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What ever happened to VR?

13 June 2017

Virtual Reality was going to be "the next bit thing" if you listened to key players in the industry and many commentators just a year or two ago.

We'd be able to sit (or stand) with our VR headwear (headware?) and visit distant places, engage in uber-realistic interactive games and generally have all the advantages of "being there" without the costs or complexity.

So what ever happened to VR?

Well maybe it has already gone the way of 3D TV and disappeared back into the cloud of hype that makes up so much of the world's failed "next big thing" technologies.

It seems that even Microsoft is backing away from VR, at least if this BBC story is to be believed.

Yes, the new XBox is out and despite the build-up, VR is not a core component of this home entertainment and gaming console.

How sad, never mind.

So why is it that VR seems to be stuck on the starting blocks?

Why aren't we all donning our headsets and visiting far-away-places in a virtual capacity?

I think the reason VR has stalled is probably the same reason that 3D TV tripped and fell before the first gate.

It's the need to wear special equipment.

In the case of 3D TV, all you needed were some active-shutter LCD glasses. Although these weren't exactly fashion items, they weren't too uncomfortable, heavy or ugly -- yet even so, people just couldn't be phaffed wearing them and chose to forgo the wonder of 3D for the comfort and convenience of just slumping on the sofa.

Perhaps it's this exact same reason that people aren't embracing VR.

Okay, I'll concede that another reason is the almost total lack of VR programming at this point in time. Sure, you can buy the fancy glasses and even some el-budgeto cardboard and lenses that will turn your phone into a VR headset -- but there's just no really engaging VR content to be had yet.

What's more, the VR headset is just the start. You can't interact unless there's a way to produce in put to the system. Your mouse and keyboard just aren't going to cut it for a truly interactive VR experience so you'll need something like the Microsoft Kinect, a pair of power-gloves and/or a whole bunch of other gear to really get into VR.

Or maybe you could just turn on Netflix and pass(ive)-out on the sofa -- yeah, that sounds a whole lot easier eh?

So far, all VR has really delivered to the consumer is hype and the problem with hyping too hard, too soon is that people tire of the promises -- to such an extent that when you finally start delivering on those promises, they're no longer chomping at the bit to get onboard.

I'm probably one of the few people who engages in VR on an almost daily basis. I fly RC models (including drones) using video glasses.

Okay, it's probably more of an "altered reality" than virtual reality but for all intents and purposes, the differences are minimal. I'm virtualising my presence in the aircraft by way of a camera and video glasses and it's so much fun!

The strange thing is though, that despite the fun element and the ready availability of the technology, I still do most of my model flying the "old fashioned" way -- standing on the ground looking up at the plane. Even a technology as well developed and refined as FPV (first person view) for RC models is not totally addictive or alluring. Some times it's just too much hassle to fart around with extra batteries, video glasses and the added encumbrances associated with this simple form of VR.

I predict a place for VR in our future -- but then again, some folk still have 3D TV sets too.

Have you tried VR? Did you like it? Would you become a regular user if the content was there?

Or do you think it's another "next big thing that never was"?

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