Virtual Reality: State of Play
2016! - it's the year when the dream of virtual reality will finally become a bona fide, well, reality. Let's have a look at what to expect next year and which platforms developers should be betting on.
We've been here before in the 90s - the intoxicating promise of being able to immerse ourselves in new experiences up, close and personal. What we actually ended up with though was Virtuality, an arcade experience offering short bouts of immersion that cost punters too much money for too little time, a limited experience further undone by the cumbersome, primitive technology, which on occasion even induced bouts of nausea in users. The dream of virtual reality soon faded.
“Back From The Dead”
VR's revival arguably began with Oculus; its arrival on Kickstarter in August, 2012 and last year's $2 billion buy-out by Facebook - plus a host of other contenders moving into the space - relit our imaginations. Fast forward to 2015 and everyone's talking about VR as the next 'big thing' again.
The key difference between this time and the 90s though? The tech is finally ready for developers to explore the huge potential offered up by VR. And some major predictions have been made about its reemergence:
The sales value of VR headsets in 2016.
The sales value of VR headsets by 2020.
Global-installed base forecast for virtual reality headsets by the end of 2020.
That's some pretty big numbers, ones which are set to be delivered primarily by the game sector - 77% judging by VR funding and acquisitions made over the past two years. But which VR solution is going to be out of the gates first and who stands the best chance of finally bringing virtual reality into the hearts, minds and bed/living rooms of the public? And all with your help, naturally.
Release Date: First quarter 2016
Consumer Price: At least $350 - plus a suitably specced PC to run it.
The HMD's prospects are of course excellent - with Facebook on board and its focus on games, analysts are predicting that five million will be sold next year. Oculus has been busy attracting game developers to its platform too, helped by its far-reaching second dev's conference in September plus the introduction of a $10 million fund in June to aid in indie VR game development.
Sony Playstation VR
Market Share Prediction: 21%
Release Date: First half of 2016
Consumer Price: £350 approx.
While a release date has yet to be revealed, Sony recently confirmed the specs of its final HMD - headline features include a 5.7-inch OLED display with 1920×1080 resolution (960×1080 per eye) at a 120Hz refresh rate with latency sub 18ms plus a 100-degree field of view. With an installed base of nearly 30 million PS4s worldwide, perhaps Sony's VR solution stands the best chance of reaching deep market penetration as reflected by its market share prediction.
Release Date: End of 2015/limited availability
Market Share Prediction: 7%
Consumer Price: TBC
While the tech featuring Valve's SteamVR system drummed up acclaim on its unveiling in March, concerns have been raised about the planned limited launch for the end of this year because 2015 is nearly over. Away from such immediate concerns, fingers are being drummed impatiently as we wait to hear more on pricing and the PC specs required to operate the Vive. With Valve on board though, the Vive's ecosystem prospects are admittedly excellent.
Release Date: November 20th
Market Share Prediction: 21%
Consumer Price: $99 for the headset
The announcement of Samsung's Gear VR at the Oculus Connect 2 event in September caused a stir because of the major improvements over the existing Innovator Edition - it's lighter, features better ergonomics and is now compatible with the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+, S6, and S6 edge. It's also a tempting offer because of that low, low price point and a promise by Oculus that there are dozens of VR games on the way. Importantly, it could give Samsung the shot in the arm it needs for its phone sales plus the unit offers devs a practical way into VR via mobile.
Release Date: Dev kits to arrive in first quarter of 2016
Market Share Prediction: Unknown
Consumer Price: TBC
Microsoft's intriguing headset certainly offers up huge potential for immersion - but the $3,000 required by devs (US and Canadian only) to develop for HoloLens could be a roadblock for some, especially considering that Oculus only costs devs $350 and Vive is available for free. While not occupying the exact same space as VR, Microsoft does face it own direct competition from the Google-backed startup Magic Leap (who appears to have solved HoloLens' limited field of view issue) to hardware-maker giant Asus who announced it is creating a HoloLens-like product.
Oh, and let us not forget Google Cardboard, the big company's small alternative to the above pricy VR/AR solutions. The $30 'gadget' has been out for months and does exactly what it says on the tin, well, box - and with pundits predicting it will have a market share of 30% in 2016, Google's cheap and cheerful solution is not something to be sniffed at.
VR enthusiast? Let's chat! Whether you're interested in developing VR, already are, or looking to add to an existing team: I might just come in handy! Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.
- Which VR platforms are you planning to work on and why? Let us know in the comments section below.