Where is Consumer VR today?

It’s been over two years since the first consumer-quality virtual reality (VR) headsets hit the market. While the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive may have ushered in a new era of personal display devices, both still face challenges in terms of adoption. Like any first-generation technology, they offered only a taste of what could be possible. Various hurdles in technical capability, content availability, and affordability have acted as barriers to widespread adoption.

However, as the technology continues to push the envelope, we’re starting to see rapid growth in the marketplace. Although HTC and Oculus were the industry’s trailblazers, Microsoft has now entered the fray with their Windows Mixed Reality platform. Several hardware partners have sprung up to support the fledgling platform, including Asus, Lenovo, HP, Acer, and Dell.

As the ecosystem matures, we’re beginning to see the release of 2nd generation VR systems. The first of which is the HTC VIVE Pro, which came to market this past April. However, most experts agree that the Vive Pro is an incremental step forward rather than a leap, with the primary advancements in headset resolution (2880×1600 vs 2160×1200) and comfort. In terms of motion tracking, the Vive Pro relies on the same controllers and base stations as the original.

For HTC, the biggest barrier to entry is still cost. The VIVE Pro’s headset alone comes in at $799. For the base station and controllers, there’s an additional $299 charge, making the all-in price nearly $1100. While enthusiasts who demand the best of the best may pay up for the privilege, such a setup is unrealistic for the typical consumer.

Fortunately, HTC isn’t the only game in town. While Oculus has not yet released their second-generation PC-tethered platform, they have taken a different approach toward VR. Instead of targeting the early adopter and pushing the envelope as far as possible in terms of fidelity, they’ve focused their recent efforts on making VR accessible to the masses. With their newly released Oculus Go headset, they’re able to offer a completely standalone device for only $199.

Sporting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, the Oculus Go uses a slightly older generation mobile phone platform to power a compelling VR experience. While obviously lacking the horsepower of a dedicated gaming PC, the chipset is more than capable of streaming VR video and creating immersive experiences.

Speaking of Qualcomm, the chipset manufacturer has also recently announced the Snapdragon XR1, a platform designed specifically of AR/VR headsets. Instead of repurposing mobile phone hardware, manufacturers will now have a chipset purpose-built for VR experiences.

While these developments are exciting, it’s important to remember we’re still in the very early stages of a revolution. The vision of many of these pioneers is not just to offer a new and novel form of entertainment, but to completely disrupt how humans interface with technology and each other. As AR/VR technologies continue to improve, there will be tremendous opportunities, and we at Tactile Analytics hope to be at the forefront of that revolution.