If you’re following the news, chances are you’ve heard about Virtual Reality or VR headsets like Oculus, Samsung Gear, HTC Vive etc. Trending terms and buzzwords are all good for a business or tech that’s novel and yet to be adopted by the majority of consumers.
But the proof of the pudding is when people have started using the tech. And the first reactions to mobile VR are not at all good. This has even made the founder of Oculus Rift, John Carmack to give a statement, “We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before”.
The jury is out on present day Mobile VR technologies and headsets – ‘It Sucks’ in its present form. If you want to know why and what can make it better then read ahead.
Hardware are expensive
Mobile headsets are costly, mostly in the $399- $799 range. The most successful VR headset till date is Google Cardboard. The reason – it’s dirt cheap and it doesn’t need too much set up and customization. Such a high price at the initial launching phase of any tech is going to make the users worried. Not many people would want to buy an expensive new toy without knowing exactly how it’s going to be.
VR games don’t match up to video game quality
The initial VR games for mobile were very poor. There are 13 billion mobile gamers across the world, undeniably a huge market to tap into. But we have to keep in mind that these gamers have already access to high quality games which they can play just by tapping their mobile screen. For them to strap on that headset and get immersed in VR games, the incentive needs to be too alluring to resist.
The current crop of VR games lack complexity, their UI design is not intuitive enough to hold the attention of a user for longer duration of time, especially when playing a VR game means strapping up that head gear. These VR games also take too much time to load which is a huge negative for VR games.
The hype vs reality gap is improving, but it’s painfully slow
The current phase of VR is the initial breakthrough stage where there are lot of expectations from it. But the games and apps are not upto the mark and hence those who have used it are giving it a thumbs down. The word of mouth publicity is mostly negative and this is creating a negative impact on mobile VR as a whole. The chart below shows the gap between initial expectation and the reality of VR and how it might shape up in the near future according to Unity’s CEO John Riccitiello.
AR vs VR vs MR: A concoction for confusion
The popularity of Augmented Reality (AR) and the emergence of Mixed Reality – an amalgamation of both AR and VR have distracted the developers as per which platform and what methodology to adapt. The UX and UI design are quite different for both AR and VR and MR and hence all of these three disciplines would need dedicated development resources. For this to happen, these disciplines would have to be formalized first and until that time, the quality of the apps will not improve drastically.
No unified VR development platform
Mobile VR is dependant on SDKs and primarily on the two game engines Unity and Unreal Engine that have come up with support for VR game development. While Unity is one of the biggest names in game development industry, a dedicated and unified VR development platform is still missing in action. As for Unity and Unreal Engine their priority will not be VR any time soon.
Things can change if and when some tech giant like Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc. will dedicate their resources to create VR apps and Games for mobile. Although Google has cardboard, Facebook unveiled React VR and support for AR development, Microsoft has their own game going on with Hololens AR and MR development, the trend that started it all still seems to be lost among its newer cousins.
I think, VR will be big, but it will have to wait till its implementation by some major business or company. Till then, we will have to wear our ghastly headsets and imagine that we are living in the future.