Through the VR Desert


The year 2016 is the year VR takes off. This is the year where several high-end VR headset, such as Oculus and HTC Vive are released. And this is the year of the VR startups and VR hype. However, it might also be the year of VR setback and disappointments. Indicators might be that the headsets are barely ready and they are far from mainstream. There simply are not that many people that have VR headsets. And even if they wanted, they would need a PC that is able to power the experience. We still have 3-5 years until we have wide enough adoption of this technology and the immersion and quality needed. Until then it is a walk in the desert.

The second Slush Play conference was held in Reykjavík during 28-30. September 2016. The theme var VR and gaming. The conference is small but getting strong traction. In his opening remarks, Hilmar Veigar from CCP, an early player in VR, explained the company move to VR. Hilmar set the tone of the conference. VR works. It is here. However, we are early and we still need to figure things out. We need to get better headsets, smaller and cheaper. Research is still being done in academia to understand some of the subtle things of tricking the brain in a believable and immersive way.  So it will take 3 to 5 years to get to true VR experience with full immersion and to reach a market that can support big production games. Until then, Hilmar suggested, it would be a walk in the desert.

However, a walk in the desert has its opportunities. It is a quest that few will take but the brave ones have a chance of becoming leaders and creators in a new industry. VR is a new platform, just as the smartphone, the web and the PC. Platforms like these follow the classic S-curve. In their beginnings they are just a dream of crazy visionaries. Then when all the enabling technologies are ready, the new platform begins to emerge and work. The performance of the platform starts to increase as it gets better and more people start to use it. We then get into exponential growth as the performance increases rapidly. Finally, it will level off thus forming a forward slanting S. As we saw with the new released iPhone 7, it has reached the top of the S-curve, just as the PC has and the Internet.

Platforms such as VR usually develop in two waves. First wave is overhyped with lots of expectations and abundance of financial capital. But the solutions offered are similar to solutions older platforms, as people, used to the old platform (PC, smartphones) are taking old way of doing this and cramming them into the new platform. For example, the first web pages looked like flyers and brochures or research papers. Then in the second wave, people figure out what the platform can do. For the web we saw the Web 2.0 wave after the dot-com burst. Second wave is much more sober with realistic expectations and production capital.

So we are in the early stages of the VR platform wave and the smartphone wave is ending. In the coming years we will see VR headsets get smaller and lighter and at the same time better and cheaper. As the components needed to build those improve so will the possibilities. Understanding of how to create immersion will increase. When the second wave comes the desert walk will pay off.



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