What once started as a niche tech experiment by early-adapters has quickly expanded into the next big thing in gaming: VR’s market share has expanded rapidly over the past several years, and it continues to show promise through the creation and implementation of new technologies.
However, as VR technology becomes more and more advanced and the experiences associated with it become more interesting, it has been for the most part unable to shake its reputation as a very exclusive, very expensive gaming accessory that grants access to not enough titles to justify its asking price. But it seems that Oculus, one of the leading VR headset producers, is very well aware of this issue: The Oculus Connect event, which occurred today, had speaker Mark Zuckerberg introduce Oculus Quest.
The Oculus quest is another attempt to bridge the gap between those with a VR headset and the average PC gamer. It comes with an all-in-one VR set for just under $400 – That includes the headset and two motion controllers. It functions as a greatly-improved Oculus Go, which was the company’s first attempt at creating a cheaper and more accessible iteration of their coveted headset.
The Go failed due to its exclusion of several key VR headset features, features which made playing games on it very difficult and quite frustrating. It was also built around a concept which is very difficult to swallow: Putting on a VR headset intentionally renders you, for the most part, blind to the outside world. Very few consumers were interested in doing this in public due to obvious threats of theft or harassment – threats which they would be virtually incapable of responding to.
While the Quest will not feature external sensors to map out 3D spaces, Oculus promises the headset will still use the ‘Six Degrees Of Freedom’ (6DoF) technology that has become a critical selling point for updated VR headsets.
Zuckerberg stated that the release of the Quest will mark the end of the company’s first generation of VR headsets. “From here”, he continued, “we’re going to make some big leaps in tech and content for future generations of each of these products.” And although it’s still much too early to discuss what the future may hold for Oculus, this sounds like a very purposeful and deliberate hint that the company will be looking into the production of a second-generation Oculus in the years to come.
However, they’ve got a tough battle to fight with the integration of VR into the public. If a second-generation Oculus proves just as costly as the original device, it could serve to wedge the gap further between common gamers and VR users, essentially replicating the main problem that Oculus is seeking to fix with the quest.
The primary reason as to why this gap exists is due to the nature of VR devices as an accessory for other systems, rather than a system themselves. To even run a VR accessory, a PC needs to be built to be ‘VR Capable’, which requires it to have fairly high specifications and the ability to handle an engine that seeks to respond in real-time to the erratic and unpredictable movements of the human head. Remember: If you’re in a VR headset and you move your head to the left, and the VR screen fails to load and doesn’t move with you, you’re going to feel very sick very quickly. You might even throw up.
In the early days of VR headsets, a bug existed in the motion tracking that would momentarily invert the headset’s ability to detect three-dimensional movement. In other words, a player would move their head down and watch their field of view go up. A lot of people got sick.
Due to limitations like these, there’s no such thing as a ‘low-spec’ VR PC: It’s either VR-capable or it isn’t. And requiring consumers to put a large amount of money down to even qualify for the purchase of a VR headset is far too daunting for many casual gamers. Oculus’s second generation will need to find a way around this expensive and difficult issue if it wishes to continue to make its way into the homes of gamers around the globe.
I wonder if VR will ever be common.