Feb 13, 2018

2018: The Year Virtual Reality Will be Unleashed to the Public

The recent years have marked themselves as a decade of unbelievable technological advancement. What was once firmly encased in the realm of sci-fi and Hollywood dreams is quickly becoming a reality. Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reaity, and Augmented Reality (AI, VR, and AR) have been some of the most visible developments.

With artificial intelligence, things like chatbot marketing technology have started to become almost commonplace. However, virtual reality is still lagging behind. VR hardware has had a hard time becoming popular over the past two years it’s been available for consumption. This is due in part to the high cost of systems. The biggest reason, however, is that all currently available VR systems need an external device to help it function. This can mean connecting to a smartphone, game console, or even a bulky PC.

This is all slated to change in 2018: the era of standalone, untethered VR systems is on the horizon. Before now, there was no conceivable way to power a wireless VR system that requires massive amounts of energy without using a connected device. Advancements in built-in computing have changed this view, and some of the biggest players in the VR headset sphere are set to face these challenges head-on.

Oculus Products

Oculus VR has two major releases in the works. Their Oculus Rift was one of the first VR headsets available on the market, but its release was greatly hindered by the high price point. The Oculus Go is set to remedy this, due for release early this year.

It’s said to be compatible with Samsung's Gear VR platform, and is under $200. While it doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles (e.g. no positional tracking), it’s a great place to start if you’re new to the tech. An added bonus is that it’s compatible with all types of mobile devices.

The next step up in the Oculus VR suite is the Oculus Santa Cruz. This system promises positional tracking, which means the user will not always be positioned in the middle of the view.

It also integrates six degrees of freedom (6DOF) technology, allowing the headset to recognize your hand movement. This opens up an entirely new platform and is expected to provide a similar experience to the Oculus Rift, but without wires and an outside connection to a PC.

Consumers who are eager for its release will unfortunately have to be patient: the Oculus Santa Cruz will be available to developers in 2018, and hopefully come to consumers in 2019.

Google Daydream

The Google Daydream is described as being the standalone version of the Google Daydream VR platform. Originally intended to be used with HTC and Lenovo products, HTC left the deal to develop their own system.

Now, Google and Lenovo are working on a system that offers both positional tracking and 6DOF. The latter will be integrated with WorldSense, a system built to understand real-world movements without the need for additional trackers. This system, like the Santa Cruz, is unlikely to be released to consumers before the end of the year.

HTC Vive Focus

What came out of HTC’s split from Google was their untethered device called Vive Focus. For the time being, it’s only expected to be released in China. There’s also a high chance that this will be the first standalone, 6DOF, VR headset that gets released to the public. Keep in mind, however, the fact that it doesn’t have an expected release date and that the developers have not made it clear whether or not the system will be released to other markets.

These systems are the first steps forward into the second consumer VR generation. As more standalone devices are released, overall prices will drop and visuals will get better.

There are still many challenges to be faced in order for VR headsets to become truly integrated into the average consumer’s life. This includes getting more content, lowering prices, and upgrading gear quality. Standalone hardware is a big step in the right direction, and those who do invest in it early will likely see the greatest rewards.

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