The True Cost of Virtual Reality

Or: How I Rationalized Spending $1,800

The world is a silly place. We have amazing wonders surrounding us every second of every day. We are able to speak with people on the other side of the globe while seeing an airplane soar above our head. We can witness medical miracles and humans trying to make a real connection. Life really is beautiful. So why is technology striving to take us to a place outside of reality? Because it’s effing amazing, that’s why.

Virtual Reality is in a funny place right now. It’s one of the best forms of entertainment, yet it’s nearly impossible to be adopted by the average person. There seems to be an endless list of hurdles one must jeté over in order to get a consistently functioning VR setup: adequate space, a powerful enough PC (or any PC for that matter), disposable income, and an unusual amount of patience to deal with Windows 10. While this is not an exhaustive list, I am still left exhausted thinking about all of this. The question is, is this all worth it? Take a look at my hella-pregnant wife and tell me what you think.

My wife (who is seven months pregnant here) is thrilled to be playing Beat Saber. She is not thrilled that I included this gif.

While these are all obstacles I had to persevere through, they never felt like the true sacrifice. What was I giving up to invest in this? Was it the money? The energy? Ultimately it was the time.

I am incredibly selfish with my time. This is not ideal since I have a full-time career, a wife, 2.8 children (see above), and a hobby I obsess over (which is board games, but we’ll save that for another article). Was I willing to sacrifice the time needed to get into VR? There was only one way to find out.

Bob (Jacob) the Builder

Let’s talk about the experience of getting into VR. First the stage needs to be set. I am a life-long Mac user who has never needed to work on a PC, let alone build one. But in order to get the quaility I needed this was about to change. This was completely new territory for me. For those already into PC gaming this wouldn’t be an issue. Luckily, my good friend was the latter and was more than willing to help a console-playing neanderthal.

Wait, I’m expected to put these together like some sort of hi-tech Lego set? Who can I pay to do this for me?

I had no idea what went into building a PC. Learning how to do it was equal parts exciting and expensive. My appreciation for the all-in-one Apple computer grew exponentially during this. I understand how building a PC could be a great hobby, but I was already comfortable with my instant-gratification expectations of a computer. This was a massive hurdle that my friend was able to hurl me over.

While building the computer was indeed enjoyable (it booted up on the first try), it definitely took more time than I think would be acceptable for the layman. How can this be solved? Would an over-priced pre-built be worth it? This is a HUGE pain-point that would need to be solved before any mainstream adoption could take place.

Out with the old, in with the gimmicky

Another hard pill to swallow is choosing between multiple relatively expensive headsets. Hours of research went into choosing between the two main contenders right now: The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Both are strong contenders, making it hard to weigh the pros and cons of each. Ultimately I went with Rift due to its fantastic controllers and the fact that the Vive WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND at the time. Despite both being great in their own rights, they were essentially just gaming consoles; $400 Consoles without AAA games. Why are people buying them?

This was one of my biggest worries. Was I buying into a gimmick? Would the excitement fizzle out? Finding myself audibly giggling like an idiot in my basement when I first turned it on, I wasn't too worried. Would others not mind taking the time to grind through the junk to find the treasures? The trick now for either headset is to be supported by legit games. Not just fun little experiments.

How the (Wild) West was won

I repeat: Virtual Reality is in a funny place right now. It truely is the Wild West of technology. It’s exciting to think about where it will be in five years. The thoughts of it being in education, the medical field, or just another way to connect with people gets me GOING. Is all the effort and sacrifice going to be worth it?

Only time will tell.

The UX of VR explores the experience of virtual reality and how it impacts us. All products are provided by myself. No promotional consideration was given.

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