For many years, it seemed that technological advancement had plateaued. Things like gaming consoles and TVs got marginally better, but nothing was really groundbreaking. But now it appears new technology is finally getting into its stride again, particularly with recent advancements in virtual and augmented reality.
In the mid-2010s, VR and AR were all the rage, with companies popping out groundbreaking new technologies. While there were some truly incredible experiences, many of these devices really weren’t ready for prime time. Consumers weren’t ready, either. But with recent advancements in technology, virtual and augmented reality might finally be making a comeback.
Here is a video that briefly explains the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality for further reference:
Augmented Reality Is Gaining Traction
There were a lot of announcements surrounding augmented reality at this year’s CES convention. While both virtual and augmented reality got a lot of mentions, there were a surprising number of new companies in the AR space. One of the stranger unveilings was the Holoride, which creates an augmented experience inside of a car.
Another AR headset is the Lynx R-1, which takes advantage of Leap Motion. If you aren’t familiar with it, Leap Motion is a tracking system similar to the Xbox Kinect, which doesn’t rely on controllers to sense movement. Instead, hand gestures and body movements get picked up by cameras and sensors in the headset. Even more remarkable is that the Lynx platform is open source, so anyone can expand on it.
The TV manufacturer TCL announced a while ago that they were working on some mixed reality devices. They showed off some sleek glasses that packed in a ton of power.
The company says this technology allows users to see various device screens, such as phones and gaming consoles. But that’s just one of several concepts in the works, as TCL also has a true VR headset in development.
But what may be the most surprising piece of tech coming out is called the Lumus Z-Lens. Rather than a set of AR or VR goggles, the Z-Lens is a tiny computer that attaches to the frame of a pair of glasses. It can then project a high-resolution image onto the lens. This is similar in concept to the Google Glass technology that Google ultimately abandoned.
VR Is Getting Smaller
The fact that computer chips are getting smaller and display technology is getting better allows for amazing advancements in VR technology. The Lumus Z-Lens is just one example of how small manufacturers are able to get these devices. While size may not seem like a big deal, it is one of the biggest complaints regarding VR.
Headsets like the original PSVR and Oculus Rift were notoriously bulky and heavy. This made wearing the headsets for an extended period of time difficult. That may not be a major issue for gamers, since they need to take breaks. But it is a real problem for devices like the Meta Quest Pro, which is advertised for professional and commercial use.
- Adjustable IPD and diopter dials
- High-resolution XR passthrough
- 3840 x 1920 combined resolution
- 90Hz refresh rate
- Up to 110° field of view
A great example of VR technology getting smaller is HTC’s newly unveiled XR Elite headset. The headset is not a standalone device, but it is very compact. In fact, it’s a little larger than a set of goggles.
As VR technology gets smaller and more comfortable, consumers’ reactions to it should also improve. Hopefully, this trend will continue, and all-in-one VR headsets continue to get smaller and lighter.
Virtual Reality Is Clearer
Image quality remains a complex problem because VR headsets require high-resolution displays. VR headsets not only put screens within inches of your eye, but they also use special lenses to make the screen look even bigger.
To get a better understanding, walk up to your TV and get very close to the screen, then hold up a magnifying glass. The end result is exactly what VR headsets do.
The closer you get to a screen, the more obvious the pixels become. This creates what VR users refer to as the screen door effect. This has remained a problem since the Oculus Rift, but technology is now at a point where there are no visible lines. The PSVR 2 is one of the most impressive VR headsets available now.
- 160-degree field of view
- Interchangeable lens module (allows user to choose different pixel densities)
- QLED + Mini LED panels
- 4 cameras to support 6DOF tracking
But the 2880X2880 resolution on the Somnium Solace and Pimax Crystal is incredible. Another feature of the PSVR 2 that other manufacturers use is eye-tracking to isolate where on the screen the user is looking. More companies will undoubtedly try to pack in higher-resolution displays, but they must also contend with other hardware limitations, along with how much consumers are willing to spend.
We Are Still Waiting on Apple
Rumors surrounding Apple’s unannounced VR headset have gone on for years now. However, there are still no concrete details about it. Some rumors seemed to indicate that Apple may finally make an announcement during either its summer or fall press conferences.
But, at this time, its announcement and release still remain unclear because Apple has not made any official statements. Additionally, not much is known about the headset itself, including its resolution, operating system, or even wireless capabilities.
The alleged name of the headset is the Reality Pro. But one of the biggest questions still on everyone’s mind is just how much Apple’s VR headset will cost. At this time, it is rumored to be at least a few thousand dollars.
What About the Metaverse?
Bringing up the metaverse usually raises more questions than it does answers. But this “digital world” created by Facebook’s parent company actually seeks to fill a major gap in VR technology. You’ve probably noticed that we’ve only covered new hardware so far. That is because most of the advancements in both augmented and virtual reality center around headsets rather than what runs on them.
There are a number of companies developing video games, particularly for Sony’s PSVR and Meta’s Quest 2. But there needs to be more to VR than some random games for it to become mainstream.
The metaverse is the most well-known iteration of an online community, but its graphics are lackluster and there is still a lot of concern around Meta and data privacy.
Both augmented and virtual reality show the most promise for practical uses, like education and training. A number of companies have already begun developing programs for the virtual world.
However, developing these one-of-a-kind programs is very expensive and impractical for many companies. With that said, there are uses for the technology, especially in the medical field.
As more developers get into the VR space, it will be interesting to see if they continue adopting platforms like Steam VR or try to craft their own software. As of now, most manufacturers are still focusing solely on the hardware end. However, companies like Pimax are working on an entire product ecosystem that integrates the metaverse.
VR May Not Be the Future of Gaming
The adoption of VR headsets was slow from the start, but many assumed they would quickly gain traction among gamers. However, others feared that VR would go the way of 3D TVs. Thus, essentially making the devices a fad rather than something that people would continue spending money on. Fortunately for VR, it doesn’t look like things are that bad yet.
While not really an advancement, it is important to discuss this decline in demand for VR and AR because it greatly affects whether or not companies continue to invest in the technology. Recent polling shows that a staggering number of people own VR headsets, but an alarmingly low amount actually use them on a regular basis.
Even worse is the fact that Sony’s newly released PSVR 2 headset isn’t meeting sales expectations. As people that remember the PS Vita failure are well aware, Sony has a bad habit of killing products that don’t live up to their expectations. Hopefully, VR and AR continue to improve, and consumers give newer devices a chance.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©A. Solano/Shutterstock.com.