5:00PM. You’re calling it a day. Time to kick-back, relax, and unwind. You put the pesky problems of the workplace behind you. You get home from the long commute and immediately plop down in the most comfortable chair you have in the house. This isn’t just an ordinary chair. You pull down the accompanying helmet on top of it and, with just a click, you find yourself in the front seats of your favorite football team. You watch the game as if it was right in front of you, truly immersed in the setting, with the worries of work drowned out by the crowd.
The situation above is still a pipedream to those in the Virtual Reality(VR) industry today. The promise of creating a true virtual reality environment, with a level of immersion that is nearly indistinguishable from reality. Although we aren’t quite there yet, VR has come a long way since it’s first headset in 1968. The rapid growth of the VR industry started under 10 years ago, when Palmer Luckey launched a kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift, the first mainstream VR headset device. By 2016, hundreds of companies were developing VR products. This includes Facebook, whose founder said that he wants to sell their headset to 1 billion people.
So why has VR not taken off yet? Hundreds of companies have come and gone. The technology is no longer a surprise to people. But why does VR still feel like a niche gimmick for those with a little too much money on their hands?
In this article, I’ll walk you through the five biggest reasons why VR isn’t huge in 2020, but why it will be soon enough. Read to the end to learn about this growing industry.
#1 – It’s Still Expensive:
For what you are getting out of VR, the price tag for many of the models is still quite hefty. Here are the prices of the most popular headsets around:
- Oculus Quest ($400)
- Valve Index ($999)
- HTC Vive Cosmos ($700)
- Playstation VR ($349.99)
Additionally, many of these headsets may require a high-end computer or a console. Only a few headsets, like the Oculus Quest, are able to standalone without additional wires and equipment. The content available on each headset may differ, but the overall experience and quality is lackluster when compared to a computer monitor or a tv.
Why It Will Be Huge Soon:
Expensive is a relative term. Many flagship phones today cost upwards of $1,000, which we don’t hesitate to pay. The Oculus Quest, the current mainstream headset, is a great example of the direction that VR is moving in pricewise. It sits at $400, as well as being a standalone VR product. The Oculus Quest stands as an affordable option that fits within the price ranges of TV’s, computers, and gaming consoles. Headsets will continue to become more accessible and affordable, while the content will be increasingly higher quality. This trajectory mimics the rise of computers and television, which has fully integrated into our lives today.
#2 – Hard To Try Out:
Take ten seconds to try something out. List the amount of people you could call right now, who owns a VR device that you could try out. I know my answer sits at a solid zero. Yours will probably be less than the amount of fingers on one hand. Maybe you’re lucky and could count up to double digits. The matter of the fact is, only 8% of broadband households own some form of a VR headset.
In order to try out the many types of VR headbands, you’d have to test them out in a store. By checking a 50 mile radius in google maps, I was only able to locate 13 stores that would let me experience a VR headset. If I get rid of Dave and Buster’s, which only offer one type of preset experience and headset, I have 8 stores. Depending on where you live, it could be even more difficult to test out VR headsets. There are many to choose from, and given its price tag, it’s best to test before you invest.
Not only that, but the stores that offer testing could be held up by a line. VR headsets require a decent amount of room to function, as well as someone to help set up the equipment on you. This inaccessibility to trying out the technology can be a huge pain for anyone interested in experiencing what VR has to offer.
Why It Will Be Huge Soon:
Testing a VR headset will begin to become more widely available. Especially with the rise in VR arcades across the U.S. These arcades are similar to modern day PC labs, where people can pay for time with the equipment. A spacious environment like a VR arcade, alongside a team of people to help you set-up with the equipment, will make it an easy and fun process for you to experience VR. You’d be able to have a thorough VR experience before deciding if it’s something you want within your own home.
#3 – Not As Convenient
VR still faces many challenges when it comes to convenience. Firstly, the level of stimulation can be overwhelming for many users. Here’s a small list of physical reactions some people have when using VR:
- Eye Strain
Some extreme cases can include triggers to epilepsy and seizures. The impact of this technology on our well-being has yet to be explored long-term.
Next, VR requires a significant amount of room to use. This means that you need enough space in your area to utilize it. Whether this be your house, or somewhere on the go, having enough space is an absolute necessity. Although nifty, it is nowhere as convenient as a phone, tv, or computer which sticks to the allocated screen space.
Many headsets also require significant set-up times, which can be complex without guidance. Tethered headsets add another layer of wires that are prone to getting in the way of your virtual experience. The set-up and storage time for the device could become enough of a hassle for you to let your device collect dust after a few uses.
Lastly, there is the convenience of sharing the experience. Having a console or TV provides entertainment for both you and your visitors. VR, on the other hand, can be a relatively lonely experience. Once you put on that headset, you are now isolated from the world around you. Although you can connect in the virtual world, it won’t be the same as having the presence of another person around.
Why It Will Be Huge Soon:
As far as convenience goes, the latest VR innovations have lost their wires. The Oculus Quest is by far the most popular household VR headset, and it is fully standalone. Both the headset and the controllers are wirefree, allowing you to utilize it wherever you go (given there’s enough open space around you). Industry leaders are continuing to push the boundaries of the technology to ensure the best experience for everyday consumers like you and I.
#4 – The Capabilities Are Lacking
As of right now, there are few things that can be done in VR that cannot be done on a computer. In fact, a computer tends to provide a better user experience.
VR is nothing more than a niche technology. For most people, it is like a child getting a new toy. Once the initial appeal has worn off, you go back to the things that you like and know. The use of VR in the gaming and entertainment industries isn’t widespread. For those that own the technology, they realize that the quality and performance of a VR system can’t hold a candle to a high-end computer. Not only that, but the in-game experience is usually not as great as the original, which was meant to be played on a computer or console. These lack of capabilities make it easy for consumers to choose what they already know. Why would any consumer spend extra money for something that isn’t as high-quality as what they already have?
Why It Will Be Huge Soon:
Although VR’s performance cannot yet compare to other technologies in the gaming and entertainment industries, this doesn’t apply to other industries.Many other industries such as healthcare, construction, travel, and retail are using VR in innovative ways. They utilize VR to simulate a wide spectrum of activities including surgeries, tours, and gun-point robberies. The capabilities for gamers may be lacking, but it is more than enough for enterprise corporations to utilize for employee training. As more companies try VR in innovative ways, the capabilities and use cases for VR will continue to expand.
#5 – There Is No Unifying Force
The last and biggest reason why VR isn’t huge yet, is because there hasn’t been a unifying force. If we had to relate VR to another industry, think social media before Facebook. There were lots of smaller players like Friendster and Myspace, but Facebook was the one to cause the mass adoption of social media. Another point of comparison is like the computer before Apple began the adoption of an everyday consumer computer. The state of VR across every player in the industry is similar to “Pre-Facebook.”
For all VR developers, everyone is scrambling to innovate VR’s version of Facebook or the Mac. A piece of VR technology that everyone will want to adopt. On the other end, content creators of VR are trying to do the exact same thing. These content creators want to develop something that will cause consumers to want to get a VR headset, which in turn will cause VR developers to want the content to be available on their headsets.
VR Isn’t Huge… Yet.
We have a long way to go before VR reaches a level that exists in fiction. One where an empty room can become a humid amazon jungle, or one that allows you to transport your consciousness to a virtual world. Right now, VR isn’t as comfortable, or performs as well as the systems you already have at home. It’s an investment that is hard to try out, and is only adopted by enthusiasts who don’t have to worry about next month’s mortgage payment. It is still a funny looking headset that goes over your eyes, one that most people won’t feel the need to get their hands on. This doesn’t change the fact that technology is still growing rapidly every year, and the VR industry is a part of this.
The VR industry will grow explosively once a unifying force is created. Overnight success is only created through consistent and gradual progress. The current growth of the VR industry has been slow and steady, but just wait. Once someone has created something that all of us want to be a part of, VR headsets will be as common as the TV in your house, the computer on your desk, and the phone in your pocket.
Guest article written by: Kevin Nguyen is a freelance content marketing strategist & copywriter. He specializes in B2B Tech Writing, and loves writing about how Technology changes our lives. You can learn more about Kevin at https://kevinhuunguyen.com/