back to article Virtual reality meets commercial reality as headset sales plunge

Shipments of virtual reality kit have plunged, but growth is just around the corner. So said analyst firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker, which found “shipments of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets were down 30.5 per cent year over year, totalling 1.2 million …

Christmas Sales

The Oculus Go is pretty nicely set for Christmas. Pricey enough to not be a too-casual purchase, but cheap enough that a bunch of middle-class parents will grab it as their kids' first VR headset. It's probably going to be the Commodore 64 of VR. Not the best, not the fastest, but certainly good enough to get started.

I have a Vive, a Rift, a WMR, and a Go - they each fill a certain segment of the market. The Vive is my favorite, but the Go is surprisingly good for the price. They're all pretty good, though.

...and the true second-generation headsets are no more than a year out. That's when it kicks into high gear.

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VR Makes me sick and until the motion sickness problem is solved, I suspect VR is only good for the odd minute or several of pron.

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Usually that's related to badly made environments/experiences, not modern hardware

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Occulus Rift, hate it. AR should not cause the same issue because nausea is caused by the lack of accurate frame of reference in fully immersive VR, needed for a sense of balance.

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Silver badge

nausea is caused by the lack of accurate frame of reference

Not quite. Motion sickness nausea is caused by a mismatch between what the eyes are saying about the movement of the world and what the ears and other parts of the body(1) are saying. AR is less bad because we still see at least some of the real world, so that mismatch isn't there.

(1) Even without introducing "ESP" and similar, there are more than five senses. The five "classic" senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, smell - are supplemented by a couple of different "kinesthetic" senses that allow us to locate our body parts relative to our heads (that is, we know where our hands and feet are without looking at them)(2), and the sense of balance allows us to orient ourselves correctly.

(2) The in-brain processing necessary to make this stuff work as well as it does is substantial - it keeps about a quarter of your brain busy, while an octopus doesn't have enough brain power to track its arms in this way, and must watch them if it needs to know where the ends are.

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Anonymous Coward

"Motion sickness nausea is caused by a mismatch between what the eyes are saying about the movement of the world and what the ears and other parts of the body(1) are saying."

A theory has been advanced that motion sickness is an inherited survival trait.

Our ancestors could accidentally eat berries or plants which secreted toxic alkaloids. The symptoms would be a disjunction of the visual and spatial senses. Vomiting would be a useful reaction to get rid of the remaining poison quickly.

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"nausea is caused by the lack of accurate frame of reference in fully immersive VR"

Only partly correct. The main reason is what has already been pointed out to you, so I wont cover that here.

Developers have found out that if there is a fixed frame in the VR scene, like the cockpit around you in a car or spaceship for example, that tends to reduce nausea. There are many other software tricks that help as well, and some types of VR scene that make it even worse.

Then there is what is known as "getting your VR legs", similar to "getting your sea legs" for those that get sea sick. Since the nausea is for basically the same reason in VR and sea sickness, not everyone gets it, and those that do can reduce their nausea by repeated exposure. Use VR for a few minutes, give it a rest, maybe a few more minutes, maybe wait a day or so. Eventually you might get used to it, and no more nausea.

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Anonymous Coward

But if you use VR then the results look really good

This whole country could do with a healthy dose of Real Reality rather than living in the Cloud Cuckoo Land that is Media Spin.

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Re: But if you use VR then the results look really good

Inevitable hard brexit followed by hard times.

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Coat

I'm waiting for...

... Magic Leap! Those guys have some awesome tech! I'm not wasting my money on Occulus Rift or Vive. In fact, I've even pre-ordered so I'll have one of their first sets. They told me I should get it for Christmas.

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Anonymous Coward

'They told me I should get it for Christmas.'

You'll need a Safe! Are you getting one of those for Xmas too?

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/03/30/magic_leap_you_can_have_our_headset_so_long_as_you_keep_it_in_a_safe/

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These sort of stories make me sigh.

Obviously VR headset sales are falling. Rift and Vive was released like 2 years ago now, and while still technically superb, they're 2 years old. The AR sets released since have all been universally terrible, and the Vive Pro, while better than the original, is only slightly improved, for insane money.

The least said about the Go and similar sets the better.

The main issue is the lack of commitment by hardware developers to move on. VR desperately needs higher res, better optics and crucially, more high-qualit games. These are all coming, and I predict within 2 years we'll see proper next-gen headsets that will finally make those who see it as nothing more than a waste of time sit up and take notice.

As long as the costs are kept realistic.

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My thoughts exactly. I got the Oculus shortly after release and have used it extensively since then.

However, I was fully expecting “round 2” at the beginning of this year and was extremely disappointed with the lack of progress with new hardware.

Basically, anyone who wanted VR and was satisfied with Gen 1’s marginal quality has it.

Price reductions would have brought a second, less enthusiastic wave of customers but on the whole the market will end up saturated.

To entice new users to buy in or current users to upgrade their current sets, true 2nd Gen devices need to be released.

Look at how popular the Pimax VR Kickstarter was. It generated double the funds of the Oculus KS.

I know the world has moved on and KS is more accepted today than back in 2015 but still there IS interest in VR, we just need compelling hardware to fire it up.

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Anonymous Coward

Can't see it really, there is no thirst for virtual reality. Your average person doesn't want to strap something on their head unless it looks and feels like ready player one and that's many years away. Maybe by 2030 they might have something of interest.

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VR has a fundamental problem

[May be a duplicate post, there was no confirmation after I submitted it the first time and I was

returned to a blank comment form].

I'm not talking about the fact that, apart from games, there's bugger-all use for it at home and, apart from a few specialist applications, bugger-all use for it at work.

I'm talking about the vergence/accommodation conflict (video. Your eyes converge when you look at close objects and are parallel when you look at distant objects. Your focus changes, too, depending on distance. Your brain expects both those changes to happen in track with each other, so you end up feeling nauseous or get a headache when they don't. 3D films these days get around it by limiting the

distance range of objects, but VR is meant to cope with stuff you can reach to pick up as well as distant objects.

I can't think of any solution that would be feasible, cheap, and not weigh too much to be usable. It seems that nobody else can, either, or it would already be on the market. Unless somebody does come up with something, VR is going to be too painful to use for long periods unless it only displays stuff that's beyond arm's length (at least that far, maybe further). You can use lenses to put the display at optical infinity and then there is no vergence/accommodation clash.

AR isn't so much a problem, as long as it doesn't pretend to show things further away than the display actually is. So HUDs are fine, but AR superimposing objects of varying distances is going to be a pain.

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Re: VR has a fundamental problem

People are working on the vergence / accommodation problem. Light field and projection based systems, like Magic Leap is alleged to be, is one way. Others have working prototypes of multi-plane systems.

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Facepalm

Same basic flaws as 3D TV...

The VR people are missing the same boats the 3D TV people missed. Basically, our eyes and brains don't see the world like they present it. We've been looking at flat media with no depth all our lives and we're used to it so it doesn't seem strange. It IS strange though, and as soon as you move it into 3D the weirdness hits and we get headaches trying to resolve it.

We don't only align our eyes for depth info, things move in and out of FOCUS. Watch the foreground and the background goes a little fuzzy. 3D technology does not reproduce this (it would require serious eye-tracking to do it). The alignment angle does not match the depth-of-field data, and our brains don't know which is right.

Also, we don't see real-world motion as series of sharp-focus stills. If you watch a car go by, the background blurs with motion, or watch the street and the cars blur. Furthermore, the degree of blur indicates speed. VR images are always sharp, which destroys any sense of true motion.

With current tech, our brains get some cues that we're looking at a 3D world, but other cues are terribly wrong and our brains rebel. Until these two basic flaws are solved, VR or 3D of any kind is going to look weird and make people feel ill.

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Re: Same basic flaws as 3D TV...

They got around the problem in 3D films and TV by not showing things that are too close. Beyond a certain point the change in focal length and convergence are so small your brain can't detect them. If the cinema screen/TV is at least that distance away then everything matches up and all is well. 3D films and TV used to have a problem because directors loved objects that seemed to jump out of the screen at you or were about to hit you. You don't see much of that these days.

And that's the problem with VR, because many of the applications are going to be ones which deal with objects that are close and other objects that are far. Not such a problem with HUDs as they are basically close instrument displays that you can mostly see through, so AR on those would be feasible.

I can think of only three ways around the problem.

One is a phased-array antenna for light, which could create hologram images (as in Star Wars). It would require hellish compute power even to create a single frame of video. And we don't know how to make phased-array light antennas.

Another way would be an ultra-high res volumetric LCD and some powerful optics to make 5cm of tank depth seem like 5 metres visually. Very ultra-high res. We have no idea how to make one.

Final way is one of the existing 3D technologies that use water mist or a spinning helix with lasers. Along with powerful optics to get the depth of field. We do know how to make those, we just can't make them small and lightweight enough to be usable.

Current state of play is you pay a lot of money to get a headache. Sort of like having a spouse, except you can switch it off, put it on eBay and hope somebody is daft enough to buy it.

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News from 1999

Virtual Reality is the next big thing.....

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Vive pro...

I'm holding out for a Vive pro package deal that includes the controllers and bases. It's not advanced enough beyond the Vive to justify the price tag, especially considering the hefty drop in the 2 year old tech which is actually still pretty damn good.

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Re: Vive pro...

I'm holding out for the Ultragear (at least right now)

There's not been much information about it recently, but with LG building the new panels in collaboration with Google, and the Knuckles (possibly) being released if/when it is released, it seems to be a good thing to wait for.

Of course other companies are working on HMDs too, so really, I just want to get a 2nd gen HMD

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