Do We Have The Patience To Tolerate VR As A Work-In-Progress?
Tech|Jan 6, 2022

Do We Have The Patience To Tolerate VR As A Work-In-Progress?

Virtual Reality Has A Long Way To Go Before It Sees Mass Adoption, Writes Ian Miles Cheong.
Ian Miles Cheong

For all the promises Virtual Reality makes, it has a long way to go before it sees mass adoption, largely thanks to a number of limiting factors serving as hurdles for casual use. 

VR has its place in many niches, including first-person shooters, flight and work training simulators, and immersive experiences that can only be conveyed through the medium of three dimensions. One thing all its users have in common is their consumption of pornography, which has become the de facto sales driver. A lack of worthwhile applications and a limited library of games – offering more gimmicks than full-fledged experiences – hampers the medium. 

In contrast to the number of users who use their headsets to play video games on a regular basis, VR porn dwarfs every other use-case by a long mile. And that’s a problem, not because it’s being used for porn – but because it’s not being used for much else. VR is not achieving its full potential, and the market simply isn’t sold on the medium – at least not yet. 

Virtual reality is an isolating experience. When you put on a headset it disconnects you from the real world. Maybe that’s a good thing for those who want that experience.

But for those who feel discomfort in the disconnection, it’s a chore. When real-life calls, disconnecting from your immersion and reconnecting becomes a wholly unnecessary ritual. 

By itself, getting VR to work is a hassle and a half – it doesn’t work out of the box. You have to install drivers, make physical space, and have the necessary hardware to even run the damn thing. It’s an expensive hobby with little payoff. 

Virtual reality is an isolating experience. When you put on a headset it disconnects you from the real worldWorse still, most VR headsets are not even wireless; those that are  offer decreased graphical fidelity and are about as immersive as watching James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D. It sucks. The controllers themselves are unintuitive and require you to fumble around to even perform the simplest of tasks in most games, such as Skyrim VR and Doom VFR, where even moving around requires you to teleport from place to place. While it’s nice that some major developers offer VR experiences, these offerings are few and far between – the VR market isn’t big enough for most publishers to even invest in creating standalone VR titles. It’s a poor investment for both publishers and consumers, and that feeds into the circuitous problem of there not being enough users to make the development worthwhile – and not enough games for most users to justify buying a headset. 

The reduction in bulk and wireless freedom are a given. Miniaturisation and wirelessness will come with the march of progress, but there are a number of things VR manufacturers can do to make their products worthwhile. 

VR’s problems need to be addressed at the roots. Its greatest strength: isolation, is also its greatest weakness. Coupled with the disorientation you experience when you come back to reality, there’s simply no easy way to “tab out”. The VR industry could learn a thing or two from Apple: add a transparency mode. 

You shouldn’t need to take off your headset to see and hear the world around you or respond to your email. It has to be convenient to be attractive to the wider market.

After all, noise-isolating headphones wouldn’t be quite as convenient if you had to take them off to talk to someone. And being able to see your surroundings would eliminate the hassle of removing and putting back on your headset, completely killing the immersion. Having cameras and microphones mounted on the headset is an easy fix – to say nothing of how bulky these things are at the moment. The elephant in the room is the fact that there’s no standard for VR headsets. While some applications work on multiple devices, most simply do not. You’re either getting an Oculus, an HTC Vive, or a Samsung. You might go for a Valve Index if you’re feeling extravagant.

Platform exclusivity is a factor that limits what you can experience with your investment. 

Unlike TVs and monitors, the experience is less than uniform, for both developers and users alike – and given that the whole point of VR is to be immersive, anything less than a solid experience is not only immersion-breaking, it’s headache-inducing. It doesn’t help that VR headsets have intense hardware requirements – the cost of VR doesn’t end with the headset alone.  

The good news is that the industry understands these problems and is actively working to solve them. It only remains to be seen if the consumer market will have the patience to tolerate VR as a work-in-progress before it finally reaches maturity.