Are you old enough to remember getting cable television for the first time? I certainly do. We had an awesome tan wired channel selector that would sit on top of the television set and we got 24 channels. 24! No more fussing about with the rabbit ears and receiving only 4 channels. We were living the future.
The thing about it was that we weren't one of the early adopters. In fact, we were probably one of the last people out of our friends and families to hop on the cable bus. I remember begging my dad to get us cable television. He insisted that it wasn't worth it (although today that point is more poignant, back in the day we had no internet so antennas and cable television was THE best way to get media content). One day he relented and the rest is history.
I bring up this anecdote to highlight a point about technology, especially transformative technology, and that is the fact that adoption takes time.
If you build it, they will come
About a year and a half ago, Oculus (supported by Facebook) and HTC (licensing Valve's VR technology) both released virtual reality technology that although expensive, was the best implementation of VR the world has ever seen. No longer a glorified ViewMaster. No, this was the real deal where you can walk, look, and touch computer generated objects in a real virtual environment.
Microsoft a bit earlier created the Hololens with a technology dubbed augmented reality or AR. Not only did you have the ability to interact with computer generated objects, you could also use your current surroundings to map those objects on to. Your real world could interact with your virtual world.
But early on, once the hardware for VR and AR was released, you almost immediately heard from the naysayers. The "games" were not "games" but were only tech demos and experiences. It was also too costly for what you got. To be fair, those were valid points. The release costs for VR and AR hardware plus the need for a powerful computer could make the starting costs at around $2000. Yikes!
All that being true, anyone trying full scale VR with tracked moment would have to concede how immersive, how real, the technology was. It was evident to me at least, that VR and AR will become a large contingent of the entertainment and productivity space in the future.
Secondly, every new technology starts off at a ridiculous cost for entry. I remember early laserdisc players and VCRs costing thousands of dollars. Early adopters pay the early adopter tax. This is not new. Over time, (and we are already seeing this in VR headsets) costs come down, and adoption increases.
Overnight successes are never overnight
I've read wide variety of doubt cast on the viability of VR and AR since it's been a whole year and a half and it's still not widely adopted. I have no idea if this type of turn around from release to adoption is a newer generation phenomena but take a look at this infographic from The Atlantic:
Although the graphic discusses adoption rates increasing with a shorter time period, it still takes many years for disruptive technology to pass a threshold of 20%. The cellphone for instance, a device that is very accessible in terms of comprehension and use case, still took over 5 years before it surpassed a 20% adoption rate. For those blowing the death of VR and AR, is it truly reasonable to think that a technology that was released in it's current implementation less that 2 years ago, is teetering on the edge of death?
Big players are the ones to watch
Oculus, Valve, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung and Apple all have plans or are already selling either VR or AR technologies. Large name developers such as Bethesda, Croteam and Id software have only just begun to release what is considered, AAA level titles to VR. Game development takes years to complete with any sort of competency. And only now are we seeing the first of those travails. When you have this many large companies behind a technology, the ramp up takes much longer than the initial hardware releases as each player wants to ensure the best product they can provide and we've seen this with the VCRs, CDs, videos game systems, etc…
Apple believes so much in the AR aspect of this new technology that they've purchased Montreal based mixed reality company VRvana to catch up to the other players in this space. Coupled with their push fro VR development on macOS via SteamVR and their eGPU VR development kit, it's obvious it's a space they are keen in playing in.
On top of this, Oculus is now reporting a bright future for their Oculus Rift and their other upcoming wire-free VR headsets coming sometime next year.
Be calm, think happy happy joy joy thoughts
VR and AR technology will only get bigger, better and more ubiquitous in the near future. It's not dying, it's only ramping up. Its the calm before the storm. What about you? What are your thoughts on AR, VR or mixed reality? Let us know in the comments!
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