Does the resur­gence of vir­tual re­al­ity lie with the next gen­er­a­tion of head­sets?

Maximum PC - - 2018 TECH PREVIEW -

AHH, THE JILTED LOVER of the com­put­ing world. The buzz word that was on ev­ery jour­nal­ist’s lips. Was VR just an­other gim­mick? Or was it mis­rep­re­sented? Ahead of its time? It’s dif­fi­cult to say for sure, as sales have been rea­son­able, with both Ocu­lus and HTC prof­it­ing from the VR ex­pe­ri­ence, but lit­tle has come out of 2017 with re­gard to the new way of con­sum­ing me­dia.

There have been price drops, for sure, with both plat­forms be­ing re­duced by a to­tal of $200. And there’s plenty of con­tent, too, from an army of in­die de­vel­op­ers, and other games be­ing made VR-com­pat­i­ble (there are 266 games and ex­pe­ri­ences cur­rently listed in Steam’s Vir­tual Re­al­ity cat­e­gory).

But the head­sets still have prob­lems. The 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye) res­o­lu­tion, so close to your eyes, still fea­tures that vis­i­ble screen door or grid ef­fect, and the re­fresh rate is still locked to a nau­se­at­ing 90Hz. Ide­ally, we need to see a pixel den­sity two to three times greater than what we have to­day be­fore VR be­comes more akin to gam­ing on even a 1080p screen. How­ever, with Ocu­lus an­nounc­ing it won’t be re­leas­ing a Rift 2 any time soon, and with HTC’s lat­est Vive Fo­cus con­cen­trat­ing on mo­bile, it’s un­likely we’ll see th­ese changes make their way into the con­sumer eco­sphere in the near fu­ture.

All that aside, early last year, Sam­sung’s screen man­u­fac­tur­ing divi­sion show­cased a new display de­signed specif­i­cally for VR head­sets. Cram­ming an in­cred­i­ble 2024x2200 res­o­lu­tion into a 3.5-inch form fac­tor, it added over 86 per­cent more pix­els into the same space. That’s a pixel den­sity of 858, ver­sus the 460 of the orig­i­nal.

Per­haps 2018 will be the year when we fi­nally see some­one out­side of the HTC and Ocu­lus com­mu­nity bring a head­set to mar­ket that ac­tu­ally makes sense for the graph­i­cally aware con­sumer. Or, bet­ter yet, see Mi­crosoft’s AR HoloLens project reach a more af­ford­able level than the $3,000 price tag it’s cur­rently as­so­ci­ated with.

Although ex­cep­tion­ally in­ter­est­ing, AR is just too pricey right now to jus­tify.

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