Virtual reality had an absolute explosion of growth in 2016, but it is still a new technology that is having a hard time making its way into the mainstream. Generally, high prices and lack of consumer interest in the technology has paved a hard road for the tech, which would otherwise likely be seeing explosive consumer engagement. This is why companies such as HTC, Oculus, and Sony have been showing off their technology at stores across the world, which is slowly but surely getting consumers interested in the technology.
That said, VR is very much at a “make it or break it” point this coming year. There are quite a few companies who have tried to jump into the space, but this could be bad for the industry overall if they are not careful. Companies like HTC, Oculus, and Sony have ensured that their hardware requires a certain standard to operate, running at a minimum 90 fps to avoid motion sickness, but smaller companies may attempt to fill the space with hardware that doesn’t quite meet that standard. That is why Google, Oculus, HTC, and Sony have banded together to develop the Global Virtual Reality Association.
The association was created in order to “promote responsible development and adoption of VR globally with best practices”, which ensures that those who join will uphold the standard set in place by the group.
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While this seems great in terms of ensuring hardware is produced with consumer safety in mind, it still doesn’t solve the problem of VR software fragmentation. HTC, Oculus, Google and Sony all use separate software that is not cross compatible, meaning it is hard for consumers to get access to the titles they want without buying countless sets of hardware. While “exclusive games” have been a thing in the industry for quite a while up to this point, many of these companies seem to be producing almost all of their titles as hardware exclusive. This kind of fragmentation is not good for consumers, as it requires them to purchase multiple headsets to get the full experience.
The press release says that members will “develop and share best practices, conduct research, and bring the international VR community together as the technology progresses”. While this will probably be true for things like strengthening the ability for hardware to refresh at a constant high rate, there will probably still be a fair amount of hidden secrets in order to set each headset apart from one another. We’re hoping the companies share a decent amount of innovation with one another however, since it would be nice to have common features among the options.
What do you think about the association? Google has done this before with the Global Smartphone Alliance, so it will be interesting to see how VR manufacturers react to a similar agreement.