Two of the batch of VR headsets that are coming out have made their Debut. If you haven’t read any of my other thoughts on VR, I’ll fill you in. Good consumer virtual reality, with interesting content can’t come fast enough for me. I have wanted to play games in VR since I had any idea what it was, or could be. So a couple of the headsets are out, and what’s the verdict?
To start off, they are too expensive by at least half. I understand that there is a lot of R&D money sunk into these things, and right now, they are the very definition of an early adopter product. The initial price, both in monies and technical hassle, is going to be very high. The wires alone provide a physical challenge to using the headsets comfortably. The other technical requirements, computer processing power and physical space, are laughably absurd for a consumer product.
They are also first launch products, so the content for them is meager. There are a few games that I would love to try out, but most of the experiences seem like novelties. Some of the games seem like something that might have come out for kinect or wii. Those names don’t really carry a pedigree of technical excellence, or more importantly, fun.
I have only tried one of the headsets on offer, and only a few brief times. The technology works. The feelings it provokes are occasionally stunning, but in the same way that a good amusement park ride is stunning. Powerful, exciting, and best enjoyed in brief bursts. That’s not the sort of experience that video games have traditionally been associated with. Thrill rides, yes, but the sort of thrill ride that sustains for 12 hours over many play sessions.
So is that it? Is the product too much before its time? Will VR become the fad of 2016 - 2017? Will Oculus and Vive units occupy closet shelves alongside plastic musical instruments and motion controllers? Maybe, but probably not.
The first version of the Ipad was not a good product. The screen was awful, the performance was mediocre, and very little of the content took advantage of what was there. The experience of using an Ipad in 2010 simply did not justify the price, size, weight, or hassle. It was a bad product in every measurable dimension, and people loved it. Current Ipads are fantastic machines, and the problem facing apple now is convincing customers to buy a new one when the one they have does what they want it to do so damned well.
The promise was apparent in that first Ipad. It wasn’t what people wanted it to be, but it was very easy to imagine the version a year or two down the road that worked like you expected. Like you imagined it would. Like you wanted it to. This is where we are with VR. People are buying the promise. By the look of the sales numbers, they are buying the promise in enough volume that a second or third version of this hardware is inevitable. A version that is lighter, with higher resolutions. A version that has no wires tethering it to a computer. A version that presents the content that justifies its existence.
I probably won’t be buying one of the current headsets, but I am excited about the promise they represent. I’ve tried it out. It works. It needs just a little more time before VR hits that Ipad moment.