It has been a long journey from the DK and CV1 days up to the current time where Quest 2 is the flagship HMD heading up VR’s mainstream adoption. Over the years there has been a lot of analysis about:
Everything from mobile to console to PC has been argued and analyzed every which way possible (and some debates even venture in to the realm of “not possible”). This discussion is definitely NONE of that.
What I’m most interested in is trying to understand the true (emphasis on “true”) journey that specifically led to the state we’re in today where Stand-Alone/Hybrid VR is leading the charge, and becoming the go-to HMD for mainstream audiences of both MobileVR and PCVR.
Note that determining which experience is better is completely off-topic.
The way I see it…
In the beginning, the primary goal for VR was to speed up adoption.
So let’s analyze “adoption.” We know that everyone has some type of computer in their home today. Whether it be a Desktop, Laptop, Smart Phone, Smart Tablet, or even some form of A.I. like Google Home and Alexa. While these are not computers themselves, they are gateways to computers as they talk to APIs which run on computer systems.
However, looking at the history of computer-in-the-home adoption, it took many long years. First computers entered the military and government. Then corporations. Then our schools. Then our homes.
All this spanning a timeline measured in decades.
Clearly, the goal for VR was to achieve the same thing (have a VR headset in billions of homes across the globe); only the achievement needed to happen much, much sooner than the adoption of the computer-in-the-home.
But how could that be done? It seems to me that VR began by relying on that “gotcha” experience. Putting on a VR HMD for the first time is clearly a mind-blowing moment. And it is in that moment that the “gotcha” happens; where clearly the Industry was hoping there would be enough “gotchas” to make everyone run out to buy a Rift or a Vive (as these were the first consumer releases on the market).
But that didn’t happen. We’ve also seen attempts at this “gotcha” moment with using VR HMD’s at Theme Parks and Arcades. While fun, they also didn’t have the effect of causing people to run out to purchase a headset by the hundreds of millions.
The question is… why? Thanks to the advantage of hindsight, I firmly believe that the reason is due to VR being utilized in these more child-like ways. Apologies if that comes across negative. I love gaming and theme parks, but I am also honest with myself by admitting that those are things I relish due to my “inner child.” Going back to the history of mass computer-in-the-home adoption: It was certainly NOT “child-like” things that caused it. We weren’t using computers at work and school solely for childish purposes. There was productivity and life enhancing value coming from computers. Thus a need, and a market, was created for the home computer as a means to “enhance the quality of life.”
And that’s the key, I believe: VR will get those billions of users when it can actually improve one’s quality of life.
Which brings us to the current state: Oculus Quest. The more childish aspects of VR are still present, but they are not the long-term goal. Facebook is focusing on both Social and Workplace experiences. Facebook is trying (they aren’t there yet) to demonstrate how VR can enhance Social experiences in ways that are revolutionary; and they are trying to have breakthroughs in VR at the Workplace to change how industry and teams operate.
So if (this is a big “if”) Facebook is successful in showing that using VR for Social Experiences and Workplace innovation truly does improve the overall quality of life… then we’ve hit the real target. This is what puts us on the proper path to get VR in hundreds of millions, even billions, of homes.
Quest 2 is the flagship VR HMD not just for Oculus and Facebook, but for the VR Industry as a whole, because it is best suited to achieve exactly that. The “hybrid” approach gives it the flexibility to go between gaming/entertainment and social/worklife productivity.
This feels like one of those moments where everything happened in reverse. We launched with powerful PCVR HMDs that were ready to play great VR video games, but we should have waited until there was a market for that; by waiting until hundreds of millions of homes had a VR HMD. If we had launched with the Quest first and later evolved into a Rift, then - in all likelihood - this post would be about a plethora of PCVR AAA titles that are so vast in number that I’d never be able to play them all in one lifetime.
Similar to how beastly pc gaming rigs came long after Windows 3.1 was already in people’s homes.
In hindsight, it does make sense to have something like the Quest being the flagship HMD. Relying on a “wow factor” and “gotcha” moment has never been good enough to launch any industry into global status. It is always about necessity and quality of life. And finally, after 6 years of mainstream VR, we seem to be on the correct course.
Or maybe I'm wrong. There's always that!
Happy immersing, folks!
You raise an interesting point. While my interest in VR was originally stoked back in the 90's when Newton's Apple did a segment on VR, it wasn't really games that drew me in. Yes, I do play the games. And enjoy the hell out of them. But I wanted VR because it is Virtual Reality, and I'd had that itch to be able to explore other places without ever leaving my home. Anime like Dot Hack//Sign made me eager to experience such a thing for myself.
When I got my PCVR I spent a lot of time playing Tetris Effect in VR, spent some time playing Arizona Sunshine, RE7, and Batman Arkham VR. But other then Tetris Effect I mostly didn't use it too often. I got my initial Quest last year. And with that I picked up Beat Saber, which I play regularly as a workout. Re-bought Arizona Sunshine and have even more fun with it on the Quest. Picked up various other games too. But you know what really wowed me? What kept me coming back again and again? It's not the games. It's watching tv on a movie screen with new friends. It's watching the Mars 2020 launch, while having a conversation about the future of space exploration and how VR interactions are surprisingly immersive. It's attending a gaming convention on Mars. It's having actual social interaction with real people. People I can see, who I can hear, and who visibly emote while they are talking. And not just a canned animation either, but actual unconscious emoting. When they shrug, I see them shrug. When they gesture wildly or point at something, they actually do so. And I see it.
Another thing I've spent far more time doing then seems reasonable is... my normal online browsing, but in an exotic locale. Maybe I feel like browsing my forums while sitting in Atlantis. Or in a faerie village. Or in the middle of a tropical rain forest. Or deep space. That is what Virtual Reality is to me. It's not the games, although they are part of it. It's the whole package. The social interactions, the ability to explore fantastical places, the ability to visit an art museum or spend time staring out the view ports on the international space station.
>"But that didn’t happen. We’ve also seen attempts at this “gotcha” moment with using VR HMD’s at Theme Parks and Arcades. While fun, they also didn’t have the effect of causing people to run out to purchase a headset by the hundreds of millions."
Totally agree, the Quest2 offers a much better platform to achieve and encourage millions of sales
The theme park and arcade are another market - can offer a marketing opportunity, but unless linked to a dedicated platform - like the failed Oculus Arena concept that was shown at Connect. There is no real reason for another market to attempt to sell a product. But it can sell an experience, it can sell a dream.
> But it can sell an experience, it can sell a dream.
Lately I'm afraid it is not. It is selling "arcade dream" (one time dream). And that is not "home every day dream". Same way as it was with first cinemas or first 3D cinemas. It was fun but not an "ordinary thing" as modern cinemas.
I think better way is "cheap hardware" and "business VR" for adoption. So people will not think "WoW it is VR!" but instead "ok, VR is an ordinary every day device like smartphone, but some of the soft/experience inside is WoW!" (like some of the films and not the cinema itself).
We have been lucky to get numbers of the returning audience to the entertainment sector in various territories, and we can see a strong interest in those "arcade dreams". I feel [as you would expect] that Out-of-Home entertainment has a lot to offer the growth of the technology.
That is obviously now not an interest of this corporation, and now they have officially distanced themselves from it it best to focus on what they have seen as the core business - selling a cheap, mid-performance system to achieve mainstream penetration by 2024.
This does not however mean that the other business opportunities have gone away, and possibly the paths will converge again - as we see with the launch of the new HP and HTC systems a drive for PCVR.
Thanks for the observations.
My take on this:
While quest 2 is the front runner and allows easy adoption. It was not the vehicle for adoption. We can all get into the weeds of talking resolution, frame rate, controller design tracking method etc... but the foundation was built with something most modern citizens carry in there pocket.
Smart phone technology is bricks and mortar as to how we got here. I don't think we should dismiss the attempts of google cardboard, or the other variants, that are now collecting dust.
From 360 pictures to youtube 360, to shovelware on smart phones. Much of the structure was learned over time from the smart phone platform.
LCD Screen large enough........Check
App distribution store.............check
Quest is the right course for the time being, but to be bold, i see quest as a bridge to something else.
As cellphones continue to evolve, i see oculus licensing technology, that integrates with smartphones.
Imagine, instead of selling vr to people at the cost of an app and a harness (less than 100) just think of the adoption.
Quest is going to drive it back to something like gear or cardboard. But having full vr experience at the cost of your cell phone and app and harness.
I think we all agree on that.
But this is one direction of three paths:
- Standalone - (mobileVR)
- PCVR - (PC or StreamedVR)
There is no one solution to fit all, and to be frank I think there is even a forth solution:
- MX - (AR/VR headset)
We really are at a point - you pay for how much you want to be immersed!
You were going fine until the last line.
We really are at a point - you pay for how much you want to be immersed!
Paying for immersion is a straw man argument, for lazy developers and others that parrot this.
If the programming is good enough, the story is good enough, controls are good enough, they bring you into immersion.
I can compare this to another hobby i come from which is cycling.
When i was cycling hardcore until life intervened, there would be a wide range of bikes and cyclists on ride. The "people that paid for speed" and the "paid for the best ride" were among the most horrible people to bike with. They arrive with there bike costing 20,000 usd, cycling outfit 1000 dollars, cycling computers 1,500 dollars.
What did they end up doing with all money they stare at there cycling computer the whole ride, then post for likes on social media.
As I see it, there are two main problems with PCVR. The first is the expense. It's hard to justify a $600-$1000 headset and a PC that costs $2000 or more just to dip your toe into VR. Unless you're already an enthusiast, this expense is a huge barrier. It's why I didn't get into VR until 2019 when I got my initial Playstation VR setup. And even if you were thinking of splashing that much cash to try VR out, what are you going to play? That first game or app needs to blow you away, or you'll feel like you wasted your money. Okay, yes, if you're PC is able to run VR then it can also run most pancake games on pretty high settings. But is that going to make you feel less like you wasted money on the VR headset?
The second problem is, of course, the sheer number of shovelware. It can be hard as hell to sift through all the badly made cash grabs and asset flips to find the stuff worth owning. Sure you have your Beat Sabers, Half Life: Alyx, and other well known apps. But then what? How is a potential new VR user to tell if a potential app is actually worth owning or if it's a nausea inducing nightmare?
Oculus and Facebook shifting away from expensive high end PCVR headsets to embrace more affordable stand alone/pc hybrid headsets may not help with the shovelware issue. Although the Quest app store does a decent job curating things. But the price point of $300-$400 is a lot more affordable. Suddenly it's closer to buying a new gaming console then it is to buying a used car.
Of course, the pandemic has changed a lot of things. And it's brought VR more into the public eye. The Quest 2 ads might be heavily stylized, but they are generating interest among people who were either not interested previously or not aware that VR exists. We're getting closer to VR being mainstream. And that's exciting to me. It's just a shame it took a global pandemic for this to happen.
> As cellphones continue to evolve, i see oculus licensing technology, that integrates with smartphones.
What type of integration? We already know that depending on some other company device is not good at all. You could listen to Carmack on how it was hard to integrate any new VR feature into other device/OS/driver. They have done lot's more then it was integrated. It slows VR development.
> Quest is the right course for the time being, but to be bold, i see quest as a bridge to something else.
I think it would lead to new device replacing smartphones entirely.
Smartphones have taken a lot from computers and laptops (Bluetooth, Battery and more were not developed for smartphones first of all). It was next computing platform then. And there were talk on "computer-smartphone integration". But not any more. Smartphone are independent of any computer integration now.
So VR device should become independent all-in-one "next computer" (with all features of a smartphone).