While most tech enthusiasts would contend that virtual reality has already arrived, the rest of us would beg to differ. Where are the killer apps? Where are the jaw-dropping games? Where are the inventive use cases for businesses to usher in the next era of innovation?
To be fair, the big names in virtual reality did make a fair amount of progress this year, however, that progress has not tipped the scales in favor of mainstream adoption. Gazing into the near future, it appears momentum could change very quickly in 2016. Here’s why:
There’s no shortage of great reviews and consumer demand for virtual reality but when these intangibles become tangible, it’s time to get really excited. Such is the case with Facebook’s acquisition ofOculus Rift, which brings together a veritable dream team of gaming and optics talent to usher in virtual reality to mainstream audiences. Samsung’s GearVR, the portable virtual reality solution powered by Oculus, sold out of its initial production run this year. Facebook promises it will “continue to invest heavily” in virtual reality in order to bring it even more mainstream in Q1 of 2016.
Sony PlayStation VR
Even though Occulus Rift is currently grabbing all the virtual reality headlines, Sony PlayStationVR, as a single headset, might overtake them. The PlayStation has a huge install-base and it allows easy adoption for games. But the success of PlayStation VR hinges upon its price which Sony hasn’t be clear about. Oculus has been clear about a range, $300-$400, perhaps lower if they can. Sony recently said it will announce price details for PlayStation VR next year. Until then, we can ogle over the games it has lined up for launch: Rez Infinite, Golem, Ace Combat 7and Job Simulator.
HTC/Valve is developing the HTC Vive headset, set for an April 2016 release. Valve has been in the gaming industry for over twenty years, by producing hits such as Half Life 1 and 2, and Portal. They also have millions of gamers using their Steam software, a community and game distribution service. The partnerships with gamers and publishers places Valve at a great advantage to gain early traction. And according to a recent company blog post, HTC plans to host a developer conference in Beijing on December 18th and launch a second-gen developer kit before the masses can start buying the Vive headset. It also plans to distribute 7,000 units to developers in early 2016 and embark on a global demo tour at a number of high-profile industry events.
VR Beyond Gaming
While gaming will be the first industry to adopt VR, that’s going to change quickly, according to Doug Barr, CEO of PixieDust VR, which specializes in virtual reality home-building experiences. Facebook recently started pitching virtual reality to ad agencies and Oculus has started Oculus Story Studio, a collection of ex-Pixar employees who now create VR films. Barr had the pleasure of experiencing their first short-film, Henry.
“You can quickly see how it’s going to change the medium,” said Barr. “Never have I felt like I was part of the movie and participating. It’s magical.”
After film, Barr said educational content will take hold.
“Imagine students actually visiting the pyramids of Giza, experiencing the scale and feeling like you’re there. You can’t get that from the two-dimensional medium we have today. VR to me, is not about the places you can go, it’s about the places you can’t go.”
Where do you want VR to take you next year?