Virtual reality is big at CES 2016, but the future remains uncertain

9 trends to watch at ces 2017 vr 2016 oculus
eVRydayVR
As expected, virtual reality has been a focus for many companies exhibiting at CES 2016. But, along with plenty of excitement, there’s a noticeable air of trepidation surrounding the tech.

Plenty of people are pinning their hopes on VR opening a brave new world of experiences wholly unlike anything we’ve seen before. However, for that to come to pass, a lot of groundwork has to be laid.

The next twelve months are sure to be a vital period in the success or failure of VR as a mainstream form of entertainment. From what we’re seeing out of CES 2016, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty as to whether this tech is going to take off as dramatically as its proponents are expecting it to.

Follow the leader

It’d be easier for more individuals and developers to hitch their wagon to the VR revolution if there were any clear leader of the pack.

Initially, it seemed that Oculus was set to adopt that role, as its founder Palmer Luckey was the face of VR to many in the wake of the project’s unveiling back in 2012. However, since that time the company has morphed from an upstart crowdfunding success to one part of a larger corporate hierarchy, thanks to Facebook’s acquisition of the company in 2014.

Palmer-Luckey,-Founder-at-Oculus---#3

Now there are plenty of competitors who seem capable of challenging Oculus’ throne. HTC has made impressive progress with its Vive, developed alongside the PC gaming experts at Valve, and PlayStation VR has likewise made up significant ground since it was initially announced as Project Morpheus.

While there are similarities between the various VR projects currently in the works, there are also significant differences in terms of platform, application and audience. This makes it very difficult for developers to decide where to focus.

A press release circulated earlier today to announce Oculus pre-orders promised “dozens of full-length, AAA games designed for VR.” Those experiences are not cheap to create, and there’s a very real threat that investments made to develop for one platform could prove unwise if another headset emerges as the market leader.

Hedging their bets

The similarities between various forms of VR mean that big budget games created with one form of the technology might be repackaged to work with a different headset. But because the proprietary controllers being built by each company are different, porting becomes more difficult as developers dive more deeply into each headset’s unique traits.

Oculus has managed to convince several studios to commit to releasing fully fledged titles for the Rift, with Harmonix, Insomniac, and Crytek among the more recognizable names. Many other developers must be looking at these chosen few as guinea pigs for the rest of the industry.

The Climb

It will certainly be interesting to see whether or not games like Insomniac’s Edge of Nowhere are ported to other VR sets if the Oculus should underperform. The game seems designed to easily port to a console if VR doesn’t take off. It uses a third-person perspective, and is played with a gamepad.

The first wave of VR content creators must be brave, and rely on faith.

We are already seeing some content producers hedge their bets as they attempt to fulfil a need for VR experiences. Facebook has recently started a push for 360-degree video, which can of course be enjoyed in a standard web browser as well as via the use of a headset.

This sort of strategy cuts down on the creator’s risk. If VR is a bust and no one buys a headset, it doesn’t produce a situation where no one can view the content. However, the fact that the content can be viewed without a headset only serves to diminish the must-have nature of VR.

The first wave of creators are going to need serious fortitude, and more than a little faith, if they wish to fully use the capabilities of any particular headset.

If we build it, will they come?

Price point has long been VR’s elephant in the room. This morning, we found out that the Oculus Rift will retail for $600 — the exact same figure that launched a raft of Internet memes when Sony announced the price of the PlayStation 3 back in 2006.

There are a couple of differences between these two situations, and neither provide much solace for VR supporters. The PlayStation 3 was launched off the back of its predecessor, one of the most successful consoles ever released, and had an army of developers in tow as a result. It didn’t need a high-end gaming PC to function, either.

The $600 price tag might be tolerable, but the fact that it’s so reliant on a powerful rig, in addition to that price point, may well turn out to be crippling. It’s not a barrier of entry to anyone who’s already invested in PC gaming, but for anyone starting afresh, it makes VR a very expensive proposition.

oculus-rift-sale-feature

It’s unclear whether we’re about to experience the next generation of home entertainment, or one of the biggest busts in recent years. However, the interest in this morning’s Oculus Rift pre-orders seems to suggest that the outlook isn’t as bleak as many might fear.

Over the course of less than an hour, shipping dates slipped from March, to April and then May. There are clearly consumers out there who will break through any price barrier to experience VR. But there are enough? And will they really choose the Rift as the lead platform? One thing is for certain — nobody knows.

Gaming

The Astro A40 TR and Mixamp Pro TR turn the volume up on pro gaming audio

The A40 TR and Mixamp Pro TR are Astro's latest entries to professional grade gaming gear. The two accessories hold their own alone, but together their true potential is fully realized.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Gaming

YouTube VR app to bring more than 1 million experiences to Oculus Quest at launch

YouTube has announced that the company's VR application will be a part of the Quest launch, which goes down at the end of May. It will be delivering and over one million videos, including Emmy-award winning content.
Gaming

These awesome free-to-play games might be even better than the ones you paid for

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.
Mobile

The next major Facebook redesign is here, along with a Messenger desktop app

Facebook F8 is finally here, and Facebook has taken the wraps off of a number of new products and services, including a major Facebook redesign, a Messenger desktop app, and more. Here's everything Facebook announced at Facebook F8 2019.
Product Review

With the cord-free Quest, Oculus finally makes high-quality VR easy

Oculus announced that its Project Santa Cruz virtual reality headset will ship next year as the Oculus Quest, and we got to try out several new game titles on the Quest. Find out our impressions of VR without wires.
Gaming

Valve Index VR headset costs $500, but the full bundle will set you back $1,000

Valve is stepping into the VR market with the high-end Index, and the company finally revealed the price and release date. The Index can be purchased individually or as part of a couple of bundles.
Computing

Oculus Rift S gets a release date, pre-orders are now available

Oculus plans to phase out its flagship Rift VR headset for its newly created Rift S. The Rift S made its debut at the 2019 Game Developers Conference and will be released in May.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Quest taunts some customers after arriving more than two weeks early

The Oculus Quest has arrived early for some customers. The standalone VR headset, which is not supposed to ship out until May 21, is taunting the people who now have it in their hands due to limitations with the Oculus mobile app.
Gaming

Minecraft AR teased during Microsoft Build 2019, full reveal arrives on May 17

At the Vision Keynote during the first day of Microsoft Build 2019, we saw a short trailer of what looks to be Minecraft AR, an upcoming experience coming to mobile devices. Watch the video here and join us for the full reveal on May 17.
Photography

As AR heads to Google search, Lens learns to translate, add tips, and more

Google Lens can soon help you decide what to eat by scanning the menu, then calculate the tip with one look at the receipt. Translation options are also expanding for Lens, while augmented reality tools will be built into search results.
Mobile

Google’s ARCore is getting better at tracking moving images

Google has announced a series of updates to ARCore that should make the augmented reality experience a whole lot more fluid. For example, ARCore is getting better at tracking moving images through Augmented Images.
Mobile

Nike Fit aims to help you slip into your new sneakers more easily

Nike says a new augmented reality feature for its app should increase the chances of a snug fit for customers buying its shoes online, or even in-store. Nike Fit launches in the U.S. in July and the following month in Europe.