Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Some commentators were disappointed by the VR tech on show at CES 2019. But there were signs at this year’s show that virtual reality is here to stay and set for big things.

Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?
  • What are the big trends in virtual reality? Expect to see a lot more VR games released this year, particularly for PlayStation.
  • What is a VR experience? Virtual reality tech is being used to create immersive exhibits; Audio put on this kind of show at CES 2019.
  • Are VR headsets getting cheaper? Not really. Manufacturers are concentrating on improving the VR experience rather than dropping the price.

It’s nearly six years since Oculus shipped its first VR headsets to developers. The devices were crude, and new owners had very little content to choose from — but those headsets provided a glimpse of what VR could become.

In the time since, virtual reality technology has improved rapidly, but consumer demand remains limited. While some experts believe VR will have a breakthrough year in 2019, others are less optimistic.

Is virtual reality a rising star or a falling comet? We decided to look back at CES 2019 for answers.

What is the future of VR?

As virtual reality continues to mature, three distinct forms of the technology are starting to take shape.

VR headsets - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Virtual reality is maturing

For the majority of consumers, smartphone-powered headsets provide an affordable taste of VR content. Many such devices retail at under $100, and they provide access to a good range of video content. In addition, many schools are using such devices to deliver immersive lessons.

VR headset - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Gamers expect the best specs

Then, there are the gamers. Their demands are much greater than those of the general population — razor-sharp HD displays, smooth 60Hz action and motion sensors are all essential. The likes of Oculus and HTC, whose headsets range from $200 to $800, are focusing their efforts on this market.

However, the biggest area of growth is actually outside the home. Virtual reality is quickly becoming a popular method of delivering extraordinary experiences in mundane places.

VR headsets - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Audi unveiled a new VR experience at CES 2019

At CES 2019, Audi demonstrated just how compelling virtual reality can be. The German car maker has been working with Disney, and a start-up named Holoride, to create a VR experience. Designed for passengers of Audi’s all-electric e-Tron SUV, Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run sends you hurtling through the stars in your own spacecraft.

As your driver turns right and left, so does the virtual spaceship. The same goes for acceleration and braking. It adds a new sensory layer to virtual reality, pulling you further into the content.

What is shared virtual reality?

Whereas most virtual reality content is delivered through headsets, shared virtual reality allows multiple viewers to enjoy the same immersive experience.

An example of such technology is currently on display in downtown Los Angeles. Wisdome is a 35,000 square-foot art park, dominated by huge domes. These structures act as huge 360-degree canvases, onto which videos and virtual content can be projected.

There is room enough for hundreds of spectators within the domes, meaning it’s possible to share oohs and aahs with the people around you.

New VR technology at CES 2019

At the start of every year, CES usually provides a good indicator of what the following 12 months will hold.

The show floor was not filled with VR technology this year. However, there were some very important updates and product releases at CES 2019. Here are the highlights:

HTC Vive Cosmos VR Headset

Whenever “HTC” and “new VR headset” are mentioned in the same breath, the tech world gets excited. We know that the new Vive Cosmos is aimed at gamers, and will require minimal set-up. However, all other details are being kept under wraps for the time being. Expect a developer version to start shipping within the first half of 2019.

 - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

HTC teases us with the Vive Cosmos

Oculus Quest Wireless VR Headset

Made for PC gamers, Quest delivers powerful graphics and high-fidelity audio. It also has wireless spatial tracking technology that allows players to move with six degrees of freedom. The new Oculus headset will debut in Spring 2019, priced at $399.99.

Oculus Quest Wireless VR Headset - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

The Oculus Quest is totally wireless

Pimax 8K VR Headset

The folks at Pimax specialize in building VR headsets with absurd specs. Their latest creation is no exception, with an 8K resolution spanning 200 degrees, and smooth 80Hz motion. The price? An eye-watering $899.

Pimax 8K VR Headset - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Enjoy VR in 8K with Pimax

Pico Neo Wireless VR Headset

Another start-up with high hopes is Pico. The Neo headset is completely wireless, with six degrees of motion tracking. It also provides 3K resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. The Pico Neo is competitively priced, but orders are only open to businesses at present.

Pico Neo Wireless VR Headset - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

The Pico Neo is another new headset

3DRudder Foot Motion Controller for Playstation VR

PlayStation VR fans will love this innovative peripheral. While your hands work the controller, your feet rest on the 3DRudder. By shifting your weight around the circular board, you can control the movement of your virtual character.

3DRudder Foot Motion Controller for Playstation VR - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Use your feet with the 3DRudder

Somniacs Birdly VR Flying Simulator

Ever wished you could fly? Birdly is the next best thing, With visuals provided by a VR headset, the device allows you to flap your “wings” to soar through the treetops.

Somniacs Birdly VR Flying Simulator - Is virtual reality the future of entertainment?

Is it a bird? No, it’s Birdly

Will 2019 be the breakthrough year for virtual reality?

The early signs are promising, with both big names and new entrants launching headsets. In addition, VR arcades and experiences are likely to make a mark this year. We can’t wait to see what happens.

The Gadget Flow Daily Digest highlights and explores the latest in tech trends to keep you informed. Want it straight to your inbox? Subscribe ➜

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Meet Mark Myerson

Mark is best known for writing about apps, but he also loves the tactile, hardware side of technology. Being a professional photographer, he's pretty handy with a camera, and he's a self-confessed tweetaholic.

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