The Road to VR

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My legal team has informed me that I am obligated to use this image when discussing VR.

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The Oculus was, if I remember correctly, the first of the latest generation of VR setups, and the benefit (or curse) of being the first of an exotic batch is that it becomes the leader, the poster-child, and the avatar for the success or failure of the genre as a whole. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who nailed the coffin shut when they heard the outrageous specs and expensive price tag of the Oculus and declared (to themselves, or more than likely to the rest of the Internet) that VR was officially dead because while there was now a production model on the way, it would be so out of reach of the masses to make it almost like it never existed at all. I’m sure a lot of people had dreams that the Oculus would run on their rig, and would be reasonably priced in order to sell millions and make VR a reality. The actual reality is that it puts VR out of the reach of pretty much anyone who wasn’t chomping at the bit to get one, and that can be extremely disheartening to feel let down like that. Folks around here have very long memories and are adept at carrying grudges for the sake of carrying grudges. I expect a lot of people are just going to slink away and be content with monitors and TV sets for the foreseeable future.

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The silver lining of this is that now that the Oculus has been “released”, it serves as the benchmark for what comes next, both in terms of technical performance and public perception. For example, I don’t have any illusions that my ghetto VR project is going to outpace the Oculus in any category; my hope is that it’s “good enough” to whet my appetite for future technology now that I know the Oculus isn’t going to fill that role any time soon. Other offerings such as the HTC Vive — which based on what I’ve been seeing has become the new superstar people are pinning their hopes on — still have time to position themselves in relation to the Oculus, and I’m certain they’re doing that right now by studying the reactions to the price and the specs and how people feel about them. Since people have pretty much shrugged with a mix of disdain and sadness post-Wednesday, that means that anyone can swoop in a save the day with the proper mix of tech and price. I think VR is something people want, if for no other reason than it fills the latent role of the latest cool technology gadget that everyone’s talking about, so while the Oculus’ release situation may have put the damper on people’s enthusiasm for the technology, I believe that up-and-coming competitors can use this lull to position themselves as the technology that people have been waiting for.