Will Virtual Reality Ever Break Into The Mainstream?

January 31, 2018Diana Lengerson

According to many pundits, Virtual Reality (VR) is going to be the next big thing.

The only problem is that VR has been touted as being the next big thing for over three decades now.


Virtual Reality – it’s been around as long as Marty McFly

It was back in 1985 when Jaron Lanier left Atari and founded VPL Research Inc., the first company to sell VR goggles and data gloves. Since then, Lanier and a myriad of other visionaries have promised that one day we will have access to a virtual world where we can see, hear, touch and interact with 3D objects.


It’s funny to think that Lanier started his work the same year that Back to the Future came out, and yet these days we probably know more people who own a hoverboard, than own a set of VR goggles.

Why hasn’t VR made the headway into the consumer market that the pundits predicted?

Does the future suggest VR can become an everyday experience, or is it destined to go the way of the radio newspaper and cat translator?

Well, it should be said that VR plays a crucial role in several business areas right now.

For example, VR is increasingly being used as a training tool for medical students and air force pilots. The technology is also helping engineers and architects realize their grand plans by allowing them to visualize finished buildings and products.

However, none of these applications are in the consumer market.


Why has VR failed to make it big among consumers?

Complaints about headaches and disorientation, the impracticality of wearing the goggles in daily life, plus the inherent weirdness of being blocked off from seeing the person next to you, all have conspired against the mass adoption of VR in consumer applications.

This (in)famously Orwellian image of Mark Zuckerberg marching cheerfully past an audience of Oculus Rift wearers also did little help the VR cause.

However, there are a few consumer products which might well be perfectly suited to the VR experience.

Typically, these will involve activities which take place at home, alone, and currently involve the user interacting with a computer screen.


Gaming and gambling seem to be VR friendly

The adult entertainment industry is an obvious place where VR experience may be a useful addition, but the video game and online casino worlds should also be prime candidates for this kind of technology.

In fact, the gambling industry is already dipping its toe into the VR niche.

There is the intriguing possibility of customers donning a pair of VR goggles and then entering a casino where they can play poker against other users, blackjack against a virtual dealer, and spinning slot machines just like they do in Vegas.

Several online casinos listed on John Slots are already embracing VR as a technology, with the Barcelona-based Slotsmillion experimenting with a virtual gameroom offering some 40+ slots.

Although the graphics aren’t totally convincing just yet, customers can enter a realistic casino, and on the 80th floor, lookout over the Vegas strip. When we tried it, we even saw a 747 coming into land.

It’s a fun experience for sure, and much more immersive than the usual online casino, and if they can improve on the graphics and perhaps allow for more interaction between players, then we can see how this may be the way we enjoy a casino trip in the future.


How big could VR realistically become?

Due to the immersive nature of VR, there must surely be limits to how many consumer markets the technology can safely penetrate.

Even in video gaming, which is surely the one industry which seems to perfectly lend itself to donning a pair of goggles, we see slow take-up of VR.

First-person shooter games and sports titles both seem to create headaches in players.  

The gaming experiences that seem to be most enjoyable on VR headsets are those with a fixed-point camera perspective, and those just aren’t the big sellers in the gaming world.

Most consumers face spending $700 on a piece of technology which may or may not make them sick. Then they will need to spend more money on a PC that’ll cope with the memory-hungry software.

And at the end of this hefty outlay, they will only be able to play bespoke titles such as Lucky’s Tale and Defense Grid 2.

Not exactly an enticing choice.

Will VR make a dent in the consumer market, then?

Probably in the casino market, and if they can iron out the technical limitations and lower the price point, then it might make sense for gamers too.

But ultimately, we feel that VR is just one step too much into weirdness.

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