Welcome to “The Rift”
It’s a brisk Wednesday night and I’m brimming with excitement to send my roommate into “The Rift” for the first time. Questions swirl in my head, “Will he get it?” – “Will the instinct to look around be as natural for him as it was to me?” I’m most concerned with how this first experience will measure up to mine as I tighten the straps on the Oculus Rift DK2.
I give the general rundown, pump up the “revolutionary” excitement and the demo is launched… then, it happens.
I’m inundated with pure, unfiltered enthusiasm… A series of “holy shits” and “wows” come at a sporadic pace as the newest member of the virtual reality community is born before my eyes. He continues to twirl and turn around in his chair, flailing about for the duration of the five minute experience until one final codicil is delivered:
“This is the future.”
I highly doubt that this statement is up for debate among any who have been privileged enough to be thrown into a solid VR experience. Virtual reality and augmented reality, respectively, will be the way we as humans end up computing, communicating and consuming entertainment in the future. The question is, how do we get to that future and when will it arrive? I’ll attempt to answer the question of where VR adoption begins with this post.
The one glaring problem with most HMDs in development is hardware fragmentation among personal computers, which is the lifeblood that most devices are being engineered to run off. It takes a beefy system to handle premium VR experiences and the reality is that most people are not complete tech nerds like me… They don’t have a dedicated GPU, let alone 2GB of graphics memory and a quad-core processor in their desktop machine. Furthermore, mass market consumers are the same people that just discovered Facebook, text messaging and touch screen devices only a few years back. Like it or not, consumer adoption at scale for VR means that we either wait for every young kid who intuitively understands technology to grow up, or we standardize the experience.
Sony Wants To Be “The One”
Sony is expected to make a big announcement regarding the highly anticipated “Project Morpheus” VR headset at an exclusive invites-only event on February 13, 2015. There is a high potentiality that this will be where the revolution in VR will truly begin in terms of education, awareness and consumer adoption… where virtual reality’s energy slowly begins to seep into the mainstream consumer consciousness.
Standard Hardware, Standard Experience..
Standard hardware for VR means consistent experiences from any location, and consistent experiences via standard hardware translates to gaming consoles.
I know that the gaming experience for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare on my PS4 will be the same at my house as it is if I were to go to a friend’s house to play. There is significant value in this consistency of gameplay, input, FPS and easy setup. All I have to do is watch someone put a disc into the PS4 and press the power button once to learn the process. This type of plug-and-play, standardized hardware setup is what VR needs to succeed and drive accelerated consumer adoption in the near-term, and it feels like Sony’s well-nurtured community of hardcore gamers are the perfect demographic to accomplish this. Just as the Wii was the soft touch that worked so favorably for Nintendo’s youthful audience in 2011.
And we’re off…
In Sony’s arsenal is a solid brand, a massive 10 million PS4s in the wild, consistent hardware experiences, content delivery via the ever-popular Playstation Network and game publishers ready to open up a new revenue stream. This is the first real test of VR at the consumer level once Morpheus is released, specifically for a singular hardware system. I really believe that as Sony puts out their consumer product, we will start to see whether VR grows up quickly or slowly with regards to mainstream adoption. The technology in VR is damn close and getting better all the time while the market remains a tight-knit group of early adopters. There are differing opinions on this matter, but if we are talking about millions of HMDs making it to consumer doorsteps, consoles seem to be the way in. Whether Sony will actually deliver a cohesive product that will spark the mass adoption of virtual reality with Morpheus is yet to be seen, but the fact remains that they have the most favorable infrastructure in place to succeed. The gauntlet has been thrown down and the question remains, who will get there first and how will they do it?