Sales of virtual reality headsets have been disappointing, and now there is a growing view that maybe this revolutionary new technology may be dying, without so much of a hint of a revolution.It is easy to forget that Oculus Rift has been released. Virtual reality is here; you can use it on your PlayStation, you can buy an Oculus Rift, the storm that it was meant to have taken the world by, has turned out to be a very mild breeze.
SuperDataResearch estimates that 2016 saw less than a quarter of a million sales of the Oculus Rift.
David Gilbert penned an article for IBTimes, arguing that VR may be dead already, that augmented reality will take off, becoming the next big thing before VR has gained momentum, He said: “The technology is still clunky and expensive. The headsets will, in time, become cheaper, wireless and work with more accessible hardware. However, by that time augmented reality headsets, which overlay interactive images over your real-world surroundings, may well have gathered momentum and offer a far less closed-in experience that consumers may prefer”
But is that right? Back in 2014, when the author of this article was researching virtual reality, he came across a web site reported to be a promotional vehicle for virtual reality itself. The website said: “Virtual reality developments have slowed in recent years, and progress has not exactly been recent.”
Just three years ago, hardly anyone was talking about VR. The idea had been around since the late 1980s, when it was first proposed by Jaron Lanier, but for years is was disappointing, even people who were initially ardent supporters became cynics.
This all changed thanks to convergence. The technology that sits in smart phones, such as screens that handle 20 or more frames per second and accelerometers, was also relevant to VR, as this technology became cheaper, and widely available, it began to look as if VR could fulfil the dreams of Lanier.
Gartner got caught up in the excitement, suggesting that VR had moved along the hype cycle and was beginning to fulfil potential.
So why has it not taken off yet, why does VR still feel like ‘maybe’ technology?
There is more than one reason.
For one thing, developing applications of VR that does the technology justice is very expensive.
For another thing, for VR to really do the things that people say it can do, it will need even more processing power, and sophisticated technology.
One day VR really will change the world: we will have meetings in virtual space, we will shop in virtual space, and we may even go on holidays, of sorts, in virtual space.
But a lot has to happen first, and that takes time.
To write off VR now, is to write-off the inexorable march of technology.