Virtual reality – computer-generated 3D environments, ranging from realistic to stunning to lands of wonderland – has been on the threshold of widespread acceptance for years, never to be taken for granted.
The pandemic was supposed to be a big moment for VR, offering a getaway for millions of blocked homes. The special headphones and gloves allow people to interact with the 360-degree, three-dimensional environment, making them look good for people stuck inside. But consumers preferred simpler and more affordable technologies like Zoom, Nintendo’s Switch, and streaming services like Netflix.
It’s the latest disappointment in an industry famous for stop-start advances.
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Patrick Susmilch, 33, an administrative assistant in Los Angeles, thought it was time for VR headphones after Lockdown began. He has a PlayStation and a Nintendo Switch and spent about a day and an hour and a half not being able to play outside hobbies like rock climbing in the early days of the Pandemic. He tested Oculus when it was a Kickstarter project in 2013, and thought it would be ready for the first time in 2020.
“I stayed here at home in LA,” he said. “Now I thought it should be time.”
Industry observers have been thinking the same thing for years. Facebook was very surprised by the first demonstrations at Oculus Rift in 2012, when the company bought $ 2 billion. Rivals like HTC Vive and Samsung’s Gear were launched in 2015. The Oculus Rift finally went on sale in 2016.
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But consumers have harmed the hardware: headphones cost hundreds of dollars, the same price as hundreds of video game consoles that support hundreds of games. Early VR headsets didn’t even seem to have essential games or services, such as web browsers for consumer computers or mobile Internet for iPhones. The high weight of the headphones, the slow software, and sometimes the tendency to cause nausea didn’t even make VR expire.
“It’s not easy trying to do a job with a 4-pound weight tied to your head,” Susmilch said. “And it doesn’t feel right to sweat the $ 400 electronics you bought directly.”
Facebook interrupted Rift last month. Recent devices have been more successful. It launched the $ 300 $ Oculus Quest 2 in October, a cheaper and more sophisticated $ 400 wireless version of the Oculus Quest. Facebook does not release sales figures, but says Quest 2 sales have been better than expected, and it has sold all of the previous ones together since it was launched.
The stand-alone headset does not need to be connected to a computer or game console, and is designed to play with two-hand controllers.
In a call to analysts in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg got Quest 2, which while still used for gaming, is increasingly being used for activities like fitness and virtual workplaces.
“I believe that augmented and virtual realities will allow for a deeper presence and social connection than any other platform, and will be an important part of the way we interact with computers in the future,” Zuckerberg said. It accounts for the bulk of overall R&D budget growth. “
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