CEO of Unity Technologies John Riccitiello has a grasp on reality concerning both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality kits. He was speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt held in San Fransisco this month and argued that there has yet to be a true launch of consumer grade VR and AR devices out there.
Price of course is his first point of contention, which is true. Looking at standard local prices, HTC Vive VR system costs 700€, with Oculus Rift being around 550€. That is extremely larger sum of money, especially when you remember that you need to have a computer to run it, adding to the cost if there’s a necessity to upgrade. You’re easily looking at a package worth a grand, which is far too much for just to set up a platform for extremely limited offering of software. VR will stay as an expensive piece of technology until computing technology, and technology in general, undergoes a massive advancement beyond headsets and screens. Computer Gaming Monthly’s prediction from 1991 that VR would be affordable in 1994 has been overshot by two and a half decades now and counting.
Second point is control and function. Riccitiello argues that the user does not have enough control over the systems. The way the input has been designed limits the content it can have. Most VR titles follow the same by-the-rules input and control method with the wands or controller. The best way to enjoy VR at this point is to get a full racing setup with wheel, pedals and a good seat to get the best experience out of it. As it stands now, both Oculus and Vive are using what essentially amounts to newer versions of Wiimotes.
Riccitiello is right that the current level of VR and AR technology is launched for developers. Game developers love to play with the latest technology and dabble with it to see what’s possible and what’s not. Nintendo is a good example of this in general, considering they’ve tried new things with their controllers throughout the years and included a 3D screen for the 3DS. All the tech stuff like this in Nintendo’s products are mainly intended for them to to explore, and the whole VR and AR boom follows the steps. Consumer end is not considered, only what they are interested in.
In Riccitiello’s mind, there has yet to be a commercial launch. The software that’s out there does not meet the expectations or the standards for consumer use. Better technology is worth jack shit if the games for the end-consumer are the exact same we had twenty years ago.
Ride the Comix was a VR game in Disney Quest attractions
The VR industry has grown for sure, but it has not expanded. It would appear that VR has a better market in commercial applications in general than consumer end. The Virtual Reality dream, a headset that could launch you into other worlds, does seem to be more a pipe dream than anything else. As I’ve mentioned previously, it is the 2010’s 3D television boom. However, unlike 3D TVs, this one will survive in some form due to the overall saturation of the market and the sheer force of the pipe dream. Ever since the Sensorama was out in the 1950’s, companies and developers have been aiming to realise something that would be “true” Virtual Reality.
If you take anything from this, VR and AR are nothing new and have half a century’s worth of development and commercial ventures behind it. This is the crux of it; all of it is technological research and development, and even then it’s all extremely limited in the end. Oculus’ latest tech shows what each new VR device has done; expanded on the technology rather than trying to find better ways to do VR.
What does this technological progress give to VR sets it already doesn’t have? To beat the dead horse; there needs to be progress in the software side more than in the hardware.
Is Riccitiello right in that consumer launch for VR has not been made yet? Perhaps not in the current generation, but VR history is full of consumer grade releases. VFX1 Headgear, Victormaxx Stuntmaster VR headset, Virtual Boy and Glasstron all were released for the consumer end, though they were not fully dedicated VR products on themselves. However, that’s where the whole evolution of software would come in, as showcased by Ride the Comix above.
Perhaps the largest crux on VR and AR is that there is no public discourse of them. When Oculus and Vive were new, they were the hottest shit around to talk about, and PSVR soon followed. Hell, some PSVR titles have been patched to work outside the VR goggles to increase sales.
Riccitiello’s positive view on that VR will keep rising is probably right, but the rise will be slow if things won’t change for the cheaper and more efficient. The expectations of the general consumer from what Virtual Reality should do not meet with what the developers’. That is not a blueprint for success, but for stagnation and at worst, failure.