The Virtual Reality market is anything but real yet, though that hasn’t stopped companies from spending billions of dollars to compete in it. Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR closed recently, and that’s a good moment to take a look at this business where we still don’t have products on the market. There’s no lack of excitement among various companies, though, and the maneuvering is already beginning to be in position to grab the biggest part of the VR market — however big the overall market will be.
Google’s entry is a low-tech one so far, with the Cardboard VR device announced at Google I O in June. Sure, it’s more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but it actually does provide some of the elements of a VR experience — for a very small price, and to pretty good reviews. We already know Google is experimenting with computing devices on your face with Google Glass — it’s not too much of a leap to think the company is considering a step into VR, where there’s so much excitement. Google’s Project Tango has obvious applications to VR. Maybe we’ll see something more come from this in the VR space.
Meanwhile, Samsung is reportedly working with Oculus VR to get help with Samsung’s “Gear VR” headset, which uses a mobile device as the screen instead of a dedicated headset. Engadget says they’ve heard “very positive things” about the Samsung device. “Though our sources only experienced a few demos, they repeatedly described them as ‘impressive,’ specifically with the caveat ‘for a phone,'” noted Engadget.
Sony’s Project Morpheus ha sattracted a lot of attention from its slick design and use of PlayStation Move controllers, as well as the fact that it’s powered by a PlayStation 4. Still, even Sony admits that it’s ultimately about the experiences the hardware can deliver (in their case, they’re looking at games), and the company is working to develop some games to see just how compelling an experience this can deliver.
The target that Oculus VR is shooting for is on a different level, though — similar to what Michael Abrash discussed for Valve, before he left to join Oculus as chief scientist (see above). The headset would need to be connected to a PC, because the amount of computing required is substantial for the graphics specifications that Oculus is looking to hit. It’s going to make the headset something that’s not self-contained, at least not for a while. However, the Oculus is looking more substantial now that Facebook is throwing its weight behind it. Oculus now has a publishing effort, led by veteran Jason Rubin, and that should result in some excellent content for the device.
For now, though, we still have no idea of the pricing for VR hardware or software, or even when the devices will begin to hit the market. It’s something to watch, but it’s not going to have an effect this year. 2015 may be a different story.