercial uses factor into the applicability of VR? Looking at VR from the narrow lens of gaming applications is limiting. It’s similar to going back to the 90s and grounding the future of the internet on its applicability as a platform for online gaming while ignoring all the other uses that we nowadays enjoy (research, communication, shopping etc.) Even from a gaming perspective, a Steam Hardware & Software survey indicates a 276% increase in Steam users with VR devices connected to gaming platforms over the course of 2017.
“Market Outlook Remains Positive”
A year after her post, statistics from the International Data Corporation (IDC) seemed to contradict her assertions. Although the worldwide shipment of VR devices in 2018 declined by 33.7% from 2017, the commercial sector witnessed an increase in deployment pointing to an increased used by the medical, educational, training, industrial, and military sectors. But the most surprising statistic was a 417% increase in the shipment of standalone VR headsets.
- Slow adoption
Let’s be honest, VR has not yet lived up to the over-ambitious heights it was tipped to achieve. But that’s okay, neither was the internet, Atari, or Pong. They needed the popularity of arcade to push the technology and bring their ideas into the mainstream. Experts at Immersive VR technologies and countless other players, including the IDC, which is the premier global provider of market intelligence believe that the future of VR is brighter than some people think. We cannot expect a revolutionary industry like VR to be an overnight success. Currently, VR is in its creation phase – the technology is being invented, improved, and modified on a daily basis. VR is playing the long-game and we can expect to witness more milestone events in the near future.
- The Costs are too High
One of the main setbacks to the mainstream adoption of VR devices is the relatively high cost of devices such as the Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive Pro. From an enterprise perspective, the cost of incorporating VR is actually cheaper than conventional alternatives. VR tools are significantly cheaper, safer, more effective for workforce training, military drills, industrial application, and medical application among other uses.
From an average consumer’s viewpoint, yes, the prices are on the higher side. But this again points to the issue of the ‘developmental stage.’ In a consumer market, prices are often determined by production costs, competition, and the forces of demand and supply. As the technology advances and the competition between major players (e.g. Oculus and HTC), Small and Medium scale enterprises (SMEs), and indie developers intensifies, we can expect to see a dramatic decline in the prices of standard VR devices. Currently, businesses are increasingly setting up location-based VR centers for gaming (VRcades) and other uses to solve the issue of cost.
- VR Devices are Bulky and Cumbersome
This points to the size of VR headsets and portability issues. Sure, some devices are bulky, but so were early computers – nowadays we have highly portable smartphones with a processing power similar to the computer that took us to the moon. This is a simple case of an interaction between technology and supply & demand. Besides, this is all about to change if some of the items unveiled at the recent CES 2019 are anything to go by.
What is the Takeaway?
We will let you make a conclusive decision regarding the health and future of VR, but if you consider history, the statistics, and you happen to share the same sentiments as Immersive VR technologies, then it’s obvious that VR is NOT dead! Our experts see great opportunities for diversifying business across the arcade environments and retail to reach a wider audience. If you are an investor, this is an early chance to plant your flag before the inevitable mainstream adoption tips the scales.