VR headsets outside gaming
The most recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona showed it all: Almost every booth had their own virtual reality station to let consumers see their brand from a different perspective. Now, tech journalists and industry leaders have mutually marked the year as the beginning of the virtual reality (VR) era.
“VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed at the event. “For right now, it’s mostly used for gaming. That’s quickly evolving.”
It’s not just evolving—it’s quickly going beyond being a gaming companion.
The commercialization of Oculus Rift, perhaps, is its first manifestation. According to its inventor Palmer Luckey, the first funders of its Kickstarter campaign in 2011 have already received their own VR headset last Easter Monday, while initial orders outside the list of funders received theirs shortly thereafter. It has been less than a month since it happened, but tech journalists are quick to see its other would-be contributions outside the console gaming niche.
In an article by Doug Bolton of Independent, he listed a few other industries where Oculus Rift, and possibly its future competitors, can be a game-changer. It would be beneficial for architects, he explained, as it could substitute the 2D orthographic sketches and blueprint they show to their clients—in short, giving them a close-to-reality experience in being inside an AutoCAD drawing. It’s also the same case with any art form, as it allows the audience to experience a 3D artwork through a VR headset.
VR could also become a useful tool in the medical world just like how doctors in Florida used Google Cardboard headset, a direct competitor, to save four-month-old Teegan Lexcen’s from succumbing to heart failure. As VR headsets give users a different kind of pseudo in-the-flesh experience, it could also be utilized as a perfect substitute for all kinds of mental therapy, and as well as in tourism, the way how brands at Mobile World Congress used it as a promotional contraption.
No one could say if it’s wise to instantaneously purchase a still-budding product. It’s like buying the first-generation iPhone after hearing Apple’s announcement on its second edition; that is, if Oculus immediately comes up with an upgraded Rift. It is, without doubt, a sign of how things would work for the VR market. It will be big, and perhaps bigger than the inception of first smartphones that would eventually change the entire world—a prediction from legendary game developer Tim Sweeny.
“It is technology that I think will completely change the world,” Sweeney told Polygon. “I think it is going to be a bigger phenomenon than smartphones. You have to put it in perspective and realize we’re in maybe the [first-generation] iPhone stage right now where you have this really cool device, but it has some real flaws that prevents it from being a pervasive device for everyone.”
At some point, it could also encourage companies in different niches, say 5BARz International (OTCQB: BARZ) in the network enhancer industry and Rhapsody in a Spotify-dominated competition, to initiate innovations to revolutionize the market where they belong. Remember that Oculus has been in various controversies and predicaments before it managed to commercialize Rift. There are also doubts from critics and consumers over its capacity to outshine bigger tech companies’ initiatives on releasing their own VR machine.
Nonetheless, despite Sweeney’s statement, a lot have remained naysayers, something that Oculus and its many competitors seem to shrug off as they still continue to do innovations and improvements on their end.
“But just how successful VR will be in 2016 is a matter of debate. At the recent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the industry’s largest professional gathering, designer Jesse Schell theorized that 8 million top-level VR headsets will be sold by the end of 2017. [But] only half that figure is more realistic, says J.P. Gownder, an analyst at Forrester Research It’s been estimated that just 12 million to 13 million computers worldwide can actually run the technology,” wrote Todd Martens of The Los Angeles Times.
For now, experts seem pretty sure that it would change the gaming niche for the better. Indeed, it could be the next thing to the Wii-like gameplay that encouraged the gaming world to look beyond regular console controllers that have been in the market since the ’80s. Its indispensable expansion and utilization to their industries, on the other hand, remains farfetched despite the handful of companies trying their hand at incorporating VR with their systems.
However, everyone must be reminded that VR is still an inchoate market, which makes it exciting and more promising. For now, it going beyond and flourishing outside the gaming segment is still a waiting game.