back to article Virtual reality is a bonkers fad that no one takes seriously but anyway, here's someone to tell us to worry about hackers

You'd think virtual reality's biggest problems right now are breaking into meaningful mainstream adoption, and not making wearers of the headsets look utterly ridiculous. But no, it's possible you are wrong. For we're told the re-emergence of virtual and augmented reality hardware may bring with it hackers tormenting folks in …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Augmented reality"

    Virtual reality is very virtual indeed, as even the highest resolution presentation contains vastly less real information than your senses receive from the real world (unless of course you're really not paying attention). Consequently, "augmented reality" is merely slightly tarted up severely degraded reality.

    That's not to say it doesn't have its uses, but using the term "reality" for it undermines recognition of the real as in "real world". We should be honest and call it simulation.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: "Augmented reality"

      As an old ad guy once told me (in reference to ads of the "leaves dishes virtually spotless" sort), we shouldn't forget what "virtual" means. He advocates mentally replacing any instance of the word with the phrase "not in fact".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Augmented reality"

        Was asked years ago what was "Virtual Memory". Short answer - it's not real, but fake memory!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    VR will soon become more mainstream

    With some games that actually use it for good. I'm looking at Half-life: Alyx which is VR only.

    Could be the reason for me to jump the bandwagon.

    Not sure how security risks really apply though , apart from the CAM being hijacked ...

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: VR will soon become more mainstream

      It's not a good look when R.O.B.'s future depends on Gyromite.

      R.I.P. R.O.B.

      P.S. Ironically VR's main security threat is the same as R.O.B.'s... a tripping hazard.

  3. Danny 5
    WTF?

    A fad?

    really? I bet you aren't a gamer in that case, because in gaming it's becoming mainstream fast. I've been playing all my games on the PS4 with the VR headset, the huge screen it simulates is far better than my tv (my eyes aren't great). It's not mad expensive to buy, the quality is good, the number of games is growing steadily (and there's already plenty of good games) and the headset is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. This isn't a fad, this is what gaming is turning in to.

    Security is not going to be an issue in my case. Yeah, PS4 security, the headset works only with the console, but that should already be a priority for Sony.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: A fad?

      Sorry Danny

      But you are not representative of the majority of gamers, you can only speak on "your" own behalf for the types of games that "you" play.

      It's hard to find a true figure but estimates were around 92 Million PS4 units being sold by the beginning of 2019 whilst only 4 Million headsets were sold

      https://www.theverge.com/2019/3/27/18284297/sony-psvr-4-million-sold-sega-cd-kinect-comparison-ps4-playstation

      That's definitely a "far cry" ( pun intended) from mainstream acceptance.... Unless of course you have some figures that prove the contrary...

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: A fad?

        Well, that's almost a year ago. Current estimates put PSVR around the 6 million mark I believe.

        It's worth noting that you currently CANNOT buy an Index, or a Quest, or a Rift S - they all sold out, and have been sold out since Alyx was announced.

        If you look at the adoption curve for VR, it matches colour TV almost exactly. While it's a less passive experience so will likely not reach the same level of market saturation, it certainly looks like a new technology on its way to becoming pretty mainstream to me.

        1. overunder Silver badge

          Re: A fad?

          "Well, that's almost a year ago. Current estimates put PSVR around the 6 million mark I believe."

          Source? I believe it though, 5.9 million of those are on Ebay and Craigslist.

          "If you look at the adoption curve for VR, it matches colour TV almost exactly."

          You're just making shit up or I hope you question where you found that data.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: A fad?

            And do you have data to back up your counter-assertions? Or are you also making shit up?

        2. mintus55

          Re: A fad?

          Oculus products are in Argos, not exactly sold out anywhere.

      2. Danny 5

        Re: A fad?

        Oh come on, that's clearly a sign of impending mainstream adoption, the only reason it's "only" 4 million is because a lot of people can't afford it, not because they don't want it. As the prices drop and more games come out, adoption will rise. Have you actually played any VR games? I've demoed it to a lot of my friends, many can't waiit to get their hands on it themselves.

        1. Graham 32

          Re: A fad?

          It depends on your definition of mainstream but I'll play devil's advocate and argue it's still a long way off.

          When there's a console that comes with the headset and lots of content at launch then it might get there. Until then VR will remain more of a niche because of the Catch 22 where there needs to be plenty of games to sell the hardware and people need the hardware for the games to sell.

          It needs a company to go all in, make enough content that demands a VR headset and be sure enough users have one. I'm thinking of how the Wii popularised the wand controller. Without that sort of commitment VR will be another 3DTV. Even the wand controllers seem niche these days but at least they're cheap so it's not a killer expense

      3. razorbacks3129

        Re: A fad?

        You're only looking at PSVR, which is one early version of VR that still would have trouble due to the fact that it's very restricting and requires a PS4 for one...

        A better example of how this is no longer a fad can be seen from the Oculus Quest.

        Best Buy/Amazon/Walmart/Oculus Store have all been sold out of Oculus Quest (both the $399 and $499 versions) since November 2019. They are STILL sold out today with back orders currently shipping in March 2020. The next gen that comes out with a similar price point, but improved performance -- I think that is when we can no longer call this a fad.

      4. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: A fad?

        4 million is still a damn big number.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: A fad?

          4 million sold. How many sitting on shelves gathering dust? Did little Johnny get one for the Christmas just before girls started to become much more interesting?

          I see it like 3D TV; there needs to be a killer application for VR to go from massive plastic to small Titanium alloy for high end business applications. Consumer products are built to a price. Tools don't have the same limitations since a good tool can pay for itself several time over in a year even if it is rather expensive to buy.

          The best concept I've read is in Airframe by Michal Crichton where a character uses a VR headset loaded up with aircraft docs to find where an optional Black Box might be installed on a plane involved in an incident. Maybe VR would be good for that or maybe a super high res tablet with handy mounting options is better. Hard to say. Could be some of each. If you have to poke your head through a tight access hatch, a VR set on your noggin might be a problem.

          1. razorbacks3129

            Re: A fad?

            4 Million PSVR units sold.. Add in Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Oculus Quest, and Oculus Go -- and you're looking at a MUCH higher number.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: A fad?

      The sort of gaming that you're talking about is itself a niche market. Even if 100% of such gmaers adopted VR, that still wouldn't count as being "mainstream".

      VR has a few obvious areas where I expect it to be rather popular. Games is one of them. Various industrial applications are another. It's hard to see how the gear would achieve wide adoption outside of those areas, though.

      1. southen bastard

        Re: A fad?

        porn!

        the biggest driver of them all!

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: A fad?

      Clearly VR is going to be mainstream and the naysayers just don't understand.

      Not too long ago they similarly discounted motion sensing and look how successful Kinect and Kinect enabled games turned out to be.

      Oh, wait a minute .

      1. razorbacks3129

        Re: A fad?

        Did the Kinect ever sell out? I don't think it did -- the Oculus Quest has been sold out since November 2019.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: A fad?

          Yes, the white-hot light of success that the Kinect produced burned so brightly that it utterly destroyed the Kinect as a product.

        2. Qumefox

          Re: A fad?

          Even the valve index is sold out, and it's literally the most expensive headset on the market currently. Valve is *hoping* to get them back in stock before Alyx releases.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: A fad?

            Manufacturing is definitely not a problem, it appears that many companies now use the Apple technique of always being out of stock in the hope that it generates desire.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: A fad?

        "look how successful Kinect and Kinect enabled games turned out to be."

        I remember that MS was pissed that hackers were buying up Kinects to lash up with robotics projects. I seem to recall that they were being sold at a loss compounded by the massive price MS paid for the company. MS expected to recoup the money with game sales. You can't do that if people are taking them apart and gluing them on robots.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    The horror, the horror...

    "We can use these technologies to hijack somebody's system and put them in a horror environment."

    What, like an open-plan office?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: The horror, the horror...

      More like a dystopian future where Boris and Trump have become immortal cyberborgs leading us into an even darker future.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: The horror, the horror...

      "What, like an open-plan office?"

      Actually, if everyone in the office was using VR... [that might be an interesting solution, virtual offices]

      The horror would be seeing yourself in your underwear and everyone else laughing...

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: The horror, the horror...

      "What, like an open-plan office?"

      Thanks for that, you made my day.

  5. Mr Dogshit

    Her initiative is seeking donations

    Good luck with that.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Her initiative is seeking donations

      Exactly.

      establish safety and ethics standards

      Not sure if any area at all in the computer industry has that.

  6. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Rubbish

    Any changes to boundary zones would be easily detected, and for the most part people won't be wandering round their house in that manner (the only headset that can currently sensibly do that is the Oculus Quest).

    It's not a fad, we're now on to generation 2.5 of modern headsets (Gen 1 : Rift, Vive, Gen 2 : Rift S, Vive Pro, Oculus Go Gen 2.5 : Oculus Quest Gen 3 (when it arrives) : Oculus Quest S - Quest with identical performance to Rift S tethered, and a more powerful portable chipset). It may not quite be mainstream, but there are a number of things that work well in VR, and for basic gaming quite a lot of Playstation VR sold.

    VR headsets are, however, one of the least hacker friendly technologies out there. They only sensibly work under Windows 10, open source support is practically non existent.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Rubbish

      Your generations seem to be muddled.

      IDK about the Oculus headsets, but the Vive and Index are supported on Linux.

      The Go and Quest run on Android.

  7. magicaces

    No one wants to see me playing beatsaber...

    I recently bought an Oculus Rift S after many years of waiting to see what VR could bring. Answer is = its getting there, slowly.

    Games have improved a lot since I last tried VR but I can see how this is still a niche market. It is growing and maturing as hardware and software improves, as with any tech. I can't see hackers getting much out of hacking though, they will get to see a very sweaty me playing Beatsaber, no one wants that.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: No one wants to see me playing beatsaber...

      VR will really take off when it is possible to have a sabre of a different calibre beaten.

      If the porn industry puts some effort into VR research, traditional gamers will be a minority. Then the relevant malware will kick into high gear.

      1. overunder Silver badge

        Re: No one wants to see me playing beatsaber...

        "If the porn industry puts some effort into VR research..."

        Too late man, vrporn.com already has nearly 11,000 vr porn videos... just that 1 site. The day NASA invents teleporting to Mars the first person to test it is going to be teleporting into an orgy.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: No one wants to see me playing beatsaber...

          "Too late man, vrporn.com already has nearly 11,000 vr porn videos... just that 1 site."

          What? No link? You bastard.

      2. rmason Silver badge

        Re: No one wants to see me playing beatsaber...

        They are way ahead of you. "VR" is a category on most adult sites.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: No one wants to see me playing beatsaber...

      " I can't see hackers getting much out of hacking though"

      If they can put in just enough lag they could get many people to all hurl at once.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember the movie Brainstorm (1983) where the older guy loop tapes a brain recorded sex scene and ends up a gibbering wreck ?

    He should have taken precautions and covered his head in a condom as he may well have been infected with VD (Virtual Disease).

  9. 0laf Silver badge

    3D TVs

    Remember the hype over 3D TVs? So are they mainstream now with everyone using them all the time..... nope.

    I think VR is probably going to stay a thing but mostly for gamers and education I think. AR is on the hype curve descent. As long as you need to hold up a screen in front of you looking like a total prick I think mainstream use might be limited (admittedly some arseholes have phone conversations like this somehow forgetting where their ears are). When AR can be integrated into my specs or my car windscreen then it'll start to take off.

    I don't think it's a dead end fad like 3D TV but it's a good few years away from being widely used.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: 3D TVs

      3D TV died for lack of content as much as anything else - it was limited to just movies, in a time where we all decided we wanted to stream series off Netflix, and most of those movies were not filmed in 3D, but had fairly rough depth-maps applied. It also suffered from issues stemming from cameras. Depth of field in a 2D movie? Good effect, and draws the eye to the the subject of the shot. Depth of field in a 3D movie? Headache inducing as you're working against the visual system. Most TVs only came with a couple of glasses, making it useless for family viewing - easier to just not bother than to go out and buy extra glasses.

      VR is a good fit however with interactive content (games) which is still growing as a market. Rendering in 3D allows developers to side-step the issues with producing 3D movies, and games are another type of long-form entertainment, where your players can become fully engaged with the content. For better or worse, gaming long ago switched from dual-screen to multiplayer over the internet - so players playing together are used to being physically seperated. Not to mention that being "in" a virtual world is a completely different experience to having a window into a world with a little more depth.

      I think you are definitely right about it being some way from being "mainstream" but it's definitely on the rise.

      1. Irongut

        Re: 3D TVs

        > Most TVs only came with a couple of glasses, making it useless for family viewing - easier to just not bother than to go out and buy extra glasses.

        VR has exactly the same issue only worse because you also can't see your family, friends, beer, etc.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: 3D TVs

        > 3D TV died for lack of content as much as anything else

        That didn't help, but I think 3D TV died mostly for other reasons: it didn't provide a compelling enough experience, and you had to wear something on your face (or be seated in a particular place).

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: 3D TVs

          "you had to wear something on your face (or be seated in a particular place)."

          And the tech to film in 3D was expensive and cumbersome. I remember seeing some of the camera systems at the Cine Gear Expo in Los Angeles. I was thinking what a bastard it was to set all of it up and get it aligned correctly. Even on closed stages, they don't leave the cameras out and set up overnight. The lenses alone go for thousands each and go on and off very easily. A set of lenses in a case can be 50k (£ or $, take your pick) and very portable. Multiply by two as it takes two cameras stuck together for 3D.

    2. razorbacks3129

      Re: 3D TVs

      While VR may have been a fad that surfaced and sunk every few years in the past, I don't think you can say the same anymore. It may still be under the "Fad" bucket right now as of January 2020, but it is on its way to major acceptance in at least the gaming community.

      Best Buy/Amazon/Walmart/Oculus Store have all been sold out of Oculus Quest (both the $399 and $499 versions) since November 2019. They are STILL sold out today with back orders currently shipping in March 2020. The next gen that comes out with a similar price point, but improved performance -- I think that is when we can no longer call this a fad.

      3D TV's were never sold out or in high demand even.

  10. NXM

    Simon Stalenhag has a good take on this. Look for his paintings featuring the Sentre headset - nice & dystopian. I'd include a link but the site isn't that easy to search.

  11. tekHedd

    VR is a fad?

    VR will continue to be fad as long as the industry treats it as one.

    I was a VR way early adopter...I had a VFX-1 headgear, I have owned multiple shutter glass systems (still my favorite way to do 3D). So, why haven't I even *looked* at any of the latest batch of VR systems, when they are clearly pretty good?

    It's not cost of entry. I've dumped so much money into stereo 3D gear I don't want to think about it, and will move on to the next item now. I will *find* money for cool gaming tech that I like. But the cost of entry is a factor when you consider the rest.

    1) Long term support. Where here "long" isn't even like 3 years. The industry has a crap track record for this. All of the shutter glass systems I own are no longer supported, not even for games that originally shipped with the systems. This includes both small names like EyeScream (who simply went out of business) and big names like NVidia (shame on you!) I have no faith that my Oculus or Vive will continue to work beyond summer.

    2) "VR" Games. They suck. I don't want an immersive VR experience, where I have to mime getting out of the car and twisting off the gas cap in order to refuel. I want to press "Y" while next to the pump and have my tank meter zip to "F" on its own. In fact, I don't want to even stand up.

    3) No/crap support for non-VR games. The main reason I want 3d is for stereo 3d, not for a VR experience. I like traditional styled games, where you sit and use the keyboard or maybe (for the less cerebral games) a console style controller.

    4) Comfort. After all this time, you'd think they'd have a comfortable headset, but no. I think first-gen headsets with a full helmet were marginally more comfortable, in fact. And I expected more from the audio. (The VFX-1 had AKG phones in it.)

    In short, I'm not paying that kind of money for an uncomfortable device that only plays one game I even care about, and will almost certainly be only useful as a doorstop by this time next year.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: VR is a fad?

      " 2) "VR" Games. They suck. I don't want an immersive VR experience, where I have to mime getting out of the car and twisting off the gas cap in order to refuel. I want to press "Y" while next to the pump and have my tank meter zip to "F" on its own. In fact, I don't want to even stand up.

      3) No/crap support for non-VR games. The main reason I want 3d is for stereo 3d, not for a VR experience. I like traditional styled games, where you sit and use the keyboard or maybe (for the less cerebral games) a console style controller. "

      Lots of development houses thought that way, and started trying to do traditional gaming in VR (the original Oculus dev kits didn't come with motion controllers, after all) but in the end, they all came to the same conclusion -- that the sense of presence was too much, and using a controller just felt weird.

  12. The Indomitable Gall

    VR security...?

    VR security is a non-issue. Not because it isn't a potential problem, but because either your headset is just a fancy display controlled by an external computer/console or it's a display with an Android device built it. That means VR security is IT security, and business as usual, not a new category. VR attacks will exploit the exact same attack vectors as every other attack, but there will be far fewer of them, as it's a small target group. Furthermore, with the exception of the Quest and similar standalone units, it's going to be pretty much impossible to identify potential targets from internet metadata, as there's nothing to set a VR-equipped PC or Playstation apart from non-VR ones unless you happen to be browsing the web from a inside a headset.

  13. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    I just want Disc of Tron

    That game was practically designed for VR...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I just want Disc of Tron

      You want Echo Arena

  14. Grooke

    "people being turned into "human joysticks" by hackers manipulating paths and directions in virtual worlds to redirect folks into harm's way."

    Johnny English was a comedy, not a documentary.

  15. 96percentchimp

    A fad for consumers, but not in industry

    There are still a lot of engineering & design obstacles to mass consumer adoption of VR - clunky, ugly headsets, nausea caused by refresh lag, resolution - and like all such issues they'll be overcome in time.

    In industry, it's another matter, and VR is being widely adopted for tasks such as hostile environment training (nuclear reactors etc), remote location surveying (use a drone to obtain a point cloud model of a location that's hard to reach and recreate it in VR), architectural and engineering simulations (structural modelling, lighting simulation, etc). Funny thing is, they often use gaming engines and IT talent, so it's a win-win for the gamines industry while the consumer market emerges.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a solid runner up for the dumbest article subject for 2020. There's still 11 months to go and I've got hopes we'll have some material from Allister (last years winner).

    This article is true because once you put on that headset, all your senses are completely overcome and you can't smell, feel, hear or even see through the huge gap between your nose and cheek. Better cover those vats of molten iron guys.

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