2016 — The year of VR. Or is it?

The Lawnmower Man — 1992, New Line Cinema

Virtual Reality or VR isn’t a new thing. It’s been around for a while. They even made a movie about it way back in ’92. I remember it well. So VR has being bungling along in the background without really breaking through to the mainstream for quite some time. Like the Segway really.

But in the last 18 months VR has become the hottest thing for just about everyone. And it’s not just because of the virtual environments, but also the huge popularity that 360 video is experiencing now too. So when you couple this with the fact that Facebook bought out the great hope of VR, Oculus Rift, last year it’s not hard to see why everyone is saying that 2016 is the year of VR.

Not me though. Because I’m really quite cynical about these things. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that VR is going to go global at some point, but I just really don’t think 2016 is the year its going to happen.

But why don’t I think it’ll be a thing? Well there’s three main reasons.

It’s F**king Expensive

Let’s look at the Sony Playstation VR set.

It’s really quite nice to look at, and with all things Sony you can be pretty sure the quality and the user experience will be nothing short of amazing. And it’s because it’s Sony you can expect it to be expensive.

And so it is at, £349rrp. Now that in itself is actually not that unreasonable when compared to it’s rivals. But lets not forget that you need a PS4 to work it. So that’s another what, £300? Oh and the special controllers, which aren’t actually necessary to work it, but at £39 sure you might as well. So the total cost is actually £688. Translate that to euro and add on the usual premium we get charged here because, well Ireland, and it’s going to be the guts of €900!

And then there are the games that you’ll need to shell out for in order to make the most of it. How much will they be? £50, £60? So yeah, not cheap.

And the Rift? That’s going to cost you €699 plus the pretty high end PC you’ll need to run it from.

The Content

There is already loads of content out there that is VR. There’s also loads of 360 video content (can we stop lumping the two under VR please?) but is there enough of it to push VR over the edge? The virtual stuff isn’t cheap to make — like anything computer generated — so it’s going to take a while before we start seeing a constant stream of high quality content.

360 video is much less expensive to make thanks to the likes of GoPro. The rigs aren’t cheap for your average joe, but for production companies they’re going to become an important piece of kit so it’s a cost they will write off against future earnings.

Yes, there are some really cool 360 videos out there. But is there enough for us all to run out and buy an Oculus Rift at €699? Eh, no.

So basically there isn’t enough content out there. Yet.

I tell you who is going to make hay here though. The Porn industry. Because when it comes to new viewing experiences, the Porn industry are usually the ones who figure it out pretty quickly. Pornhub, for example, have already launched a 360 channel.

Virtual Reality Sickness

Don’t laugh, this is a thing. And if you’ve used a VR device and suffered from it you’ll know that sickening feeling that you’re going to lose your lunch. It’s really not pleasant and it’s caused by bad frame rates and all sorts of other reasons.

I’ve read articles where it’s said that for most you can get over it after a few days of using it. But who wants to feel like sh*t for a few days? There are other things that you can do to mitigate it also apparently, like sitting down when in the environment. But the problem isn’t really that it happens, it’s the unknown quantity behind it. Who will it affect? How bad is it? Can you make it stop by staring off into the horizon whilst waiting for a cool breeze to blow in from the north?

Until the developers and manufacturers can say with absolute conviction that you won’t get sick, a lot of people will hold off on shelling out their cash.

So there you have it. I’m putting my hand up and saying I think that VR isn’t going to explode the way everyone says it will in 2016. And if we’re looking for a metric to measure ‘explode’ by then I say we use maybe Facebook Video or Snapchat Video, because they exploded.

VR will become a big thing. You can bet on it. People like Mark Zuckerberg don’t stand up in front of the world and claim it as the next leap in communications lightly. But in 2016 VR is reportedly going to have a market revenue of half a billion dollars. Can you really say then, that 2016 is the year of VR? Not in my book.

You know how I’ll know VR has broken through. When one of my friends has one. One of my smart TV, console, smartphone, tablet owning friends. You know how many have one or are talking about getting one. Zero.

Could I be wrong? Of course I could. I see articles every day that make me doubt my view. And I’m not going to hide from it if I am.