Remember back around 2009, when 3D movies became a big thing? Avatar, a generic Sci-Fi film that was basically the story of Pocahontas set on an alien plant, became the highest grossing film of all time (more on that in another article, maybe) and for what reason? It was the leader of the 3D film “revolution” of the late 2000’s. Then came the 3D TV’s and the 3D BluRay discs…. and then, about as quickly as it came, it went. By about 2012 I suddenly noticed I no longer saw 3D being touted as predominantly. It was a fad, just as it had been in the 80’s and 50’s and it died out just as quickly as then.
These days, though, all the talk is about Virtual Reality. Yep, every other week, it seems, I hear about some new project. I’ve been hearing for what feels like an eternity about Oculus Rift, among other startups and I can’t help but feel that this will inevitably be the same fad that 3D always is. The only difference is that this is our first time trying out VR, and we don’t know how it will all play out – it could go way different when compared to 3D, but I have my doubts.
The hardware is expensive. That’s a barrier to adoption right there, and while there are cheap solutions (such as headsets you put your cell phone into to create the experience) these offer varying experiences, especially when compared to the high end hardware such as Oculus or HoloLense. Over time though, this won’t be as much of an issue, so let’s move on.
This isn’t even to begin mentioning the need for a powerful enough computer (or gaming console, as VR capable consoles are on the horizon) to be able to even do the actual work needed to create a VR scene.
The next issue I find with VR is one that is also present in 3D – individuals vision capabilities. See, I happen to have some pretty poor vision, so, I need glasses. This is common with, I think, around half of all people, give or take counting reading glasses or other corrective needs. In whatever case, this can make 3D difficult to enjoy, since wearing glasses over glasses just isn’t fun, and I can only imagine it would be worse with a 3D headset. With films, being nearsighted is the big issue, but for something like a VR headset, that’s fine – it’s the population that’s farsighted that loses out then.
I had a sort of demonstration run with such back in 1995, when Nintendo released the Virtual Boy. Now, I don’t consider the virtual boy at all VR, or an attempt, like most people do, but it followed the same principle of trying to give a 3D effect, and was a headset you put your face up to (it didn’t have straps… go figure). It was a mess, but hey, it at least worked, but it gave people headaches in mass, and, while fine for people like me who can see well up close, I did know people who were farsighted and could never get the image to focus properly for them, resulting in them being unable to enjoy anything on the console (which was already hard to do anyway, but I digress.) This isn’t a problem for everyone with poor vision, but this can make things worse, depending on the person.
Okay, let’s presume the person has fine vision, and has a good headset. Now what? You still have the issue of what amounts to motion sickness. Remember as kid trying to play GameBoy or something similar while in the back of a car, how disoriented you would get? The same thing happens to many people using VR. The fact they don’t have the sense of motion, but they see motion around them, throws their sense out of whack and, while the opposite of the “gaming in the back of the car” analogy, the same result happens – disorientation and discomfort.
Again, this isn’t the case for everyone, but it does happen, and that might very well be the biggest hurdle of them all.. when all else fails, some people just cannot actually enjoy the experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of Virtual Reality. I really do, but I see it as working for such a small group of people that it just won’t be successful in the long run. I could be extremely wrong in this, though, and as I have said, this is just my thoughts, my analysis on things – I have several friends who have VR equipment and love it, while I also know people who have tried it and absolutely hated it. It seems like a very mixed experience that, maybe one day, we can all enjoy, but I just don’t think things are mature enough yet – not by a long shot – on the human elements. Not everyone can enjoy it properly, and I feel this will render it forever as a niche market.
The computer hardware is there, but the human hardware, so to speak, is lacking.
Maybe in 2050 we will have the Star Trek holodeck, but until then, I’ll stick to a classic 2D screen for my visual entertainment.