Much has changed since our month-long report on VR last year (was it already a year ago??). One of the main competitors, the HTC Vive, was still a prototype. We were excited about all the marketing applications of this technology and the companies behind it, making it easy to create 360-degree content for VR devices.
But on the other hand, even if VR seems like an amazing marketing tool, everyday users should not expect a lot from this generation of devices. The reason is simple: Pretty much nobody is going to buy one. That’s a bold statement when the device is so high in demand that companies cannot even keep up with orders, but bare with me.
Are you thinking about getting a Rift or a Vive? If you are, you are also probably into PC gaming, and I mean the PC master race. If you are not a part of this following, you probably need to consider entering the club. In order to run VR for its’ intended use, you need a powerful machine.
It is hard to be tied to PCs, mainly because those discussing the future view PCs as an outdated and dying breed. This speculation has loomed for the last 20 years but somehow PCs are not only alive and well but are still going strong. Still, for the vast majority of users, the stigma surrounding PCs is a big wall to jump. And this is before even considering the cost of the devices themselves.
But what about other devices with low demands? Sony is making a lot of compromises to make sure that you won’t need a lot of extras to run an engagement VR experience with the Playstation VR. So, let’s stop naming brands and run a scenario where all VR systems are cheap and have great quality.
The two biggest opportunities for VR are gaming and entertainment.
VR gaming, at its core, is built for hardcore gamers (which leads to the “you need a battlestation” problem). VR can be adapted for casual gaming, but it would be a difficult bet. Casual gaming is powered by social experiences. For instance, the Nintendo Wii created a craze around living room games with motion. VRs are isolation chambers by nature. Even if the VR system of your dreams were affordable for your entire family, it is not going to work because it is not the way VR works.
Ok. How about entertainment? Everybody loves movies and concerts, right? Well, yes, but again, VR interrupts the vital social component of these activities. You’ll find yourself going to events alone, even if your loved ones are inches from you looking at the same things.
Even if you like to do things alone, you’ll have to wait to see quality content on VR. Film directors will have to deal with the fact that the spectator might be looking at something else in the room besides the thing they want them to see, because filmmakers can’t control the framing of a 360 environment.
These are just some of the main reasons why VR might be an unattractive investment for most users. But this is not meant to be a negative article, because the future holds more exciting stuff.
Last time we explored VR, Mixed Reality (MR) was still an unknown term. There weren’t concrete approaches to HoloLens and MagicLeap was still a mystery (ok, still is). Now they are promising us a better future.
The strength of Mixing Reality versus full blown VR, is that it doesn’t aim to change your overall environment, but instead it aims to enrich it. This allows people around you to become a part of the experience in the same way the walls and tables around the room are. Mixed Reality doesn’t isolate, but integrates and amplifies surroundings.
The other great thing about MR is that its activity range includes almost all of our everyday gadgets. In a simple way, we can consider augmented reality as a way to liberate the power of our smartphone technology from their small screens. This means everybody can find a use for these devices, from grandma to little Timmy, the same way everybody can find a smartphone useful in certain ways. You can read your email while having breakfast or play a First Person Shooter that uses your living room as an environment.
Mixed reality is an elastic tool, that if reaches its real potential (not Google Glass style) will generate a jump parallel with the rise of the smartphone; One in every head.
If Mixed Reality sounds like sci-fi tech, that’s because it is. And this time we are not chasing useless dreams like hoverboards (you need friction!). Mixed Reality is the next way, to literally, see the world.
And if you’ve already ordered your VR headset, do not cancel it. It is still the most immersive technology we are going to have within the next few years… and you can invite us to play.