In the first four months of 2019, we have already seen significant changes within the virtual reality ecosystem. Although there is much anticipation and excitement for the Oculus Quest standalone headset (releasing on May 21st), other developments have raised warnings and concerns about VR in general.
The first of these concerns relates to social VR. Both High Fidelity and Sansar have decided to back off from VR in their respective platforms. Many VR enthusiasts believe that social VR is critical for the creation of the “metaverse” — essentially a virtual reality version of the Internet, where people will communicate, work, and play in VR.
Not all social VR platforms are going away. AltSpace VR, Bigscreen Beta, RecRoom and VRChat are still active at the moment. Facebook also remains committed to its social platforms such as Oculus Rooms and Oculus Venues.
Changes are also happening for Mobile VR. Since the release of the Oculus Go standalone headset last year, the appeal of smartphone-based VR has steadily declined. Mobile headsets such as Google Daydream and Samsung Gear VR have essentially gone by the wayside. Originally a stop-gap solution, they inevitably became obsolete when the all-in-one mobile headsets became available.
Finally, Facebook continues to make changes in their management team, while remaining enthusiastic for standalone VR (and possibly re-thinking their approach for high-end tethered headsets such as the Oculus Rift S.)
All of these changes are essential growing pains for a technology that is still seeking its “sweetspot” with consumers. Perhaps the Oculus Quest will be the device that finally causes VR to go mainstream. If not, it’s only a matter of time before there will be another.
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.