Virtual Reality Is Finally Here. Now What?

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Virtual Reality Is Finally Here. Now What?

Decades after the hype over the technology first started to build, virtual reality is reaching the market this year. Within the first three months of 2016, investors poured $1.1 billion into the industry, even though virtual reality (VR) has yet to generate any revenues.

That’s expected to change very soon. As described in recent posts at ReadWrite.com and GeekWire.com, the first VR devices for the consumer entertainment market premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2016. They include the following product releases:1, 2

  • In late March, customers who pre-ordered the VR system began receiving the Oculus Rift headset; there’s currently a four-month waiting list for new orders at a price of $599, which includes an Xbox One controller and a pair of games.
  • Also this spring, HTC plans to introduce its Vive VR headset, at $799.
  • In October, PlayStation VR is set to hit the market, at $399.
  • This year, Samsung is also offering a free Gear VR accessory to customers who pre-order the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge; the Gear VR attaches to the smartphone to provide a virtual reality experience.
  • Already, Google Cardboard headsets, made of cardboard, Velcro, and plastic, are available; they are so cheap that companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have given them away for free to their customers.

Keep in mind that the cost of the headsets is only part of the actual price of the VR experience. For example, the Rift only works with a top-of-the-line PC, which costs at least another $900. Even the free Cardboard headsets only work when strapped to an Apple iPhone or Android smartphone, so the actual investment can be up to $700.

Virtual reality headsets typically resemble scuba masks that are opaque rather than transparent. And notably, they focus only on sight and sound, and do not support haptic or kinesthetic sensations. However, a high-tech treadmill called the Infinadeck can be combined with a VR headset to not only heighten the experience of moving around within a virtual scene, but also make exercising on the treadmill enjoyable.

While the consumer applications for virtual reality will focus on gaming and movies, it is the commercial potential that makes VR really interesting. After all, the technology behind games and movies is constantly being improved, and with relatively recent breakthroughs such as HDTV, digital animation, CGI, and 3D, entertainment has already become startlingly realistic...

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