I think that virtual reality, VR for short, will be mobile. At least for most people. This is a pretty bold statement, and there are some exceptions, but I have my reasons to believe it is true.
Here are my three main reasons.
It always comes down to price for the majority of people. For a well-functioning VR headset, or virtual reality head mounted display (VR-HMD) if you want to be a dick about it, you need a lot of components and a certain setup.
Your computer must be “powerful” enough to run the VR headset of your choosing. As “powerful” is a vague word when it comes to computers, I would say capable is a better word for it, even though “powerful” has this nice ring to it.
Your graphic card, has not only to be capable of the mere amount of computation that is required to run the high resolution screens for each eye, but the newest software libraries and game engines that make use of these has to support the graphic card. Thus, old graphic cards do not stand a chance in running VR in a satisfying way, or even at all.
An example of such technology that optimises the workflow for developers and experience for consumers is NVIDIA’s VRWorks™, or AMD’s LiquidVR. You can read a comparison between these technologies from PCGamer. It is an interesting read.
The caveat to all this awesomeness is that you need a new graphic card that support the technology and a computer that can run that card as well. That is, of course, going to be expensive.
We all know that you and I, like many others, upgrade our phones once in a while. Sometimes it is necessary, other times it is out of pure **** from seeing the all the new tech packed into another thin brick once again. My point is, your phone is usually more frequently upgraded than for example your computer. It is also cheaper to upgrade, which makes it easier for both your wallet and guilt to do so.
That is why, when VR experiences will eventually move on past your computer’s computational abilities, it would have been cheaper (and probably easier) to use mobile VR instead. The experience is not the same, I must confess, but it is getting there.
In my case, I upgraded from an old LG G4 to the Samsung S7. In other words, I waited for a whole generation of phones before I upgraded. While I love new tech and gadgets, upgrading on a yearly basis seems wasteful to the environment and mean to the wallet.
For the best and most immersive VR experience, which is currently the HTC Vive, you will need a very elaborate setup. I would wish you good luck taking the HTC Vive to a friend’s house, as it is not very attractive for those who travel or move around a lot. It could even be a problem for those who live in dorm rooms or small flats. While the Oculus Rift by Facebook may be easier to move around, it still does not give the mobility and freedom a mobile VR headset would.
Feeling tied to a space feels very old fashioned to me, especially in this era of technology. You have the Nintendo Switch, a mobile gaming console that also works as a home console, which is a perfect example of our ever increasing interest in mobility.
I also think that this is the inevitable way forward. Mobile is the future, and the next big thing in personal computing is most likely also going to be a mobile device.
Today I got an update on my Oculus app on my phone, so I updated it and popped it into the headset. Apparently, the whole user interface had been revamped and in addition there were new social features.
Social, VR and mobile is something that goes well together. While it is indeed possible to be social in front of your computer (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), to be completely free of cables and maybe hang out in VR together at a friend’s house is awesome. Maybe I am a bit old fashioned in that I actually visit people, but I believe that we have a long way to go before we can imitate the social experience of being with another human.
It is also more fun to share experiences. A while back, around Christmas last year, I shared my VR experience with Johannes that were on visit. While he already knew that I had a VR headset, he had never tried one himself. Sharing the VR experience, even with the possibility of moving from room to room in my house, were a quite special experience.
However, I am not saying that mobile VR can match or even compete with VR headsets connected to a beast of a computer in your living room. That would be foolish to even elude to. When I am saying that “VR will be mobile”, what I should have written was “VR will be mobile for most people”. This is a very important distinction, and something that will shape the VR market for many years to come.
I might get a desktop VR solution someday, but right now I am enjoying the delights of mobile.