Trend of VR & AR, and obstacles

Recently, it’s true that VR & AR are becoming the hot topic. While there are already Youtubers showcasing the wonders of Oculus VR, and with Steam pushing their own VR hardware with HTC (Revealed very recently several months ago), the future of playing games seems to be very interesting.

VR and AR, where are we now?

The key difference between VR (Virtual Reality) & AR (Augmented Reality) is that while VR put the player in a virtual world using special devices (replace what they see and what they hear, and in HTC Vive’s case, also replace what they use with their special controllers), AR projects the virtual world directly in the real world. Currently, apart from the HTC Vive, which haven’t been released, VR devices still mainly uses traditional controls (isn’t it weird that you still need to use keyboard or game controller when you’re in a virtual world?) while AR’s limited usage is focused on displaying various information or bring virtual characters to life.

AR technology used in the 3DS Rhythm Game Hatsune Miku Project Mirai DX.
The real effect. The game supports taking a photo in this mode. However only through the 3DS screen can the model project onto real life.

As one can see in the above screenshot. AR nowadays is as limited as VR currently is, the key to AR is that there needs to be some sort of vessel to project the virtual image onto the real plane. While Nintendo 3DS requires special AR Cards, it’s already proven that just printing the Card content on any surface would work due to 3DS displaying the models based on the content of the card. Similar AR technology such like Google Glass instead project the virtual data onto the wearable displays. In my opinion, AR technology has fewer problems to tackle due to Google Glass already did the job of enhancing what we see (and hear, if paired with an earphone). The only other problem is to iron out the cost of the system, and the convenience of said hardware (wearable hardware is definitely a right step). In the current form, Google Glass is still too expensive for everyday use, and its function is still limited, but it’s Google we’re talking about, so that would change in short time.

Current Problem with VR

While AR is more or less on the right track, VR on the other hand are having more problems.

The foremost problem is about the cost. In order to experience VR, suitable hardware need to be purchased. A key difference between AR and VR is that while AR only need one single device to use (a Nintendo 3DS is less than $200, think about it), in order to utilize VR, an entire solution, consisting of the VR devices, and a computer capable to run the VR apps need to be both prepared.

According to Steam’s recent statistics, there are only 5% of computers able to run a VR app smoothly. This is one key obstacle, if only 5% of the current users are able to utilize VR, then how many money does the rest 95% need to spend to upgrade their computer on top of the steep cost of the VR device itself? While it’s entire possible for Steam and HTC’s Vive, one could somehow got it to work with a Steam Machine. But Steam Machines are not cheap either: High-Ended devices could easily cost more than $1000, which is never a small cost.

Compared to the steep entry fee, actual programming of the VR apps would be the least of the concerns. However do note that to program VR apps, a system that is able to run VR together with that device is still needed, that still put the cost of producing VR apps much higher than intended.

So, my opinion on this trend: While both VR and AR are world-changing technology, one may still wait some time to fully enjoy benefits of them.

Until next time.

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