The Virtual Reality (VR) landscape is constantly evolving and improving. After a relatively quiet summer — outside of the Oculus Quest release! — we have a slew of news to start the Fall. We’ll walk you through the top VR headset news stories of the last two months below.
But first, a quick update on the general situation in the headset world. First off, some of the early major players like Google, Apple, and Samsung seem to be taking a step back. Google is discontinuing Daydream (more on that below), Apple seems to be focusing most of its efforts on AR, and Samsung is doing very little promotion of Gear VR despite launching a new phone line. That last development isn’t too big of a shocker, given Gear VR requires Oculus technology running on a Samsung phone, an untenable long-term arrangement given Oculus’ own focus on VR headsets.
Speaking of Oculus, a lot of headset news coming from their offices (more on that below). After buying the company for $2 Billion in 2014, it’s not surprising Facebook is investing heavily in Oculus’ success. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been a big proponent of the technology. Yet we’ve seen big acquisitions at other companies lead to stagnation, so it’s good to see all the recent news out of Oculus.
Oculus is the unquestioned leader in sales for mobile standalone VR headsets. While much of their marketing and development to date has been geared towards consumers, it’s clear they have an eye on enterprises too (for instance, at OC6 they had speakers from Walmart and Johnson & Johnson). Clients will definitely want to follow Oculus news for the coming year, even if you’ve already invested in a particular headset.
Without further adieu, below are the Fall VR headset updates we think will matter the most to you…
It’s worthwhile to read our full recap of last month’s Oculus Connect 6. One piece of big news for our clients was the announcement of optional tethering of the Quest to a PC. Why does that matter? It allows you to run more powerful VR experiences, similar to what you can do currently on the Rift S. It also extends your storage limitation beyond the 128 GB of the most powerful Quest. This move likely suggests more development effort for the Quest, with Rift taking a back seat.
There was also the OC6 announcement of future hand gesture recognition by the Quest (estimated date: early 2020). We have many clients who likely will be interested in this, as they have VR app users who are unaccustomed to or don’t want to use hand controllers. It makes virtual reality more lifelike and is highly anticipated.
Since OC6, there’s been even more news though. For instance, a new firmware update allows the Quest to run as a standard 3 Degrees of Freedom (3 DoF) headset, similar to Oculus Go. When would you choose to use this feature? If the VR experience you’ve filmed is really only meant for 3 DoF anyway, since switching to this mode will reduce your battery use.
There’s also the imminent launch of Oculus for Business. This allows for easier management and deployment of fleets of Quests, which is great if you’re using VR for large scale employee training or sales presentations.
All-in-all, Oculus Quest is the headset gaining the most traction with our clients. And these updates are all generally good and push the platform forward. Stay tuned for even more updates from Oculus hopefully after the start of the new year!
Though we haven’t publicly announced our support of the Varjo, our development team is hard at work to enable our enterprise clients to publish to this exciting headset. For those unfamiliar, the Varjo comes from a team in Finland, and contains amazing clarity — what their marketing team deems “Human-eye Resolution.” The 1st generation VR-1 has mainly been targeted at companies with specific high-demand use cases such as AEC presentations or flight simulators. For a full rundown on the Varjo, we suggest this UploadVR article.
This month saw the launch of the VR-2. They’ve managed to improve upon the already strong visual presentation, particularly along the periphery of the main interior focus points. They’ve also added a premium VR-2 Pro option, whose main selling point is hand-tracking (similar to that mentioned above, that Quest is rolling out next year).
Despite improvements, the VR-2 will have the same price point as VR-1 ($5K base price for the headset, $800 for the required software license, and additional $ for base stations and controllers). The pricing is not cheap, but the results are significant for industries where visual precision is necessary. If you’ve waited to see what improvements would come beyond their flagship headset at launch, you’ll be rewarded with the VR-2. Expect more news from Varjo in the coming months — they’re becoming very active on the marketing & PR front and have taken in over $30MM USD in funding.
A bit of sad news as Google recently announced it will no longer be supporting or promoting its Daydream platform or headsets. As such, InstaVR will likewise stop supporting the headset prior to the start of the new year.
Google Daydream was simultaneously launched with the Google Pixel phone line, initially exclusively only working with that phone. That marketing approach failed to materialize much interest, as initial Pixel and Daydream sales underwhelmed. New Pixel models have garnered much better reviews and sales, but the latest iteration of the Pixel will not be compatible with Daydream, a headset that was a step up in looks more than functionality.
Thus ends Google’s first real foray into VR outside of its Cardboard launch. It was inevitable that phone-based VR delivery would be overtaken by standalone mobile headsets like the Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, and Vive Focus. Phones simply weren’t meant to be placed in receptors to deliver VR for long periods of time.
That being said, Google still has a lot of VR engineering talent on staff. So it wouldn’t be surprising for them to emerge next year with a new VR offering. Google Glass’ initial roll out was met with a shrug, but they’re still pursuing eyewear based AR & AI technology. Given the strong demand for VR in enterprises, we’re hopeful Google will launch a more B2B or Enterprise focused headset in the near future.