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Will Virtual Reality Ever Fulfil Its Promise?

It seems like every few years we get a new technology that’s billed as the “next big thing.” In reality, most of these are just ways for electronics companies to try and sell us gadgets we don’t need (I’m looking at you 3D TV). So it’s not really surprising that many people think this of virtual reality headsets, such as the Oculus Rift.

I disagree though – I genuinely think virtual reality IS going to be the next big thing. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to have problems.

I’ve used the Rift several times, and while I’ve been impressed with its technically, there are a few things holding it back:

  • Lack of a “killer app” to really sell it to the core demographic of gamers.
  • The resolution is quite high enough to suspend disbelief for long (at least in my opinion)
  • The cost

These might seem like pretty big problems, and they are if we’re talking about mass adoption. But the good news is that I think they are easily solved.

A great game or other app will come along for virtual reality, but I think Valve and other major developers could really help this along. I appreciate that many third party developers don’t want to invest huge time and money into a game that has a tiny platform adoption rate, but either Oculus or Valve could really step up here. Imagine Half Life 3 that’s built from the ground up for the Vive – a lot of people would be mad, but it could be incredible (and the big step forward I believe Valve is waiting for to release HL3).

Resolution is another problem that will be solved over time. I haven’t been keeping up on the latest Vive developments, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next model has significantly higher resolution than the current model. It’s not a major problem at the moment either.

Cost is something that is going to be more difficult to solve. The price of the headsets will come down, as with every technology. But it’s going to be a few years before people have gaming rigs powerful enough to run the Vive, and by then the specs will probably have increased for the latest version. When you need to spend £1000+ AND buy the headset, this is a major barrier to adoption.

To be honest, I don’t have a solution for this problem. I believe the tech will become cheaper over time, but if the Vive or Oculus keeps improving the relative cost may stay around the same.

Regardless of these problems, I can’t imagine a world in ten years time that isn’t massively influenced by virtual reality. The possibilities are too big in both entertainment and industry – and there are some major players who simply will not let it fail.

 

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