back to article Virtual reality headsets even less popular than wearable devices

Virtual reality headsets are moving at a rate of 2.3 million a quarter, but cheap and simple devices dominate the market. So says analyst firm IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker for 2017's first quarter. The firm says “about two-thirds of all headset shipments were viewers such as Samsung's …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge
    Coat

    I struggle with Actual Reality

    Virtual need not apply.

  2. scrubber

    MS back in the game

    The MS strategy appears to be ready to pay off. Or fail miserably. But I hope someone does it right and does it cheap.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: MS back in the game

      Sadly, if it's like their phone and band efforts, they'll release a great product that fails initially due to flakey software. They'll spend 6-12 months getting the software right, forget to do any marketing, then drop the product just as it starts to pick up market share.

      (MS Band wearing Lumia 950XL owning, long suffering)

      1. Naselus

        Re: MS back in the game

        The phone and the band actually are pretty good products. I'm not convinced about hololens yet, though. Last I heard, there's really major thermal problems and the hat remains heavier than comfortable.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: MS back in the game

          "the hat remains heavier than comfortable"

          Yeah, most of these designs seem to be fixated on putting everything into the "hat" instead making the hat as light as possible and putting everything else in a separate wired box that can be wrist, arm or belt worn.

          The "hat" really needs to be little more than a pair of glasses with lightweight displays for the lenses, or at worst, a band/strap around the head for secure fitting.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MS back in the game

      What strategy? They are going with facebookVR on Xbox one, vastly more expensive than PSVR, and only marginally better.

      It no coincidence that PSVR is outselling facebookVR by 4x....

    3. picturethis

      Re: MS back in the game

      Other than Surface 123/Pro, what's the last major hardware product that MS has delivered (either via purchasing or in-house developed) that has stayed around for more than a couple of years?

      Their track record is so poor that I don't trust them at all to support anything they make. Period.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: MS back in the game

        The MS ergonomic mouse, the original one, there are still variations out there that are nice to use

        er

        that's about it.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: MS back in the game

          er

          that's about it.

          you forgot the MS "ergonomic" keyboard.

          Microsoft are a software services company - you pays them money, they let you borrow the use of their software for an agreed period of time. Updates are provided if you agree to pay them more money.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: MS back in the game

            '..you forgot the MS "ergonomic" keyboard.'

            Not the same AC here, now while I did like the MS ergonomic mouse, I hated that keyboard with a passion..never could get used to it, then, at one place of employ some bright spark in manglement thought it a good idea to unilaterally replace all the keyboards with these buggers over a weekend, RSI and all that, 'ealth and safety knows what's good for thee.

            So, come in on Monday to find one of these abominations on my desk, growl and mutter, can't get my old keyboard back, so, came back in on the Tuesday with one of my own Model M beasties, the MS thing was duly sent back to stores..

            Within a fortnight, all but two of these ergonomic delights had been replaced with old boring unergonomic keyboards by pissed off users.

            So, in my case, I'd rather forget about that little MS experiment...

            FWIW, Fujitsu's attempt at similar keyboardie weirdness (KBPC E USB) is/was just as popular, as evidence, I came across a sizeable stash of used-once-if-at-all examples of this marque hidden in a storage cupboard at my current place of employ. Not one in use in the organisation. Anywhere.

      2. Tachikoma

        Re: MS back in the game

        Other than Surface 123/Pro, what's the last major hardware product that MS has delivered that has stayed around for more than a couple of years?

        XBOX

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    Price.

    I was kind of hoping that the Nintendo Switch would have been another Virtual Boy - just a console but that used VR as the gimmick, even if it was done with clever tricks but cheap components (which is kinda how the Wii took off - a "cheap" accelerometer coupled with some silly games that used it to pretend you were bowling, etc.).

    But the choice now is:

    - Cheap cardboard/plastic thing that needs a smartphone to work, falls apart, only works for smartphone games, and isn't that good.

    - Expensive plastic things that need an expensive smartphone to work, only works for smartphone games, but it actually quite good.

    - LUDICROUSLY expensive plastic thing that needs a powerful and expensive PC to work and does what we expect of "VR".

    Until that situation changes, there's not going to be much traction in the market.

    The only thing that isn't a toy are the Vive and Rift, and both are as expensive as a new laptop, as well as requiring a beefy PC with a serious graphics card to run them. Out of all my Steam friends I think one has one, and he has something like 5000 games on Steam so obviously has money to burn.

    Also, while there are two separate tech leaders, nobody is going to hedge. It's quite probably that there is only one winner at the moment (HTC Vive), but that's not clear and they aren't completely cross-compatible, so you have to have the "right" game or someone needs to develop the tools that let you play one on the other properly (there are such drivers, I believe).

    I'm waiting for the VR thing to take off. I honestly thought Nintendo were going to be first-to-market in the console stakes for the same, but they completely missed the boat. Grannies would have loved sticking on a headset and playing bowling through it and smashing up the living room in the process.

    That's where the market was. But the next round of consoles is years away. The PC tech isn't coming down in price at all and is still high-end gamer-only kit, and it's a lot to pay to "hedge" on yourself enjoying those kinds of games. And everything else is not even a toy, really. It's tech-demos.

    The Google Cardboard app, where a really, really low-poly whale jumps out of the water and goes over your head, shows that it's possible to do things with them that do make you wow a bit, even on low hardware. The new Star Trek game where you are on the bridge of the Enterprise, that's the kind of thing that will sell it. But there's no standard, no middle-ground, and no affordable hardware that isn't just you looking at your phone very close up.

    If a VR headset (I don't need all the controller junk, a normal controller would do for introducing the tech) was in the £200 range and worked on an ordinary gaming laptop, I'd already have one. At the moment, though, they are still 5 years away from being viable. By that time, hopefully one will emerge as a clear winner to the average consumer, and work on consoles the same as on PC (it's obvious what the winner is in terms of tech, but that doesn't mean it's the market-winner - who wants to spend a fortunate to fall foul of another VHS/Betamax scenario?).

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      You missed one...

      The PS4 has the PSVR headset and so far that works pretty well on a mass produced console.

      Admitedly It's still about £330 on top of the £300 PS4 price but you'd be paying more than that for just the headset of the Vive or rift never mind a machine capable of running them.

      1. Stacy

        Re: You missed one...

        Yup, I'm quite happy with my Sony PSVR.

        Sure it's not as amazing as some of the others, but it was cheap enough to be something to do with a bonus as we had the PS4 already.

        The problem for me is motion sickness - something that I hope they get sorted soon - I've heard that some games are worse than others, and to be fair the instructions say start with 15 minute sessions and gradually increase the amount of time you spend in the headset. My issue is that it isn't a gradual hit, but a fine one second and spend the next two hours recovering the next...

        But, what is there is really impressive, and very immersive!

        1. wowfood

          Re: You missed one...

          Honestly it's a bit of a shame that the PSVR doesn't have a PC option, (yet). I've been interested in getting a VR headset for a while now, and looking at it, I think PSVR is the closest thing to the right price point to gain traction. The rift needs to drop another £100 before I'll consider it, and the vive has to drop even further.

          I'm expecting that the next version of rift and vive will be exactly the same spec wise, but heavily cost downed to lower the price.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You missed one...

          I had the opportunity to test PSVR and Vive and Rift next to each other. What was immediately clear, there wasn't a huge performance difference, (Vive and Rift were marginally better), but there was a HUGE cost difference.

          In short, PSVR delivers 95% of the experience for 25% of the cost of Vive and Rift, all the other VR offerings deliver 1% of the experience various (mostly insignificant) amounts of money.

        3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

          Generally, that is fixed with more expensive hardware. Sad but true. They need to increase the refresh rate, latency and fidelity. General quality improvements everywhere, which of cause is not cheap.

          That's what HTC/Occulus found in their testing. Really fast refresh rates (60-120hz) low latency (lower the better, ~5ms), and higher screen resolution and of cause no lag from the PC/console.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

            it's 'of course' not 'of cause', Thanks

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

              The problem for me is motion sickness - something that I hope they get sorted soon

              . . .

              Ok, I've been a user of 3d systems since the early days when it was stereoscopics on a CRT with flickering LCD glasses, and I've seen a few generations of equipment come and go. This is in my view a problem that is fundamentally unsolvable and they are no further forwards to addressing the problems than 20 years ago.

              I'll explain why to my understanding, and you can tell me if you think I'm nuts or somewhat correct. I make no claim to be a world leading expert, only an admin type with the usual blend of cynicism that we develop when exposed to marketing types view of their equipment versus the actual reality of it for too long.

              The problem with motion sickness/vertigo on these systems is that your eyesight is reporting one thing to your body, but every other sense in your body is reporting something else. This causes your brain to sit screaming "BAD INPUT" as it's error checking says that while your vision reports your walking forwards your actually stationary. Short of the Microsoft hololens (or star trek holodeck) setup where your actually moving within a literal 3d environment then 3d equipment will always produce vertigo.

              And then there's eyestrain and headaches, which VR peeps claim they can fix with higher refresh hardware. Again, wrong. (imo)

              The issue is simply how your eyes work. Your eyes focus on something a long distance away, and then refocus to something a short distance away. Ever used a pair of binoculars? Same principle with your eyes focusing as with the focus wheel. You do it subconsciously though. This is not a serious problem on a typical VDU as everything is at the "same" distance as far as your eyes are concerned as they are just essentially reading a modern equivalent of a piece of paper that happens to be a bit brighter. Usually you change focus maybe a couple of times a minute when looking away from the screen for your cup of $beverage.

              VR is tricking your eyes into *CONSTANTLY* changing focus between short range and long range at a rate that is not natural or supportable by the muscles that do the focusing work and that causes what is known as eyestrain. Eyestrain causes headaches, as anybody who has read the UK mandatory HSE Display Screen Equipment poster will know.

              So even projecting text onto glasses for somebody to read will cause them to read that (~1inch focus) followed by focusing back to what they are doing at 2 feet away, and then back and forth.

              Now you might be able to solve the latter by detecting the distance to whatever the person is focusing on, and projecting text that's readable at that focus length, but increasing the screen refresh rate appears to be a case of barking up the wrong forest.

              1. Flakk Silver badge

                Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

                I've found that VR motion sickness is much the same as the motion sickness that some experienced when playing an FPS like "Doom" for the first time. It goes away as the brain adapts to the new stimuli.

                The first bout of VR-induced motion sickness I experienced was while playing "EVE: Valkyrie". My brains were used to fixed visual reference while playing flight combat games, so the first time I checked six over my right shoulder while doing a steep diving roll to the left, my stomach lurched. I grit my teeth and continued playing. The motion sickness was gone by the end of my second match.

                1. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

                  Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

                  kids these days.

                  real first generation videogame motion sickness belongs to "Descent" in 95:)

                  1. Peter2 Silver badge

                    Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

                    Oh gods, didn't decent cause serious vertigo in those tunnels especially strafing in 3D.

                    To be fair, you did get used to that, but I think that 3D VR or just Augumented Reality glasses is going to cause a lot of eyestrain problems.

              2. israel_hands

                Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

                [i]The problem with motion sickness/vertigo on these systems is that your eyesight is reporting one thing to your body, but every other sense in your body is reporting something else. This causes your brain to sit screaming "BAD INPUT" as it's error checking says that while your vision reports your walking forwards your actually stationary. Short of the Microsoft hololens (or star trek holodeck) setup where your actually moving within a literal 3d environment then 3d equipment will always produce vertigo.[/i]

                There's a very sound biological reason for the motion sickness which you've almost nailed, and it also explains how a tech fix isn't likely to solve it.

                The problem is that there's a part of your brain that matches up what you're seeing with the way your inner ear is telling your brain about the way your body is oriented. This is because, traditionally at least, if your eyes are telling you one thing but your internal gyroscope disagrees it means you've been poisoned and so will immediately start you feeling nauseous so that you'll throw up and (hopefully) empty whatever the toxin is from your stomach. This explains motion sickness and why people with inner ear infections and things like Labyrinthitis feel sick. Also explains why alcohol makes you feel sick if you have too much. It's nothing to do with your stomach rejecting it, the order comes down from your brain which is starting to panic that you've eaten the wrong type of berry and are going to die if you can't flush it out.

                So a tech fix may not be entirely possible simply because the tech can't fool your inner ear, regardless of how good it is at flashing images in front of your eyeballs.

          2. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

            Re: Stacy "Motion Sickness..."

            motion sickness will occur as long as users who actually rely on peripheral vision and eyeball scanning techniques are users. People trained to drive or pilot by constantly "scanning" for items of interest while only using gross motor head turning for major attention focus will continue to have issues.

            the fix will need, other than the things you've mentioned (because those are still necessary) individual eyeball tracking for each display or a means to make the image remain in focus even when the eye looks to the edges of the individual screen, optics designed to make the apparent distance be equal from the lens.

            individual correction per eyeball that is configurable to each user's vision will also need some sort of implementation as well. Otherwise the headset would be dependent on the quality of the eyeglass lenses for how things are viewed and that's never guaranteed.

            Adaptive optics? Or some clever objective lens geometry like the "3D Fresnel" lens a company I used to work for was playing with perhaps?

            Lots of work to be done before widespread acceptance or "ready for prime-time" occurs no matter what.

    2. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

      you forgot one

      a middling price, often available from your carrier for free or cheap when you replace your phone, that requires a higher end phone that overheats from normal use, requiring you to not use the cover provided with the headset because that makes the phone overheat even faster.

      And tells you it requires an expensive remote pad to actually USE the thing.

  4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    This isn't really much of a surprise, apart from hardcore gamers, VR isn't much more than an amusement at present. AR might change that in the workplace, we'll see.

    Meanwhile I've enjoyed dipping my toe in VR via Cardboard (made my own viewer from a stereoscopic slide viewer) and then onto a commercial headset. I try to take a few 3D 360 photos when I'm on hols too.

    If I still commuted to work on the train, I could see I'd use my VR headset more, probably just to simulate a large screen for watching videos though. (and shutting out fellow commuters)

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    Sales great...

    ...but continued use?

    I know of two people that bought VR headsets.

    One was a Rift...sold on eBay 3 months later.

    The other is the Samsung effort. Sat in his drawer after two weeks of use.

  6. Oliver Mayes

    VR seems like it has a huge amount of potential, I'd love to try it out... but unfortunately I don't have a spare £700 I can spend on the hardware.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would LOVE a good VR headset...

    ... but not until they're less than £150, otherwise it's just too much for a novelty item. I'll wait.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

      Re: I would LOVE a good VR headset...

      Good and fairly cheap VR would actually be a winner for business work, programming and systems admin especially. Instead of several large actual screens, the user would have several large virtual screens positioned around a virtual environment of their choosing.

      In my case, a virtual "office" under a large, shady tree in the middle of a walled or hedged garden would be ideal and relatively cheap in CPU terms to simulate (not much moving scenery, no long views), as well as being a great deal nicer than a dingy office space.

      From the point of view of whoever is paying for this, the graphics hardware is more expensive but only a smallish back-up monitor is needed, plus the virtual screens can be set up to appear to be big, but a few feet away so middle-aged eyes aren't struggling to focus. Status indicators for business systems could be integrated into the VR scenario; a compost heap represents the system's rubbish bin, a flower bed the core business systems and so on.

      Best of all, if the office space is a cramped cubicle, then the VR space actually represents a better and more pleasant environment than the physical environment does, allowing the employer to cheap-out on the physical environment.

    2. Tachikoma

      Re: I would LOVE a good VR headset...

      Have a look at the PiMax 4K VR headset, it's closer to £300 than £150 but cheaper than the Rift/Vive and "almost" as good, trades lower refresh rate for higher resolution screens so more suited to movie and "productivity" but seems adequate for gaming.

  8. tedleaf

    Bleh

    Vr/Ar,the next 3D tv as far as the public are concerned..

    Ar will be brilliant in education and industry,as far as public is concerned,it's going to be a small niche market,lots of failed companies trying to sell something most folk don't want and do t care about..

    And it will stay that way..

  9. Tony Paulazzo

    The PC tech isn't coming down in price at all and is still high-end gamer-only kit, and it's a lot to pay to "hedge" on yourself enjoying those kinds of games.

    MS has teamed up with Lenovo / Dell etal to produce Win10 VR, RRP 3 to £400. Inside out tracking, resolution and refresh pretty much on par with Rift / HTC and coming out this year running on not so high end PCs / laptops. Might ignite some interest but agreed the price to quality ratio is way out of whack.

    The bigger problem is no killer app. I love Elite Dangerous and so splurged on a rift (hate Facebook, distrust Oculus, love the headset), but a lot of the stuff out there is either crap or good but short, like 5 hours of content short.

    It's also great for driving / flight sim type games but the lens imperfection (fresnel, SDE, FOV) make it less good for movie watching and or desktop use.

  10. Baldrickk Silver badge

    I want one, but...

    I have tried phone based VR, with Cardboard, but even on a fairly powerful phone (Galaxy S7) the latency is too high. Shake your head at a relatively low speed and you still end up with the scene 100% out of phase with your motion - that's what makes people feel ill.

    I have tried the Rift (Developer kit) but the resolution on those was far too low - the cardboard solution with my old phone at the time (LG G3) was of better visual quality.

    I have heard some very good things about the Vive, from people I know online who own it, but it is both too expensive at the moment to be a viable purchase for me, and something that costs that much, I want to try before I buy. I believe the only place I can do that at the moment is a store in central London. Not exactly catering to the larger market here... So far, I have chosen to buy a (cheaper!) 50" smart tv, as something that will see much more use overall.

    Playstation VR seems to be doing well, and at that price it is definitely more affordable. Something around that price for the PC would be attractive. There seems to be a couple more products getting towards release, such as Lenovo's offering. It looks like some interesting things may happen on this front, so for now, I'm watching this space.

  11. Patrician

    There are several issues, for me, with VR; the cost is the first, for something that would only be in periodic use, because VR doesn't suit all game formats, (rather like the HOTAS I bought a couple of years ago, it only gets dusted off for the occasional spot of ED and is used for nothing else) it's way too expensive.

    Secondly as a user of spectacles VR goggles/helmets are a no starter; I could put contacts in when wanting to use VR I guess, but that's just more hassle, and the more hassle something is to use the less likely it is that it will be used I'm afraid.

    1. Boothy

      Why would you say it's a non starter because you wear glasses?

      I you're shortsighted, you can usually just use VR without your glasses (at least my friends who are shortsighted do that, and without issue).

      I also wear glasses, but I'm longsighted, so don't have the option to be without, and I have no issues in VR (I have a Vive) with my glasses on, and can happily be in VR for several hours without discomfort or eye strain.

      Granted you can't have the VR lenses adjusted quite as close to your face as you can without glasses, but the only impact that has is your field-of-view is slightly reduced (I also have contacts, so have tried with both contacts and glasses as a comparison, there was minimal difference).

      The Vives headset also doesn't impact on the frames themselves, i.e. it's not pushing the frames into the bridge of your nose. (At least not in my case).

      The only time I could see it being an issue for people with glasses, is if you've gone and bought some of those 70s/80s style large and/or thick frames ones, or if you only have bi or vary-focal lenses (as the bottom part of the screen is blurred), I know this personally, as I have vary-focals these days, so I just wear an older fixed lens pair of glasses I have as a backup.

  12. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Biology...

    The same with 3d. You either loose the consumers whose biology is not happy with the product (motion sickness, 2d vision, glasses, reflexes, etc etc) or make the costly adjustments to fit them.

    That is before you consider those who will never be able to use it (one eye with vision, not wanting to mess up hair etc).

    Why is 2d images/film and music so popular? Because 99% of the population or earth can enjoy it and share that experience (even those without vision/hearing can often share the experiences in groups with adaptive/inclusive technologies).

    VR though leaves you alone, but connected virtually, online with others who are alone. With the small exception of a few multiplayer games that allow couch play with a group that may get more popular, this is going to be a niche market.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People are too scared to use them...

    ... because you won't know your mum just walked in until you hear the dropped plate smash on the floor, or even how many photos your mates just posted online of your "personal me time".

  14. Planty Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Huh?

    "The market's growing fast, but only the cheap stuff with no strings attached is selling"

    Joint #1 (given the guesswork of IDC numbers) is PSVR, which isn't a cheap freebie that's bundled with a phone contract...

    There is a huge gulf between Samsung's offering that is given away free with a mobile phone, and once you watch the rollercoaster demo, you sell it on ebay, to PSVR with a real and rapidly expanding library of full blown VR games....

    1. Flakk Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      I've never used the Samsung VR offering, so I can't really compare it to my great experiences with PSVR. It may very well be awesome. Nevertheless, I'd still be a tad concerned about putting a potentially explodey thing so close to my eyes.

      1. whoa182

        Re: Huh?

        Your vision is focused at 2 meters away. It's probably healthier than staring at a book, phone or monitor up close.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Huh?

      You raise a very good point - the idea that only the cheap stuff is selling isn't supported by the data. When you add in the US retail price and multiply it out to get an approximate estimate of the amount spent on each the picture is very different. Sony and HTC dominate the value share of the market, each earning ~40% of the money spent. Facebook is around 10% and Samsung 5%, with the cheapies splitting the remaining few percent.

      Sure, there are lots of crappy nearly free headsets out there, but the real market is much higher end.

  15. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    You need a 21st century sales strategy

    I was walking through Birminghams Grand Central a couple of months ago, and was collared by someone plugging the "VirtualX" store, which was reminiscent of 1980s video arcade.

    First off there were no flying "apps" - it was all cars and shoot-em-up.

    Fair enough, I said. So if I start on a headset I can see a *virtual* layout of Grand Central, populated with zombies and baddies*, and I can have a scream zapping them ? (I asked this as I had just watched the BBC series where they recreated a virtual Naples, Florence and Venice which looked breathtaking).

    No.

    There are quite a few current innovations which will need to be rediscovered by our grandchildren, as they completely sail over the heads of today.

    *You fill in the joke.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VR and assistive technology

    My wifes eyesight is shot due to optic neuritis (common with MS :( ) Not blind, but struggles with detail.

    No one I have asked involved in VR has been able to answer my question as to whether using a VR headset - which presumably works by jiggery-pokery of the image to give you the illusion of depth - could also help to display content for people with poor eyesight.

    And I ain't gonna fork out £200+ to find out that it's "no".

    1. cirby

      Re: VR and assistive technology

      I've seen posts from people with vision problems who use VR, and the comments have been pretty positive. It has the illusion of depth, but the actual image is "close in," so people with extreme myopia and other vision issues don't seem to have much problem with it.

      Your comment about "presumably works by jiggery-pokery of the image to give you the illusion of depth" is odd. It works by straightforward "putting an image up for each eye to give the illusion of depth." It's not particularly strange - people have been doing similar things for well over a century with stereoscopy.

      If you're not sure about your wife's capacity to enjoy VR, try out the Google Cardboard with a standard smart phone. They're incredibly cheap - I have a nice little one (from a company called Eightones) I got for $5.99 US, and a slightly fancier setup that cost me $29.99 US. If she can use those well enough, then the better models would just be improvements.

      One of the best things about VR is that it lets people with health and movement issues enjoy things they would never get to experience. Google Earth on a fancy system like the Vive is pretty amazing, for example, and there are some impressive (and free!) VR experiences out there.

      A final note: while stereo vision is one of the best parts of VR, it's not necessary. Plenty of people with vision loss in one eye still have and use VR headsets.

  17. johnnyblaze

    VR is a gimmick - a novelty at best. After a few minutes of going 'wow - isn't this cool', people take them off and never use them again. I even did this with a Google Cardboard device. Tried a few apps, thought it was fun, took it off and never touched it again - and that was when I only paid £5, so didn't feel too bad about it. Even the new 'budget' line of tethered headsets will be at least £300!

    VR/MR will appeal to gamers and professional markets. You average consumer won't be interested. Look at what happened to 3D TV, and that's when the glasses were often given away with the TV itself.

    1. whoa182

      VR is not a gimmick. Google cardboard cannot be compared at all with these high end VR HMD's. Google cardboard is not VR. I've owned an Oculus Rift now for over a year and I use it almost every day. If love VR even more now than I did when I first just got the Rift.

      Also, I own a 4K 3DTV, but I NEVER use the 3DTV function. Why? Because it doesn't add anything to the experience. With VR, it really adds to the experience and is so much fun. It makes you feel as if you're inside the virtual world and have a sense of "presence". It's truly amazing. Everyone who I've shown the Rift to has been blown away and wants to buy one.

      VR will be massive, it's inevitable as technology improves and costs come down.

      And CV1 will be around even when 2nd generation headsets are around. CV1 will probably be much less, and the CV2 will come in around the same price as the CV1 did when launched. If you think about people buying TV's.. they don't bat an eyelid over the costs of new 4K TV's, but many would probably say VR is so expensive. It's about value, or perceived value in most cases... Since most people have never had VR and/or never had enough time to appreciate how good it can be.

  18. cirby

    A few caveats...

    The cry of "you have to buy an expensive computer" rings a bit false. According to Steam, 25% of their users already have Vive/Oculus-capable computers (more than 30 million out of 125 million users). That's a LOT of people who are already gamers, and have the capability of running VR. Another 25% or so are mostly just a $200 graphics card update away - that's over 60 million potential users right there.

    The other thing to consider is that "expensive" price, considered historically. In 1983, my Apple IIe cost about $2400 (with color monitor and floppy drive). Accounting for inflation, that would be about $6000 today. Even if you went for the much cheaper Commodore 64 with floppy drive (mostly "just a game computer"), you'd be spending about $900 in 1983, or $2300 today. That's certainly enough to buy a nice Vive system - and there are VR system bundles for $1500 that will do the job.

    Basically, the same people who think "VR is too expensive" are the same people who would have thought "wow, home computers are too expensive, they'll never take off!" VR is not really that costly, but once the price drops really kick in, things will get very interesting, and most of the bugs have been squashed already due to the early adopters.

  19. User McUser

    Still in the early days.

    The problem here is people's unrealistic expectations about what VR is and should be versus where we actually are right now. People want a Holodeck on their face and we are not at that point yet. People want AAA top-tier games and services but the installed user-base just isn't there yet.

    Developers and designers are still working out how to present virtual worlds in a believable way; they're still developing the tools, techniques, and "language" that they need to offer better and more natural interaction with the virtual space. Motion sickness is still an issue with a lot of people; hell I generally have an iron stomach and on occasion I have felt a little nauseous playing some faster paced games. We still need to figure out what new tropes will apply to virtual environments[1].

    It helps to think of early cinema - back at the turn of the last century, many movies were essentially YouTube clips ("Man Washes Horse" was a real nail-biter I'm sure.) But eventually the industry figured out all of the tools, techniques, and "language" that make movies into films. Framing rules, establishing shots, the 180° rule, split edits, traveling mattes, optical compositing, and so forth. You don't go from "Train Arriving at the Station" to "Star Wars" overnight. VR is just starting on that journey.

    To put it another way, we're still at the Atari 2600 stage of the VR market; the tech is new and exciting and in your home for the first time and there are a lot of competing devices that provide varying levels of fidelity. The games are more simple and a large segment of the available software relies heavily on multiplayer being the driving force (no need to program an AI if you just make player two be another human) or is just sandbox style "play." Eventually we'll get to the NES/Famicom stage of the VR industry - I would guess that we'll hit this point in about 3-4 years - and that is when it is going to take off.

    [1] - For me, the most compelling VR experience I have engaged in is a silly little "game" called "Room 202" in which you are being interrogated by two police officers and can only respond with a nod or shake for yes or no. There is a moment in the game where one of the cops tosses a photograph onto the table in front of you and asks you to look at it. When you lean over to get a good look, the game uses your change of focus to switch you into a flash-back moment at another location. It's an amazing trick - you're concentrating on the picture and when you look up again you're in an entirely different location. It feels extremely natural but at the same time delightfully surprising; a sort of "distracted transition." It's these sorts of techniques that need to be developed and refined before VR becomes what people want it to be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still in the early days.

      I think I will be a late adopter with this one. I'll check back in five years to see if it's ready for me to buy, or if it needs anothet five years to be cheap and compelling.

  20. Terje

    I think the lack of uptake for Occulus / Vive is quite simple.

    1. Price, of unit.

    2. Spec of PC to run it.

    3. Lack of appealing content to use it with

    I have considered picking one up as my hardware is easily able to handle it, what stops me is the fact that apart from elite dangerous and some racing sim I don't know what to use it for.

    1. Boothy

      Part of the content issue is time.

      It takes 3+ years to produce a AAA title, plus a lot of the big risk averse studios, want a bigger market before diving in, so you end up in a catch 22 situation of people don't buy VR, as there is nothing of interest, and studios not producing, as there isn't enough user base.

      Things should start to change over the next 6 months or so, as some of the larger games start to come out (i.e. more than the 4 hours long, and are not just basically the $5 tech demos you have now (other than ED)).

      Fallout 4 VR should be an interesting test of the waters, a full AAA tittle in VR.

      I would also suspect moving forwards, that a new non VR 3D game will be easier to convert to VR, as long as it has been designed appropriately from the beginning (i.e not used 2D overlays for weather effects, or weapon selection menus etc, which are common issues with porting many existing games).

      If it's all already fully rendered in 3D, with a bit of forethought, then less effort (and so less cost) to make it VR friendly.

      There's no real reason why the next CoD/Battlefield type game couldn't be VR ready with only minimal effort, if planned in from the begging. (All mainstream game engines, as used by almost all AAA titles, have VR built in now, and have done for some time).

      Doesn't fix the other issues though, although as someone else already mentioned elsewhere in the comments, about 25% of existing Steam users already own a VR capable machine, and about 25% more only need a better GFX card, and for entry level VR, that's about $200. Meaning about 50% or so off the current PC gaming userbase, is either already VR ready, or not too far off.

      We just need to content!

  21. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

    cuz nerds wear glasses

    and almost every single headset I've encountered is NOT glasses friendly.

    edge distortion issues and any sort of disorientation are enhanced by different lenses stacked. Unless you can absolutely maintain NO eye movement, only head movement, you're in Eyestrain City within minutes.

    Even then, not the most comfortable thing.

    So a product that's going to, by its very design, alienate a large number of the core individuals who'd really want to be in on this, is going to have issues.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3D Porn

    Is the current best use of VR headsets and it doesn't matter if you have an expensive Rift or a cheap cardboard, the experience is about the same. Allegedly...

    Love the idea of VR and what can be done with it but not enough to pay silly prices for hardware.

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