VR’s Biggest Problems
2016 is the year of Virtual Reality
With the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive all released or in line for commercial release, this exciting innovative way to experience gaming and media is the talk of the town.
Even though it is state of the art and high octane, Virtual Reality won’t land without issues.
This article highlights some of these issues and problems with Virtual Reality and what can be done to resolve them.
The Price Barrier
VR headsets are expensive, and as with any big new technology, the costs fall on the shoulders of early adopters.
The Oculus Rift retails at $599 (£499 in the UK) for the headset only, whereas, the HTC Vive sells for $799 and Sony’s PlayStation VR will be in the £350-£500 price bracket. That’s without taking into account the high-end gaming rigs required for it to work.
It is believed that PlayStation VR will have a considerably more economical price barrier since it will work natively with the PlayStation 4.
Another major concern for potential adopters of Virtual Reality is the space it requires.
Mapping out a room with sensors enables users to experience a surprising amount of depth and realism through the headset, without risking injury by smashing their face into a wall. However, most gaming enthusiasts are unlikely to have a 15x15m space that can be dedicated exclusively to Virtual Reality.
Even if space isn’t an issue, the cumbersome nature of these headsets will be.
Some solutions are, however, already in the works, such as the Virtuix Omni, an omni-directional treadmill that identifies user movement without them having to leave the same spot. Even so, that’s one more cost to add to an already quite expensive setup.
Finding a solution in gaming’s arcade past
While home consumption has so far been the main target for Virtual Reality’s marketing campaign, it may not be the right audience.
An alternative approach to VR would be to opt gaming’s arcade past, considering the sustained popularity of live action games like paintballing.
This model could work, because companies would be willing to front the substantial cost of the hardware, given the potential to recoup their investment many times over from hiring the headsets out.
Whereas, £700+ for a personal headset and hardware is going to be a dealbreaker for many, when someone offers you the chance to use VR for £15-£20 a pop (which in 2016 is only a little bit more than the cost of a 3D cinema ticket), the audience will naturally be bigger.
It is very likely that, if the arcade format is used and there is no significant barrier to entry, Virtual Reality would be able to reach a much bigger audience.
As a commercially available home device, on the other hand, virtual reality will likely be resigned to the fringes of mass media for quite some time.
While it will have some success in targeting the niche market, the mainstream appeal will be dependent on the technology’s ability to overcome its own obstacles.