Oculus CTO: VR will fail unless it escapes ‘novelty’ use

Oculus Rift (15)

Even if you haven’t been keeping your ear to the VR market, then you might find the name John Carmack familiar. The Oculus CTO is an industry veteran who created such classics as Doom and Quake. Today, Carmack made a potent observation about the future of VR that is worthy of consideration. It’s his belief that the future of VR hangs dangerously in the balance of the platform escaping its current “novelty” allure.

We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before. 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 things have done?

Indeed. The vast majority of VR content is ‘snackable’ in nature. An initial wowing experience that doesn’t offer much more than to showcase the impressive nature of the technology running it. If VR wants to truly get off the ground, much higher quality content must be generated by the community.

Facing them are many obstacles. VR tech is a hard sell, because the truly robust options require heavy financial investment on the part of the consumer. Complicating things is that even these powerful platforms frequently demand heavy load times on the front end. On other consoles, this is less of an issue – one because content is more complex, so users don’t mind sitting through a 30 second load screen to get to a story-driven action narrative – two because waiting in a load screen when you’re in a fully immersive environment is like floating in an abyss. As Carmack elaborates:

That’s acceptable if you’re going to sit down and play for an hour….but initial startup time really is poisonous. An analogy I like to say is, imagine if your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You’d use it a lot less.

Google is actually wary of VR, perhaps for these reasons. The search giant is still investing in virtual reality, but primarily because they believe the future will be AR, and much of the same tech that goes into developing VR can be applied to augmented reality. If VR is to survive, we’ll need creative innovators to get cracking.

What are your thoughts regarding Carmack’s take on the current state of VR? Do you agree? Let us know your take in the comments below!


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