Green Screen Review #26: VR Headsets Get Stuck on Shelves

Sales estimates fall for virtual-reality gear; internet users say they are ‘just not interested’

Virtual reality was supposed to be the next big thing, but headsets haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves. The question is, why?

There were $1.48 billion in VR hardware sales in 2016, according to SuperData Research. That is far from the $12.65 billion the research firm is forecasting for 2020. That estimate has come down, and there is still reason to question whether VR will get there.

In March, digital marketing research firm Thrive Analytics asked the question to internet users who weren’t interested in owning a VR headset. The survey, as summarized by eMarketer, showed many of the expected reasons: the headsets were too expensive, lack of virtual reality content and poor quality of what was out there, and fear of motion sickness.

The biggest chunk, some 53%, said they were “just not interested.” Perhaps actual reality is difficult enough.

Where is the compelling case for a device that blocks out the real world while providing a virtual world, that causes motion sickness in many people? Plus at the current stage of development just doesn’t deliver much beyond niche novelty content. I can see compelling cases for augmented reality using AeroGlass or some similar technology to display information in the eyesight of the user, while still being able to observe the real world. There is even a danger there, as we found out in the military cockpit, too much information and the mind become confused, it was essential to only provide the act on now information. How will the AR device know what information the user really needs at the moment?  More work needed before AR devices start flying off the shelf, or they will soon be stuck on the shelves with the VR devices.

About Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.
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3 Responses to Green Screen Review #26: VR Headsets Get Stuck on Shelves

  1. George Rebane says:

    Lots of intriguing concepts for VR gaming and even training – but no specific demand. And AR should be even easier to implement. because it has a more obvious usage area – maintenance and repair of systems/equipment for which robotic sensors and manipulanda still fall short. AR is ideal for the current marriage of machine and (marginally trained) human, but it needs the introduction of a ‘killer app’ to solve the chicken/egg problem, just like the spreadsheet did for the intro of PCs in the 1980 era.


  2. Stu says:

    Attending the increasing misnamed National Association of Broadcasters convention last month there was some VR – there is a company that makes liquid cooled overclocked massive CPU and GPU desktop “super computers” – coupled with 2k per eye headset and “3d” headphones that still can not “keep up” with any abrupt movement – at that is with a lot of pre-rendered content.

    There is an interesting “walk the plank” VR demonstration – there is a board between the top of two skyscrapers that you’re supposed to walk across that is extremely difficult.

    However, it’s a long ways to go to get the massive graphical computation power required to process a realistic rendering in real time for free moving POV in an enclosed space, The headsets need to have at least 4k per eyeball resolution, audio processing and headphones need a lot more work and then VR goves, motion capture, sensors etc – and then the storage and processing

    The only thing I see currently viable is the drone racing crowd and there it’s not VR as such and resolution is not as critical.


    • Russ says:

      Thanks for the first person insight. VR and AR have a long way to go before they become as ubiquitous as smartphones. It will be long after I am around to experience the event.


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