Samsung Gear VR

Virtual reality goggles were everywhere at CES, but none more than Samsung’s Gear VR headset that uses one of the company’s Galaxy smartphones for its display. I sat through a demo in Samsung’s booth in which you ride a virtual roller coaster while sitting in chairs that simulate the ride’s movement and vibration, and I have to admit it was shockingly realistic. It may be obvious to your eyes that you’re looking at a smartphone, but your brain still leaves your stomach behind when the roller coaster drops down some steep track.

The good news for photographers and videographers is that the conversation around VR seems to be changing. Whereas marketers used to just talk about the technical capabilities of headsets (and let’s face it, they still will if you give them a chance) we seem to have reached the point where everyone realizes that VR content will be what drives the market. Riding roller coasters at trade shows is fun, but tools that give individual content creators the ability to create unique VR experiences or immersive films should really open up creative possibilities.

 

The Big Guns: VR’s about to get a lot better, but Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are high-end systems for early adopters
Innovation is very important, but I also think it can be overrated, if nothing tangible gets productized as a result of the effort put in. In many cases, maturity — not innovation — is what makes products real.

In the case of Virtual Reality (VR) the industry is now reaching a point where we can almost grasp maturity. We can see it coming; it is inevitable.

Your average consumer may not be able to afford it for perhaps five or ten years, with current prices at $600 per headset not counting supporting equipment (such as a powerful GPU-intensive PC or gaming console) but the writing is on the wall.

VR gaming will be a legitimate form of entertainment, at least among middle class people, before the decade is over.

We need to ask ourselves about what the potential societal implications of widespread VR technology are now, before it actually becomes a cultural phenomenon — just as we deal with the impact of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices on our culture today.

Modern smartphones have been on the market for almost a decade, but we have only started to understand their impact on human behavior.

Oculus has dominated the VR conversation for years, and with good reason — its hardware and software solutions have routinely been the best. I remember putting a rickety pair of VR ski goggles on my head in a hotel room back in 2013, and it blew me away. Now, the first consumer-ready version is on its way for $600 (£499 or AU$649) in March.

Well, $600 plus a gaming PC that can handle it. The price and pre-order announcement of Rift cast a shadow over the whole show, by design. Is VR not for the common person anymore? Is it a tech toy only? My answer: of course it’s not for everyone. How many people have hardcore gaming PCs?

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