Why VR/AR May NOT Be the Next Big Thing

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two technologies that some prognosticators think could be the next big thing.  Virtual reality is a display that you put on your head that completely obscures your vision and immerses you in an activity (e.g. gaming which is currently the most widespread use case for VR).  The two most prominent virtual reality systems are the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.  Augmented reality overlays digital information on the physical world (e.g. Pokemon Go).  Many companies are developing systems that go on your head like the Microsoft Hololens to create a head mounted augmented reality experience.     

While at Arovia, we think VR and AR are cool, we obviously think there is plenty room for displays that everyone can see and don’t require putting something on your head, like SPUD.  Additionally, for many VR/AR applications like gaming there is a need for a supplemental display, and SPUD is perfect for that.  Based on interviewing thousands of you and our own research, here’s 3 reasons why VR and AR may not be the next big thing, despite the billions of dollars being spent:

Stereoscope

Stereoscope

  1. Historical evidence that head mounted displays fail (e.g. Stereoscopes, 3D TVs, Google Glass)

    • One of the earliest examples of head mounted display failure is stereographic viewers (e.g. stereoscopes).  Stereoscopes came to prominence in the 1800’s along with traditional cameras and photographs.  Unlike traditional camera images, with stereo camera and stereo camera, you could see in psuedo 3-D using the parallax effect!  Cool, right!? Well, it turns out overwhelmingly the public referred traditional 2D images due to the ease of use (for both taking pictures, being able to view images without putting something up their head, and being able to easily enjoy the viewing of pictures with others, instead of taking turns).
    • More recently both 3D TV’s and Google Glass prominently failed to gain widespread adoption, further demonstrating that a lot of people do not want to put extra hardware on their head to consume and create content.
  2. Steep hardware requirements
    • VR  requires high end computing systems due to the massive amount of high resolution data needed.  Remember, with AR/VR you are putting the display right next to your head, which means if the pixels are not super dense it detracts from the experience (unlike SPUD which you use farther away like a traditional TV or desktop monitor).  
    • These high end requirements mean there is a large barrier to entry (thousands of dollars) and make these systems non-portable.  
  3. Social and anthropological barriers

    • Let’s face it, what enabled humans to take over the world was our social tendencies, as described in the interesting book Sapiens.  VR/AR obscure our interactions and place another barrier between us and each other.  Ultimately, we are better off when we interact with each other and do not retreat into our own world (though it is sometimes good to get away once in a while!).   When seeing the explosion of VR companies at South by Southwest this year, what struck us the most was just how weird people looked using VR and AR!

    • Additionally, many places have banned Google Glass due to head mounted displays being incongruent with our cultural norms.  The social and anthropological might very well be the bottleneck in VR and AR adoption.

You look weird using it.

You look weird using it.

Well there you have it, our 3 reasons:  (1) the history of consumer rejection of head mounted displays (2) steep hardware requirements (3) social/anthropological barriers

What do you think?!