Great VR Expectations for 2018
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
I remember when I started out in VR content creation in 2016 people would frown and ask questions like “Is VR actually a thing?” and “So it’s like 3D?”. Now when I tell people that I work in VR they get genuinely excited. I’ve seen a clear shift in mindset with growing acceptance that VR is not just a fad anymore and is being taken more seriously.
This year VR will becomes more accessible to mass markets because of new and updated VR headsets and more mainstream content. Here’s what you can expect:
VR Headsets in 2018
In 2017 there were two basic types of VR headsets — mobile VR and high-end VR headsets. While mobile VR is affordable, it has limited functionality (since you’re essentially just slotting your phone into a headset that adapts the image). Whereas high-end VR headsets are more expensive and require a powerful PC to support higher resolutions and advanced interactivity. However, prices for the high-end headsets have been declining. In fact, one of the best things to happen in 2017 was price cuts of two of the main high-end headsets — the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (by USD 100 and 200 respectively).
Windows Mixed Reality Headsets
Now, we are finally seeing the emergence of the “mid-range” of VR headsets known as Windows Mixed Reality Headsets (WMR) that require a PC to run. Users are spoilt for choice with companies like Lenovo, Asus, Dell, HP, Samsung and Acer releasing their own versions.
The great thing is that they are all priced between USD 399–499. This may still seem on the high side BUT these headsets require significantly less graphics power than their high-end competitors, and can be run on PCs costing USD 500 or even on non-gaming laptops. Compare that with the Rift and HTC Vive compatible PCs which usually cost upwards of USD 1000 and you can see how VR is slowly becoming more affordable.
These headsets are also significantly easier to setup (literally plug and play) and don’t require cumbersome external cameras or sensors. Does this mean they work as well as their high end counterparts? Well, I recently tried Lenovo’s Explorer headset and was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked overall. I will definitely be purchasing a WMR headset this year, I’m just not sure which one yet.
Something else we can expect to see in 2018 are standalone VR headsets — these are headsets that don’t require any cables or even a PC to plug it into. They are literally an all in one device with the processors built into the headset itself. Just put it on and you’re in VR.
HTC recently announced theVive Focus (currently available in China only) and Lenovo, Xiaomi and Google are planning releases of their own standalones later in the year. I haven’t tried any of these so really can’t comment on what the experience will be like.
There will definitely be more VR content released in 2018. I expect more wide-appeal live action content especially with major organisations like theOlympic Games committing to VR coverage with NBC for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The NBA is also following suit with a partnership with Turner and Intel to broadcast games in VR. At the tail end of 2017 Discovery also announced its biggest VR project to date, a globe-spanning travel series in partnership with Google. To top it off, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will be producing 6 VR videos highlighting select WWE events this year.
In my opinion sports events are ideal in VR. They have an inbuilt fan base who are keen to experience the events as immersively as possible. What NFL fan wouldn’t want to watch the Superbowl as if they were actually there? Or the FIFA World Cup? Or have courtside seats at the NBA Finals? I wouldn’t be surprised if other major sports organizations and television networks start to follow suit this year.
I also anticipate we’ll see more dynamic VR animated content.
Animation doesn’t have the restrictions of live action VR (eg no bulky cameras to film, no need to figure out how to hide film equipment such as lights and mikes from your shot, etc) and I feel it can give us more innovative and exciting fiction content. Award-winning animated short VR films such as Henry, Pearl and Arden’s Wake by the few VR-focused studios are just the tip of the iceberg. And of course [WARNING: SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT], you have specialized studios such as mine, working on cutting edge sci-fi animation.
Change in Mindset
As I said at the start of this blog, from personal experience, I have seen a very clear shift in mindset especially during business meetings in the last quarter of 2017. VR is no longer a curiosity. Over the past year I’ve heard a shift in tone from basic questions like “What is VR?” to significantly more mature discussions on production processes and distribution options to meet business needs. VR is no longer the future, it’s here. So I guess the only question is, which headset will you be buying?