2018 was the year of wireless VR helmets for the virtual reality market. In 2018, several new devices from leading manufacturers were launched on the market, such as the Oculus Go Helmet, Xiaomi in collaboration with Oculus with Mi VR, HTC and their Vive Focus solution, the Lenovo Mirage Solo based on the Google Daydream platform, and the Pico Goblin 2 based on HTC Vive Wave.
Developers are actively participating in filling stores with content compatible with universal wireless VR helmets. According to estimates by the International Data Corporation, more than a million such devices were sold in 2018, a significant number of which was sold in China and as B2B deliveries for corporations. One of the largest contracts was Walmart’s purchase of 17,000 Oculus Go helmets for employee training. However, the total volume of devices sold is still small.
Nevertheless, the VR industry made an important step in 2018, confirming the absence of wires for connecting to a PC as one of the key characteristics of the universal VR helmet, which will finally become a mass product. One of the most positive trends will continue in 2019: the largest manufacturers will release new devices, some of which have already been announced and even presented to the public in the framework of demos.
This suggests that manufacturers such as Oculus and Valve still have plans related to the development and popularization of virtual reality. However, the strategies of these two companies differ significantly.
Wireless VR Helmet Generation
For Oculus, which has been a subsidiary of Facebook since 2014, the highest priority is the development of its own application store: Oculus Store. In order to increase its user base, the company is launching new devices on the market in an affordable price range.
The new Oculus Quest stand-alone VR helmet was released on May 21. It is equipped with Insights tracking, which is an inside-out tracking technology that follows the position of an object without external sensors. For the first time, the Oculus Quest stand-alone helmet will be supplied with motion controllers with six degrees of freedom (6DOF), which, unlike 3DOF, as in Oculus Go, have not only rotational but also positional tracking.
Oculus Quest will likely become available to customers in the summer of 2019, and will become a full-fledged gaming VR console. At the start of sales, 50+ games are expected to be compatible with the device, including the most popular among fans of VR content: Superhot and Beat Saber. Quest sales revenues obviously will not be able to cover the costs associated with the development and production of a helmet. Nevertheless, the release of the device and its positioning as a “game console” is one of the most anticipated events in the VR market in 2019.
Another new product that Oculus will potentially present to the public in 2019 may be the updated VR helmet for Oculus Rift S. According to TechCrunch, the device will use the same inside-out tracking system as Oculus Quest: Insights. Additional details about the new generation of Rift, including the cost of the device, have not been disclosed at this time. However, the potentially more convenient, affordably priced, high-quality VR setup for PC from Oculus is fully consistent with the strategy of increasing the Oculus Store user base.
Vive Pro Eye and Vive Cosmos
The main newsmaker of the latest Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which was held in Las Vegas in January, was HTC. The company presented two new devices planned for release in 2019: the Vive Pro Eye helmet with user eye tracking, and a new Vive Cosmos device.
For now, Cosmos works connected to a PC. In the future, its work will be possible in conjunction with a mobile device, which indicates the company’s plans with 5G and cloud computing.
Obviously, HTC is distancing itself from Valve’s development: unlike Vive and Vive Pro, which used Valve’s Lighthouse tracking, Cosmos will be equipped with its own inside-out tracking and Vive Reality ecosystem with the Viveport app store.
Previously, HTC used Valve’s SteamVR content platform for their helmets. SteamVR will also be supported by new devices, but the priority platform with content will be its own app store.
Migration of Popular VR Content to New Devices
2019 will be an intermediate stage in the development of the VR industry. The key priority of this year is the adaptation of existing experiences in a new generation of devices as well as the development of new unique content units.
Developers are now preparing for the release of new devices that allow more possibilities for the placement of VR content. For instance, on Oculus, part of the content migrates from Oculus Go with new mechanics through the use of 6DOF-controllers. One of these products will be a new set of horror movies: Face Your Fears from Turtle Rock. The VR-experience portal, which was released in the second half of 2018 in the Oculus Store, HTC Viveport, and Xiaomi Mi VR store platforms, will be improved in 2019 with new and advanced content.
Speaking of VR content, NetVRk is proud to state that its VR blockchain-based platform provides limitless possibilities for the creation of new content. VR fans, gamers, designers, and crypto-enthusiasts can actually build their own virtual universe, own virtual real estate, socialize, and even earn money there. The experience is all-in-one: create or find content, buy land and trade it, and download your own audio files. NetVRk strives to open up new and interesting horizons for VR users to create, share, and monetize generated content, and find adventures in which they can immerse themselves.
Valve is Developing a New-Generation VR Helmet
One of the main issues remains the closed development of Valve for the production of a full-fledged custom VR-helmet for PC under its own brand. At the end of last year, discussions of such plans began to appear in the industry, supported by photographs of a prototype device with the Valve logo.
In case these rumors are confirmed, the market could see the most technologically advanced device with the largest viewing angle (FOV) of 135 degrees, similar to the Vive Pro resolution, updated Lighthouse 2.0 tracking, and content from SteamVR with three new big games, including the highly anticipated Half-Life VR.
The helmet from Valve could be a key device, and will be related to the category of “second-generation” VR-devices. With regard to its release, the only way for Oculus Rift S to withstand the competition will be a significant price reduction.
The industry is in anticipation of further news from Valve, which could be the most joyful event for VR in 2019.
The Development of VR Amusement Parks
The amusement park industry in VR is also evolving toward unique quality experiences. Companies that provide parks with content available for home use on SteamVR have trouble surviving. One example is the recent shutdown of the VR department at IMAX. However, there are some good examples. A few years ago, China took another step forward by creating a theme park dedicated exclusively to virtual reality. Originally called the Eastern Valley of Science Fiction, it was renamed before opening as the VR Star theme park in 2018. The VR Star Theme Park cost approximately $1.5 billion for construction and accommodation in Guizhou, a province in southwestern China.
Market players who manage to provide visitors with a unique multiplayer experience at an affordable price will continue to see positive development in 2019. The technological component in the equipment of VR amusement parks will also play a significant role. New controllers, tracking systems, and other devices will appear on the market. In the future, VR parks will have to scale with lower costs and give visitors a high-quality experience without delay when moving between the physical and VR environments, ensuring complete immersion.
We can safely state that the determining factor for the further development of the VR industry is the technological component of a new generation of devices. To achieve the first true mass consumer device, it will be necessary to go through a number of intermediate stages.
The defining role in the current stage in 2019 will be played by Oculus and Valve, which, in three to five years, should lead to the devices that will give the market the necessary growth driver. The development of 5G technology, the popularization of VR technology in the Asian market by HTC, and the creation of a full-fledged VR ecosystem are equally important elements of the development of the VR industry.
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