Published on March 21st, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
The VR Headset Market is About to Get Way too Crowded and Confusing
It’s going to be difficult to sort through all of the VR products that launch this year. Jeremy Horwitz of venturebeat.com gives an excellent overview of the 2019 VR landscape and how the different tech companies are positioning themselves to get your dollars. The Oculus Quest looks like an early leader but proof will be in the performance. Will users tolerate latency or resolution issues? What about availability of apps? When new hardware is released it’s up to the entire ecosystem to provide a good UX. Stay tuned and get your charge card ready.
Once, there was a single VR headset. Today there are quite a few, and within months, there will certainly be too many in the marketplace for most people to count. Consumers are about to enter the most confusing time in VR’s history.
There are already four tiers of decidedly different devices to choose from, and throughout the spring, there will be new entries in every category, at every price point. None is guaranteed to be successful — in fact, there’s a good chance that some will be utter flops.
If you’re thinking of buying or upgrading a VR headset, the easiest option would be to wait on buying anything until the dust settles. That’s probably a good idea, but no fun! So instead, I’m going to go through the most noteworthy new options by category and provide some recommendations, hopefully in a manner that makes this imminently messy stretch of VR’s evolution a little easier for you to navigate.
Screenless VR / mobile headsets
Analysts and pundits have been predicting the end of the “supply your own screen” VR headset accessory category for a year, as sales of Samsung’s Gear VRand Google Daydream View smartphone sleeves have basically dried up. That’s thanks largely to cheap standalone VR headsets such as Oculus Go. Why pay $80 to $100 for a fabric and plastic smartphone mount for your face when you can get a $200 dedicated VR device with its own battery, software, and so on?
The downward trend isn’t stopping Nintendo. Next month, the company is putting out an $80 Labo “VR Kit” made mostly from cardboard in an effort to give Switch owners their first VR experiences. I personally wouldn’t spend a dime on a cardboard VR viewer, and never wanted fabric/plastic smartphone goggles, either, but just because they’re cheap, $80 DIY headsets tend to sell more units than $600 deluxe models. It’s entirely possible that Nintendo will sell hundreds of thousands of VR kits — perhaps more than the Virtual Boys it released 20+ years ago.
Companies such as Nintendo portray DIY options as a way for users to dip their toes into VR’s water, but the Labo VR Kit in particular appears set to deliver a particularly murky, shallow, kiddie-pool version of VR. There have been too many reports of past Labo customers getting only a couple of days of use from their cardboard accessories before abandoning them. I’d call this one, and this entire category, a hard pass.
Standalone consumer VR headsets
The second and arguably hottest category of 2019 is “standalone” headsets — fully self-contained VR experiences that you don’t need a separate computer or device to enjoy. HTC did a limited release of an expensive standalone option called Vive Focus, but has apparently determined that it is exclusively for business users. In the United States, the category has thus far been defined by the $200 Oculus Go, which has just enough processing power to play 3D movies, simple apps, and basic games, most of which are intended to be experienced while you’re sitting down.