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Will AR be the gateway drug for VR?

davehoran profile image Dave Horan ・1 min read

With several companies now abandoning their virtual reality efforts, will augmented reality get better traction, and then lead to a resurgence of VR? What are you thoughts?

Discussion

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VR is collapsing for a few reasons:

  • It's too expensive for many consumers. I've got a computer which could technically run a high-end VR headset. It cost me about 1600 USD. The hardware I would need to actually play VR games would cost me more than half as much as the computer itself. In essence, you're looking at well over 1000 USD for a basic VR system for most users unless you look at a console, and even there it's pretty bad (PSVR hardware costs as much as the console itself). This could be solved by making systems more like Microsoft's Hololens, but they would need to be far better in terms of quality (the Hololens still only has a 1GHz 32-bit CPU, only 2GB of RAM total (and only half can be used by the CPU), etc) and far less expensive (the original Hololens is 3000 USD, so it's still cheaper for consumers to just get a headset for their computer). AR kind of has this issue, but not as much as VR.
  • It's unusable for some people for medical reasons (for example, I can't use any VR headset long-term, because the lack of correction for my astigmatism and nystagmus gives me a serious headache, and my glasses don't provide the proper focal length to handle the correction properly). At minimum, VR hardware that uses regular visual output (that is, works by shining light into the user's eyes, as opposed to some kind of direct neural interface ala Sword Art Online or Accel World) needs to be able to be tuned to correct for the user's vision limitations. AR still has this issue as well, but it's theoretically easier to work around there than with VR.
  • It has limited practical non-consumer applications other than training and remote virtual presence systems. Yeah, it's (theoretically) great for training certain very specific things, and for remote virtual presence usage, but that's honestly about it in most cases outside of the consumer space. AR doesn't have this issue at all (in fact, it's far more lucrative in the non-consumer space than with consumers, even simple stuff like toggleable thermal or ultrasonic overlays on top of normal vision have huge numbers of potential industrial uses).
  • There really haven't been any true 'killer apps' for consumers for VR. Yeah, there have been some good games for it, but most VR games get pretty niche, so they're not generally enough to get a large segment of the population to buy VR hardware. AR has this issue too, but it doesn't matter as much because of the previous point.

Honestly, I don't think AR will ever cause a VR resurgence. New, better VR technology will.