The virtual reality concept has been written about in books, dreamed about in movies and TV and shown off in theme parks as an integral part of the future. But previous attempts at mass marketing the concept were unsuccessful and no real traction was gained.
That is changing.
At seemingly every major tech convention over the past 12 months, virtual reality headsets were available in abundance for demonstration with many manufacturers announcing release dates within the next two years. Once considered as a novelty, virtual reality has reached a new territory of acceptance and interest with both developers and consumers. The battle for the virtual reality space looks to be well underway as many familiar companies are preparing to sell their own version to consumers in the near future.
The Major Players in Virtual Reality
The virtual reality experience that has garnered the most publicity and one of the longest in development. The company received a $2 billion boost when Facebook bought Oculus Rift with the notion to develop the virtual reality concept for entertainment and practical use. Though the device is not yet fully refined and had its issues upon getting out of the gate no one can deny a promising future based on who’s backing them and what plans they may have for this $600 device.
HTC/ Valve Vive
A marriage between the popular mobile manufacturer and a major PC gaming distribution company, their debut has comee with a lot of promise and softare suort despite its high price point at $800. Not only will the system have access to a deep library of games, Gabe Newell founder of Valve in an interview with The New York Times said that “zero percent of people get motion sick” and that they have solved many of the long standing barriers to entry for consumers including eyestrain and motion illness. The should be available to consumers in time for the holiday season and a kit for developers is already available for free.
Announced in January as a blending of technologies with its current offerings the Xbox One and Windows 10, Microsoft is developing an experience which differs from many of its competitors in the marketplace. Instead of showing images within the realm of the glasses, Hololens projects the image within the area of the user creating an augmented reality as it combines the real world with the holographic image being sent.
OSVR from Razer
First shown at CES 2015, the OSVR’s appeal will come from agreements Razer has made with popular software publishers such as Ubisoft among others. This will give the glasses a base of unique and appealing software support from gaming franchises many consumers can recognize including with popular games Assassin’s Creed, Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell. The future for this experience might be the most tenuous because of its backing and horsepower being behind its stronger PC competitors but as a $400 alternative it may turn out to be one too good to pass up.
Sony’s Project Morpheus
Also one of the first to show off their wares, Sony’s attempt in the virtual reality space may be among the first available to make a serious financial imprint with a mass-market audience with a release this October. In the attempt to add on to the success of the PlayStation 4, Sony’s product is being developed to work in conjunction with its console while providing stand-alone content as well.
Sony’s history of failures bringing PlayStation add-ons and concepts to market raises the questions of whether Sony should focus solely on the entertainment standpoint with the PS4 and whether consumers will see Morpheus as an essential purchase or a console replacement.
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung has also thrown its hat into the virtual reality circus with its own proprietary product due out May 8. The device itself will have an Oculus influenced software library and an entry level suggested retail price of $100. The Gear VR will only be available to those who are familiar with the Samsung family as the glasses will only be compatible with recent mobile releases from the company such as the Galaxy S6 &7, Edge 6 and Note 7.
There are many others companies with their own virtual reality headsets in development traveling from the Consumer Electronics Show to Comic Con and many trade shows in between trying to demonstrate that their glasses are superior to anything else coming out on the market. The impending influx of products has led to many predicting doom and gloom for the industry, perhaps a repeat of the failure of Android gaming consoles and 3D TVs.
Whatever the future holds for virtual reality from a sales standpoint will, any challenges will not be due to lack of technology and innovation. As Tim Sweeney head of Epic Games said an interview with Game Informer, “The only barriers to doing it perfectly are the latency of the hardware, the resolution of the screen, and the quality of the objects. All these are human engineering parameters that will be improved over time. I think we will be at a point where in 10 years the quality of the hardware and the polish it has achieved will be so high that it will be genuinely indistinguishable from reality.”