The concept of VR has been here for decades but it was in mid-2014 that the modern consumer VR era was kickstarted with the launch of Google Cardboard. The onslaught really began in November 2015 with the release of Samsung Gear VR. A year later, substantial growth was recorded in the industry with the launch of high-end Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. In every case, the hardware required external computing power because the demands of VR were too much to be onboard. 2017 was a busy year for VR but not entirely in the ways we might have envisioned; the year was highly dedicated to content. So after a revision of the past few years in the VR world, let’s have a look at what’s coming in 2018.
Standalone Oculus headsets
Because of the computing power required to make virtual reality work well, till now the consumer VR headsets come in two variants: expensive, high-end ones that need to be plugged in to a heavy-duty computer, like Oculus’s Rift and HTC’s Vive, and cheaper ones that depend on a smartphone for brains and juice, like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View. However, there are high chances that this will start to change in 2018. Oculus plans to release two self-contained headsets during the year. A fancier developer model, known as Santa Cruz that has built-in positional tracking allowing users to move around in 3D in virtual environments. The device also has six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF), meaning it recognizes your hands–opening up a far wider range of applications. Oculus Santa Cruz hasn’t got any price tag yet and since it’s a developer model, consumers will have to wait till 2019 to lay their hands on it. Oculus is releasing another lower-end consumer headset called Oculus Go, with less fancy tracking capabilities, that will cost $199 and is slated to come out early in the year. The device will be compatible with content originally created for Samsung’s Gear VR platform. Oculus Go is expected to be a nice starter VR device for those who have been holding out because they didn’t have the right phone.
HTC Vive Focus
Despite the canceling of plans for a standalone Daydream headset, HTC is still in the market for an untethered device. The Taiwanese company is planning to ship an all-in-one headset called the Vive Focus in January. Dozens of developers are already building content for the Vive Focus, which could very well be the first standalone, 6DOF, VR headset on the market. However, it’s unclear if it will be available globally anytime soon or not as HTC has only announced plans to sell it in China so far.
Magic Leap One
Secretive, massively funded (nearly $2 billion) Florida-based startup Magic Leap unveiled its first AR headset, Magic Leap One, at the end of 2017, saying it will ship in 2018. Styled like a sort of modern pair of steampunk goggles, the black headset is meant for developers, and the company says it will produce images that look great while being comfortable to wear—two goals that have eluded many AR headset makers thus far. The Magic Leap One consists of a pair of oversized cyberpunk-y goggles, a puck-shaped external computer called a Lightpack and a handheld controller. It’s supposed to accept “multiple input modes including voice, gesture, head pose and eye tracking,” and maps persistent objects onto the environment — “place a virtual TV on the wall over your fireplace and when you return later, the TV will be right where you left it,” the site promises.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Even after a year and a half of its release, Pokémon Go is so captivating that millions of users still spend plenty of time wandering around outside with their smartphones held aloft, searching for Charmander, Bulbasaur, and other magical Pokémon creatures that can only be spotted through the handset’s display. Amazed by the massive success of that augmented-reality app, Niantic (the company behind Pokémon Go), is working with Warner Brothers Games to release a game in 2018 that may appeal to an even broader audience: Harry Potter fans. Termed as ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’, it will use AR to let users explore the real world while finding artifacts, casting spells, and seeing characters from the much-beloved books. Niantic hasn’t said much yet about when exactly the game is coming out or what it will be like. Seems like we also need to cast a spell to solve this mystery now.
Well, we get to cast a spell or no but this year definitely seems to be magical with hopeful relief from those in-numerous cables hanging out of our current VR gears along with some amazing VR and AR content coming our way. So keep coming back here to know more about the virtual world because we are, where VR is!