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Virtual Reality - a gimmick, not a revolution
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Default Virtual Reality - a gimmick, not a revolution - 01-03-2016, 17:07 | posts: 574 | Location: Moscow, Russia

Ok, let me state here in the first sentence that I do NOT hate VR as some of you might suggest.

Before you jump to premature conclusions, I will say, that I am almost 32 year old, I work in IT and I consider myself an IT enthusiast, though my gaming life is in the past (my own choice, not a health or other issue). PCs in many different forms have been in my life since I was 5. So, albeit I missed the beginning of “modern” PC era, I had a privilege to witness its development ever since and up to this very day.
In some of my posts to news regarding VR I’ve been telling, that I do not understand why everyone is so hyped over VR, and provided some evident arguments. They have been met with heavy resistance and even words, implying that I should check my sanity, so I decided to open up a separate topic.
I consider myself open-minded towards many things, so with this post I would like to try to understand if there’s more to VR, than I see. May be all this time I was just blind?

Now, finally – to the topic itself. With what should I begin… ok, let it be the “revolution” factor.
You see, the trouble is – VR in the very same format of goggles with tiny screens inside have been with us since 1991 (though something has been shown in 1990, and if we take the whole VR concept, than it is even older – you can read a short and nice Wikipedia article on that).
So, while the technology and hardware have greatly improved over time, the VR is not new. Nor (in my mind) can it revolutionize media consumption.
Ok, ok, I know, that for fanboys these words are blasphemy, but let’s take a deeper look at it. To revolutionize anything a new technology must meet 3 criteria – there must be a real purpose\advantage behind the technology, the possibility of rapid adoption and sufficient demand (even potential).
The need of real purpose\advantage – the new technology has to provide some substantial benefits of its usage compared to rival\existing technologies or not-using the technology itself. Unfortunately in case of VR it is an issue. The real purpose or advantage are absent. If we try to compare VR to some truly revolutionary inventions\products, we’ll fail to find anything substantial. Just look at examples of steam engine creation, or the invention of transistor, or even the videocassette. All of these jumpstarted the development and growth in many different fields, VR doesn’t have such potential. True, VR will be yet another way for media consumption, but while indeed providing more “immersion”, it provides nothing else compared to everything we have now. More troubling is that actually the possible fields of implementation are very limited. And here we come to a second point (in revolution requirements) - the possibility of rapid adoption.
The current focus is on games. And here is yet another trouble - only first person games can truly benefit from VR, because only they can provide enough level of “immersion”. Take any other type of games - and it turns out all you pay for is for some over-priced “view changing device”. In the meaning that all you can do with the VR device is to change the angle of view for current screen activity (you can check Oculus’ Lucky's tale…).
Other potential areas of usage – movies. Well, ok… or not? While it might be entertaining to see a movie or two in VR surround, and have all porn shot in VR-format, it won’t become a mass market. Cinemas will be reluctant to install devices because of initial and maintenance costs. Just look at IMAX. There are LESS than 1000 cinema venues in the WHOLE world. And IMAX costs can’t be even remotely compared to possible VR-enabled cinema – just imagine a whole cinema hall with individual Oculus Rifts and something (PCs, servers) capable of processing all the visual information for them… (not to mention that there is NO information to process yet… and do not expect major movie studios to release a major blockbusters in VR near you in the nearest future).
And the last potential area of usage – remote or simulated reality. Unfortunately the problem is even in this area. It is not a mass market and will never be. The demand to see Louvre in VR while sitting in your shorts at home is nearly absent. Also the very idea of this becoming a mass market is very depressing actually. Some things we see and do are better done in reality, converting them to VR will actually lower our quality of life. It is sad.
What of simulated reality? Well, to the surprise of many of you – different technologies already exist and are used. Examples (non VR-goggled) – professional flight training and racing simulators. American Army has been using VR goggles for at least 5-6 years or so in military simulators (though I do not know how advanced and\or extensively they are used). Even the remote surgeries are already performed, though without VR-goggles, and I am a bit skeptical VR will suddenly leap as a game changing technology here.
And here I come to yet another problem with adoption - the price and hardware requirements to use VR. Currently the price just for VR goggles is going to be high, and with hardware requirements for PCs the price of VR-capable system will be even higher. I do not say it is unsurmountable, but it is in the territory of High-End gamers and enthusiasts. In my view this is not a market, which VR should have aimed for. Unfortunately, despite many thinking otherwise, the price is not going to become lower. Do we often see new High-End CPUs, GPUs, Phones to be released cheaper and cheaper? It happens rarely, but in most cases – everything is released with either identical or higher prices. True will be with VR hardware.
And here I see another problem. Lack of competition or better – alternative devices. Before you start shouting about Intel-AMD or NVIDIA-AMD, just think of a huge product portfolio they offer. The market does not consist of just 1 Intel CPU and 1 AMD CPU, both have literally dozens of different CPUs in all price segments.
What do we have with VR – 1 Oculus Rift and 1 HTC Vive… (I am not sure where Sony is with VR…). Ok, there are some Cardboard and Galaxy Gear VR … devices, but they can’t be even remotely compared to former two. So, having only 2-3 devices – each consumer will be stuck with whatever he chooses. To complicate this even more – consumers won’t be able to change anything. It is VR – so in some sense we speak of displays, correct? Let’s just look at the market – we’ll find literally 1000 models of monitors of different sizes, resolutions, matrix types, specifications, etc. Why does everyone think, that every potential user will be happy with whatever is in Oculus or Vive? Why does everyone think, that in modern day of UltraHD, High-end enthusiast will be happy to look at strange 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye) resolution on the image the size of a wall? As I still think there’s no revolutionary in VR – consumers might not be so happy to cope with limitations in anticipation of next-gen devices, and by the time this next-gen arrives the VR won’t be considered so cool…
The other problem – hardware requirements for VR. To push even that strange resolution, users must have nearly high-end machines. High-end was never considered a mass market. It is a niche market.
This also means that consoles (in current versions and prices) are not going to receive VR at all. Even if they do – VR will be substantially dumbed down in quality or it will have to boast additional external GPU, which also won’t make it any cheaper. What does this mean? In the day when most of developers have consoles in priority and only create PC-ports of their games – how much chances are there for them to start developing separate PC-only quality games? Virtually Zero.
And I finally come to point 3 – sufficient demand. I do not believe there is such demand. True, the interest in VR is very high now, but I believe it is only because of a wow-factor. The problem with wow-factor is that it is usually short-lived. When it is gone – the technology will have to find enough consumer support to live and develop, unfortunately for VR – I doubt it has such support. Don’t forget, that VR is absolutely new territory for most of the market – there’s no content, no developers, nothing.
In my last post to the delay of Oculus Touch someone said, that “this time some big companies” are behind VR… so what? I like to compare VR gimmickness with 3D (and to one, who told me I can’t compare them – well, I can and do). Unfortunately for VR this also doesn’t mean anything good.
You see – when 3D was pushed into the market, every major company joined the push. Can you see the results? Do we live in 3D-only media world now? The answer is a resounding NO. Noone truly says that, but the last push of 3D was in many ways a flop, despite the pouring of billions of dollars and the push of all major companies – 3D remained quite a niche market. It has more or less of a success in cinemas, but outside of that – not much, it became a feature in TVs, but it is not so heavily utilized.

That’s why I think VR as a mass-consumer product is not going to happen, it will take some niches in gaming market, possibly something in movies and some simulated reality, but it is not going to revolutionize anything or become a must-have device. It is just a gimmick, which will take time to find a place in market, and will remain there.
I didn’t talk and do not want to talk about AR here, in my view it can truly change something, but it is completely another story and VR has nothing to do with it.

Ok, looks like that’s all. Please share your thoughts, but please refrain from telling me only “You are wrong. Period”, if you really see something I am wrong at – please provide your reasons to think so.
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Default 01-03-2016, 17:28 | posts: 5,514 | Location: EU, CZ, Brno

I wish I could just write TL;DR, but I did read it all with hope that your opinion is based on actual experience.
But you wrote about one fear and misconception after another.

When you go out and sit in the park, or in alley and look at environment around you, on trees, grass, life around and you close one of your eyes, what is difference in your perception?
That is what VR/stereoscopic 3D is about. Talking about IMAX/Cinema and stuff for masses when VR is personal experience...

My impression is that you want to screw together something with nails and hammer instead of using screws and screwdriver.

Edit: Bolded only argument needed here.

Last edited by Fox2232; 01-03-2016 at 17:49.
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Default 01-03-2016, 17:42 | posts: 574 | Location: Moscow, Russia

Fox2232, well, your impression is wrong, I am not doing what you think I do. I would really like to know what is so great about VR, which evidently I fail to see.
And thank you for not providing any argumentation.
May be I am viewing something differently, but my post lacks misconceptions, or at least I think so, because I was using only actual information while writing this. If you think they exist in my post - please point me to them.

I agree, that VR is a personal experience, but considering everything I wrote above, what does it change? Do you mean, that being a device for personal experience, it will somehow aleviate all the issues it currently faces as technology?
And by the way, despite what you think - I tried Oculus several times.

Last edited by SirDremor; 01-03-2016 at 17:50.
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Default 01-04-2016, 20:00 | posts: 560

Honestly don't see the point in your post, consumer VR will happen, while it might not become huge over night the train has already left the station and over the next few years it's only going to pick up steam,

there's so many great things that you can do with VR like imagine watching a film with your friend who lives on the otherside of the world but you can actually sit next to each other, imagine video conferencing in VR actually being able to interact in a 3d environment, imagine using VR to help perform medical procedures, that's just some of the areas VR is being used today,

nevermind gaming which IMO is one of the most immersive experiences and everyone i've shown Oculus to has been in absolute awe of how incredible it is to be inside a game not just looking at a screen, its science fiction come to life, only this morning I was looking at a VR suit that you can wear so you can actually feel things in VR, the whole thing blows my mind and really all your post does is put a negative spin on something that is incredible and is already revolutionizing the way we interact with technology.

Last edited by stereoman; 01-04-2016 at 20:22.
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Default 01-04-2016, 20:16 | posts: 2,265 | Location: Langley,B.C. Canada

You'll have to space that out a bit so it's not a wall of text before I read it.
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Default 01-04-2016, 20:38 | posts: 13,054 | Location: Toledo Ohio

I'm gonna go ahead and just shut this one down, so there aren't any wars started.
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