Whatever pun you choose, the virtual reality industry has some explaining to do after this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, during which the biggest product announcements can largely be categorized as “more of the same.”
Consider computer maker Lenovo, which showed off a VR headset whose primary selling point is that it’s cheaper than competitors like the $599 Oculus Rift from Facebook or the $799 HTC Vive — though Lenovo isn’t discussing prices yet and the prototype on display doesn’t actually work.
There’s also Osterhout Design Group, which showed a new pair of smart glasses, powered by Google’s Android phone software and using the newest chips from Qualcomm. The glasses were supposed to be the latest entrant in the world of AR, or augmented reality, layering computer images on the real world you’re looking at. (Think Pokemon Go.) But you’d be forgiven if you confused them with last year’s model, though they promise better performance and visuals. It’ll launch by midyear, costing as much as $1,500.
Even Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, which is developing its own VR headset, gave a presentation using nearly year-old devices from Facebook’s Oculus.
But a tour of the show floor, littered with companies offering their take on basically the same tech, seems like an indicator the industry’s virtually running out of new ideas just as it’s finally arriving on store shelves.
And that’s a real shame.
This raises the question, is VR just a flash in the pan like so many other technologies that died when the tech bubble burst? Has the ERC invested in slowly expiring bubble?