VR needs to stop “coasting on novelty”

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PlayStation VR is coming tomorrow – if you happen to live in the first world. Europe, The Americas and even our friends in Oceania will be able to jump in to the more affordable VR set up on October 13. Those of us at the southernmost tip of Africa will have to wait until early next year for that privilege – but that’s not really a bad thing.

It means that when it is finally available here, it’ll have a library that’s worth playing, maybe. Right now, according to Oculus’ John Carmack, VR is coasting along on novelty factor. The many of you who assert that it’s a gimmick? For now, you’re probably right. It’ll be up to developers to change that.

Speaking at Oculus Connect this past weekend, the Oculus CTO said that VR needs to do things that offer better value.

“We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before,” he continued. “But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?”

He says that VR developers need to be harder on themselves, and that’s not hard to argue with. Tethered VR may be making its break in to the mainstream with the launch of PlayStation VR tomorrow, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of functionality – and even simple things like UI.

On that note, while PlayStation VR is making the whole experience a little more affordable on the core side of things, Carmack believes that the future of VR lies in mobile.

“There might be a hundred million PCs that can do this, but I believe in the mission that Facebook had when it bought into Oculus, of having a billion people in VR,” he said. “So it’s not going to be a higher and higher bar for performance; it’s going to be a lower and lower bar for adoption.”

The only way to do that is through mobile implementation – using the higher end PC VR as a breeding ground for ideas and innovation, and then feeding and adapting that to lower end devices.

Last Updated: October 12, 2016

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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