The Real Reason Virtual Reality (VR) Has Never Taken Off
Recently, the BBC published an article titled Why we’ve never fallen in love with virtual reality in which they discuss virtual realities lack of mainstream consumer adoption.
The article then goes on to talk about one VR segment that is thriving: group entertainment. Specifically, virtual reality arcades, theme parks leveraging virtual reality in rides and offering an affordable means of immersing yourself without getting into debt.
Truly immersive virtual reality experiences in 2020 are amazing. In countries like Tokyo, they have numerous public places where VR is employed for fun experiences. Disneyland has been showcasing the power of virtual reality for some time now.
One of VR’s biggest problems in the consumer home entertainment space is the cost. The technology is on the high-end of the spectrum, often requiring the headset, sensors and a computer to power it.
While the cost of the headsets themselves have gone down over the last few years, building a PC powerful enough to provide a low-latency, immersive and smooth experience requires top-shelf components (the most expensive being one or two graphics cards).
The Oculus Quest which is an attempt to not rely on external hardware and provide an all-in-one virtual reality solution is a step in the right direction towards mainstream adoption. Still, the cost puts in way above a gaming console and the Quest is considered low-end VR.
It goes a step above those horrendous standalone headsets like the failed Google Daydream which has been shut down by Google and requires you to put your phone inside of it.
Virtual reality isn’t dying, it’s just considerably behind optimistic estimates of where it was heading. 2016 was allegedly meant to be the year of virtual reality, really, we are still 3 to 5 years away from mainstream VR adoption. The latest, we won’t see VR truly take off until 2025.
Estimates of mainstream VR adoption were about ten years behind if you ask me. However, we cannot discount companies like Oculus and Sony who took the plunge and invested in early generation headsets.
I believe headsets like the Quest which do not require expensive water-cooled gaming PC’s with $1500 graphics cards in them are the beginning of a new era of VR. Screen technology is getting quite good, refresh rates are increasing and experiences are also getting better.
The one thing VR is also missing is a killer app. Something synonymous with VR like Facebook, Google and Twitter are with the internet, there is no one killer app that springs to mind for people when they think of VR. However, I think that will eventually change.
We also cannot discount the fact that VR will never appeal to some people. For some, VR is an uncomfortable nauseous and disorienting experience. I think the future of VR is a hybrid of both virtual reality and augmented reality, not one over the other.
Once the cost of VR comes down to a level that is comparable with a gaming console like the Playstation or Xbox, we are going to see considerable adoption and a new industry that will start a gold rush. It hasn’t started yet, but it is coming.
The real problem to VR adoption right now is the cost. It’s a problem other industries like the electric vehicle industry are experiencing, but once the economy of scale kicks in, that’s when the adoption truly begins.