VRLA hosted its Winter Fest on Jan 23rd I am pleased to report that the event was overwhelmingly successful, both for the fans and the event organizers. The show was sold-out weeks before the doors opened. Here are my key takeaways from this event:
VR is definitely here to Stay
Contrary to some public opinion, Virtual reality is here to stay and the momentum is bound to increase exponentially this year. The conference floor was so jam packed that there was hardly any elbow room. I wish the organizers had planned for a larger space. All the Demos were solidly booked within 10 mins of the announcement. I was lucky to experience a few but the lines for the demos were huge. One would think that the event would only attract the typical gamers, but trust me when I say that the audience was very diverse. I saw and met folks from different facets of life with different ideas exploring the possibilities of Virtual Reality. What is even more interesting is the number of eight to ten year olds that I saw trying out the different game demos along with their parents.
Mobile VR is up and Running
When I tallied the number of vendors on the conference floor, a good 40 – 50% of the vendors were highlighting some amazing content using Gear VR. I had not seen so many Gear VRs in one space up until that point. One aspect of mobile VR that users have complained in the past was the lack of controllers or camera feedback systems to enhance the experience. It was interesting to see some of the companies exploring this opportunity with innovative offerings.
One particular example of a niche product in this segment was VicoVR. No Cables required from your Gear VR for this experience. Simply place two little cameras that track your motion via Bluetooth in front of you and enjoy an experience that allows you to move your arms and throw punches. VicoVR also comes with plugins for Unity 3D and Unreal Engine. Although there was a little lag in the experience, I think this is one of the product that will be a game changing Bluetooth accessory that brings full body tracking to Mobile Virtual Reality.
The second headset that I saw in the space was differentiating its product with the claim that it did not need a cell phone to power your VR experience. Simlens is an all-in-one VR headset with 120°FOV,Full Size Theater Mode Movie,60Hz, 4300mAh battery and allows for 6 hours of video playtime. I would consider it more as an entry level headset that has its own native content. Nevertheless the idea is indeed interesting.
The Controllers marketplace
There is no denying the fact that the handheld controllers are going to play a big role in active VR gaming especially the first person shooter type games. I firmly believe that controllers are going to evolve into a niche product category on its own. It was cool to experience the controller offering from Sixence which allowed you to virtually draw arrows and shoot at targets in the game. Having experienced Oculus ‘s controllers, I can safely say without much controversy that these are awesome for active VR gaming.
The ergonomic design around its trigger type switch lend itself very well when I experienced a first person shooter game powered via Oculus and Nvdia’s GTX 980 cards.
Business to Business Offerings
There were also quite a few vendors that were offering B2B services in this emerging area. Services varied from developing content for corporate training purposes to curating content for 360 production houses. A suite of offerings around VR/360 Video workflow Solutions was being offered by 360 Heroes. The service is intended to empower content creators.
Second iteration of Headsets in the making
Just when we thought that the resolution baselines have been established by the likes of Oculus and HTC, it was amazing to see the line of people waiting to experience the Star VR,
which promises higher resolution rates in the future via its use of Fresnel lenses and dual HD Panels. They are also optimizing the headset to use Position tracking.
In Summary, I think that the Mobile VR products and related offerings are growing exponentially. This segment is not only trying to create value from an entertainment perspective but is also offering a lot of promise when it comes to educational offerings via content producers such as Unimersiv. Vendors are trying to experiment around creating value by integrating different bluetooth powered devices to provide more immersive experiences. The growth trend is likely to continue when it comes to this mobile segment. The barriers to entry for PC based VR are still high because of the pricing issues. This segment tends to attract the more serious gamers and a good number of folks may actually wait for the prices to drop before they acquire the technology.