Have virtual reality businesses set their sights too high?
The second annual Virtual Reality Day saw venues across the world host a free, one day VR event, giving attendees the chance to experience and learn more about the technology. In its first year, Virtual Reality Day was hosted by eight different cities. In 2018, that number ballooned to 62 locations, suggesting that VR may finally be experiencing wider adoption. Despite this, there is still a sense that the recent wave of interest has amounted to very little.
From a consumer perspective, VR still remains distinctly underwhelming. Why?
Blinded by the hype
For a matter of decades VR has gone in and out of fashion, never quite managing to make a significant breakthrough. Virtual reality experiences necessitate headsets, and manufacturers are still finding models that don’t irritate the wearer. Hardware aside, virtual worlds are hindered by latency and inadequate graphics. This isn’t to say that convincing experiences don’t exist, but even the curators of Virtual Reality Day admit that there is currently no high end VR available. These issues aren’t new – they have scuppered public uptake for a long time. VR is still not meeting the high expectations of alternate reality enthusiasts. The novelty of owning a headset wears off quickly and the technology seems to be in a difficult situation.
A global market forecast begs to differ
Research carried out by Market Research Future predicts that the VR market will be worth over $100bn by 2027. The company’s report expects to see a period of robust growth fuelled by advances in hardware and software, followed by rising headset sales. VR’s position as a leader in disruptive technology is further supported by the interest of major companies. While VR headsets are not a common household fixture, corporates have willingly adopted a variety of virtual solutions. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and a host of solely VR focused businesses are working on their own virtual reality offerings. Microsoft, for example, is building its own design tool for virtual worlds. Across industries, businesses have come to see the benefits of virtual training, assembly, communication, and data visualisation.
Bringing VR back into focus
So what needs to happen to save VR? Some suggest education is a priority. The more people understand VR and its potential, the more they will use it. This is exactly what the organisers of Virtual Reality Day want to achieve by holding informative demonstrations and encouraging people to try out headsets.
Hardware and software improvements must be made, including lighter headsets and sharper visual quality. This will be helped by 5G connectivity. Faster data transfer will decrease latency and allow developers to build more complex environments with fewer technological constraints. Latency will also be helped by better systems-on-chip (SoC), which aim to optimise power use and minimise connection delays.
In terms of adoption, virtual reality companies and teams would be wise to create relationships and compatibility with mobile platforms. This is something that many organisations have considered for augmented reality, but mobile VR is still tied to the idea of low cost cardboard headsets. 2018 has been heralded as the year of wireless VR, but there is no clear market leader. Merging virtual experiences with portable personal devices could be the key to VR’s long awaited breakthrough.
You don’t need a headset to see that VR is struggling to find a foothold in the consumer market. That said, non commercial uses are helping the technology to mature, leading to more refined experiences. Consumers may not be using VR en masse just yet, but perhaps this is for the best. With the advent of more powerful computing and faster connectivity, these teething problems could be coming to an end. Hopefully, it will all be worth the wait.
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