Last week, Los Angeles paid host to the 2017 E3 video game trade show. While Sony used its E3 press conference to promote several upcoming PlayStation VR games, Microsoft made no mention of virtual reality during its own Xbox press event. As it turns out, the leader of the Xbox division, Phil Spencer, doesn’t think the industry is close to offering a true, untethered VR experience that will be attractive to consumers.
In an interview conducted as part of E3 2017 for Time, Spencer stated that in his opinion, the VR industry is “5 to 10 years away from a true untethered device” that will have an low enough price point for consumers while still offering them a “fidelity of experience and the kind of ease of use” they will demand. He compared the current state of VR to mobile phones in the late 1980s, which were huge and cumbersome devices compared to the slim and feature-rich smartphones of today.
Spencer does have a point. The current state of consumer VR devices like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the PlayStation VR are dominated by large and bulky headsets that require some connection to a PC or console. Spencer even admitted that Microsoft’s own efforts to help create mixed reality headsets for Windows 10 PCs, in collaboration with several OEMs, are not what he believes will truly drive the business. He stated, “But even then, with all these cables hanging off the back of your head, especially in a family room environment, that’s hard.”
If all of this sounds like Spencer doesn’t believe in VR, that’s not the case. He thinks that, just like mobile phones needed to go through many hardware and software transitions to get to where they are today, the VR space will have to do the same to reach the goal of giving anyone a fully featured VR experience. He added, “Nobody can fast forward, because we’re going to learn both from a creative ‘What do you put on the screen?’ as well as from hardware innovations in battery and other things that will be important.”
What do you think of Spencer’s remarks? Are we still a long way away from getting the kind of VR device he thinks more consumers will buy? Let us know what you think in the comments!