Virtual Reality: Dead or Alive?

For the past few weeks, various articles have been published claiming that virtual reality is dead, dying, or on life support. At the same time, other reports indicate that VR is alive and well, doing much better than ever before.

Well, which is it? 

No matter how you look at it, virtual reality needs more time to achieve mainstream adoption. Although VR seems to have emerged from the “trough of disillusionment,” it remains a niche technology mainly for enthusiasts. I believe there are several reasons for this:

  1. Cost
  2. Ease of use
  3. Customer awareness

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a huge proponent of VR. In fact, I believe VR will play an important role in the future of media. Even today, much progress has been made to create quality programming in VR. Producers of news, sports, film, and TV programming continue to deliver compelling content for all VR platforms.

But why isn’t everyone on board yet? Why hasn’t VR replaced our smartphones, or at least achieved market penetration on a comparable level?

The “evidence”

Let’s dive into some of the recent articles proclaiming VR’s demise. This all started on July 19th, with an article in Digital TrendsVR is in a tailspin, and the sales numbers prove it. Referencing VR device sales data at Amazon, the article shows a decline in sales of four major VR headsets (PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and Oculus Go.) According to the article, “Those sale ranks figures make it clear all the major VR headsets are in a tailspin, with no signs they’ll pull out of it.”

On the opposite side, we have an article at Futurism claiming that VR has reached a “tipping point.” The article remains hopeful that VR’s increased popularity is just around the corner. We are also starting to see more implementations of location-based VR, including VR at airports. An article in Connected Thinking claims that consumer VR revenue is headed to $9 Billion.

HTC responded to the Digital Trends article with their own defense: Think VR is dying? It’s just getting started. They claim that VR tech continues to improve, businesses are investing in it (especially location-based entertainment and training), and they are ramping up on production of more headsets.

The “reality”

The best way to look at the state of VR is to understand and accept that these things take time. Enthusiasts are excited and impatient for mainstream adoption, while detractors are quick to point fingers and disregard the steady progress that VR has already achieved, and continues to achieve.

There is also an unnecessary rivalry between complementary technologies, VR and AR (augmented reality). For the past few years, those in the AR camp have claimed that their tech has outpaced VR and is already the “winner.” Meanwhile, information has leaked about Magic Leap’s “rather small” field of view, causing major disappointment among AR fans.

Virtual reality is here to stay. Like any new technology, we need to be patient while the many talented engineers, developers, and artists continue to devote their energy and passion to creating something truly magical.

 

Roy Kachur is a Media Technologist, IT Architect, and VR Evangelist. He has worked in the information technology field since the 1990’s, and in the media industry since 2014. He believes that VR will play a significant role in the future of media.

 

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