£20 Says Virtual Reality Is Ready, Don't Believe the VR Grinches

£20 says VR is Ready

Martin Talks, Founder of wearables company 10xArmy thinks VR is ready for this Christmas and at a bargain price of £20.

Have you got a few spare minutes? Then how about looping the loop on a giant roller-coaster, walking along a beach in Rio or battling invading zombies? And all in your lunch-break.

Why wait? Solomon from The Apprentice TV Show and Instabear isn’t waiting as you can see in the picture above.

Virtual Reality has been promised since the 1960s. So can we have fun yet?

So some big companies, splashing some big cash are making some big noise telling us ‘no’ we must wait until we’re told to have fun.

The Oculus Rift has been promising VR since its famous Kickstarter campaign that raised $2.4m and its subsequent purchase by Facebook for $2bn.

In September, Google was part of a $0.5bn investment in VR start-up Magic Leap

And now Sony have announced its Project Morpheus headset that they are pinning their future business hopes on.

It reminds me of Tim Cook’s increasingly weak Apple Smartwatch announcements: ‘Look at me! I’ve got a shiny new thing that’s going to be amazing! Oh but it’s not ready yet… so wait for us; don’t buy any smart watches yet!’

But do we really need to wait?

The short answer is ‘no’. You can buy a Virtual Reality viewer right now for under £20.

But I suspect you want a slightly longer answer so here goes:

Virtual Reality is here. You can download any number of VR apps to your smartphone - Android, iOS or Windows. These experiences will wow you. You will have a great deal of fun, impress your friends and live more successful lives (well, maybe the third one is not guaranteed…)

So why are we being told to wait? Typical given reasons are:

"There’s not enough content”

Not true. As mentioned, there are 100s of apps available listed on such sites as VR Codex. Certainly a lot of the content is relatively short and often only demos or what is possible. It is early days. But it’s still good fun.

“The experience is not immersive enough”

Have you tried a VR experience yet? It’s immersive alright. And put some headphones on so you get sound too, and you are taken to another place. It gives you that sense of ‘presence’ that VR has promised. And be aware that research has shown that graphics don’t have to be realistic to provide a sense of presence on virtual reality.

“It will make you feel nauseous”

[See above] Certainly it’s true that some of the graphics on some of the apps are not as smooth as one would like. Although people’s tolerance does vary. But they’re getting better with the better screens, video quality and refresh rates of newer smartphones.

So is there something else going on here? Is there a whiff of conspiracy even?

The smartphone is now an amazing device. So amazing indeed that - tellingly - the current Oculus dev kit uses a 1080p screen from a Samsung Galaxy 3 and the Gear VR uses the Galaxy Note 4’s 1440p screen.

But the problem is that pretty much all smartphones are amazing devices. Every phone pretty much now looks the same, does the same, costs the same. The market has no where to go - apart from bigger.

So where do the phone manufacturers have to go? There’s a sense of desperation with each new model launch as it is barely differentiated from the one before.

Well one option for the manufacturers is the VR headset. A new device that takes some of the advancements of the new smartphones and shoves them into an awkward strap-on headset that looks like a diving mask.

The aesthetic ugliness aside, they want you to buy another device. When they’re ready. Some time next year. Maybe….

We didn’t wait to play computer games for Wiis, Playstations or Xboxes. We got on with playing the games to hand and had a great time. So why wait for VR now?

Don’t wait for the Christmas Grinches to sell you a super-expensive first generation device that will be outdone by the smartphone before it hits the shelf. Go have fun this Christmas with a cardboard VR viewer for smartphones for under £20.

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Martin Talks is co-founder of 10xArmy a wearable tech company. He founded the digital agency Blue Barracuda and was former Global Digital Lead for the Draftfcb Group. As Board Adviser to the Institute of Decision Making, he explored the use of EEGs and MRI to understand what makes us do the things we do. His favourite wearable: the EPOC Emotiv brain computer interface technology. Disclosure: 10xArmy makes the viewer, but we won't hold that against him.