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posted by chromas on Tuesday January 15 2019, @08:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the lol dept.

A few years ago, virtual reality was all the rage in Hollywood, helping to fuel the rise of Silicon Beach with the promise of reinventing the entertainment business.

At its peak, investors pumped $253 million into two dozen deals involving virtual and augmented reality start-ups in L.A. and Orange counties in 2016, hoping that pricey headsets projecting virtual worlds would become as popular as smartphones. But investment in the technology has slowed dramatically in recent years, and what seemed like a promising boom has largely fizzled.

Several California companies that raised millions of dollars have shut down or have laid off dozens of workers, as businesses scrambled to readjust their strategies in the face of lackluster consumer demand for VR headsets and a drought of capital.

Take heart, VR enthusiasts. It took several tries for video streaming to catch on, too.

Original Submission

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Oculus Co-Founder Says there is No Market for VR Gaming 51 comments

Facebook will never break through with Oculus, says one of the VR company's co-founders

Five years after its $2 billion purchase of Oculus, Facebook is still pushing forward in its efforts to bring virtual reality to a mainstream audience. But one of the company's six co-founders now doubts Oculus will ever break through.

Jack McCauley told CNBC he doesn't think there's a real market for VR gaming. With Facebook positioning its Oculus devices primarily as gaming machines, McCauley doesn't believe there's much of a market for the device. "If we were gonna sell, we would've sold," McCauley said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

[...] The $199 Oculus Go has sold a little more than 2 million units since its release in May 2018, according to estimates provided by market research firm SuperData, a Nielsen company. The Oculus Quest, which was released this May, has sold nearly 1.1 million units while the Oculus Rift has sold 547,000 units since the start of 2018, according to SuperData.

[...] Since leaving in November 2015, McCauley has enjoyed a semi-retired life. He's an innovator in residence at Berkeley's Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation and he continues to build all sorts of devices, such as a gun capable of shooting down drones, at his own research and development facility.

The cheaper, standalone headsets are selling more units. Add foveated rendering and other enhancements at the lower price points (rather than $1,599 like the Vive Pro Eye), and the experience could become much better.

Related: Oculus Rift: Dead in the Water?
HTC: Death of VR Greatly Exaggerated
As Sales Slide, Virtual Reality Fans Look to a Bright, Untethered Future
Virtual Reality Feels Like a Dream Gathering Dust
VR Gets Reality Check with Significant Decline in Investment
Creepy Messages Will be Found in Facebook's Oculus Touch VR Controllers

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Hartree on Tuesday January 15 2019, @08:34PM (6 children)

    by Hartree (195) on Tuesday January 15 2019, @08:34PM (#787042)

    In the early 1990s VR was a hot topic as well. A number of game companies and such were investing heavily in it. The problem was that it induced nausea in a subset of users. The corporate legal teams told them that making kids sick to their stomach was a recipe for massive legal liability and bad press. The idea faded away.

    Things have gotten better WRT the fidelity of the simulation and that helps. In the 90s, even super high end installations like CAVE had nausea sacks handy because some vestibular systems just won't play well.

    Now peoples expectations might be more realistic, but it's not the gold mine it's been portrayed as repeatedly.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15 2019, @08:57PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15 2019, @08:57PM (#787054)

      We need to generically engineer VR-tolerant humans. You could house them in Amazon-style wage cages with no loss of productivity or morale!

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:08PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:08PM (#787061)

      Modded up. If not for the content, then definitely for the appropriate use of vestibular in a sentence.

      • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:22PM

        by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:22PM (#787069)

        I used to have a very nice vestibular but Mrs. Zombie decided they were no longer in fashion and donated it to the Salvation Army.

        I thought it looked quite smart, but what do I know?

      • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:32PM

        by acid andy (1683) on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:32PM (#787082) Homepage Journal

        Then again, they did use "super" as an adverb.

        If a cat has kittens, does a rat have rittens, a bat bittens and a mat mittens?
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:22PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:22PM (#787078) Journal

      VR isn't going away this time.

      What we've seen is the early adopter effect yet again. Tethered (at least using wires) is dumb, headsets should have front-facing cameras (and probably side cameras like HTC Vive Cosmos), they should have eye-tracking and foveated rendering, resolution and framerate can go up (framerate at least to 120 Hz, preferably to 240 Hz). There should be 6 degrees of freedom, never 3, and as much body awareness as possible without the use of external sensors, with the possible exception of hand controller gadgets. Headsets will become thinner and lighter, and battery life may improve as internal components become more efficient and battery energy density increases.

      And don't forget developments like this one: Oculus Research Presents Focal Surface Display. Will Eliminate Nausea in VR []

      Again, early adopters get a product that doesn't take advantage of years of additional research and lessons learned.

      Games and content are another problem for early adopters. You don't get the critical mass of content until there are enough people with headsets, but the first people to get headsets will have the worst selection of content. The solution is to make cheap mass market headsets, which Facebook and others are starting to do. It also helps that prerendered or live streaming 360-degree video can be made relatively easily compared to games, and is not difficult to render (you can even view 360-degree video on an older laptop with a click-and-drag UI, or on a smartphone using the accelerometers).

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:54PM

      by crafoo (6639) on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:54PM (#787093)

      All VR headsets from the 90s had tiny field of views (installations like CAVE being an exception). It was like looking through toilet paper tubes. This time around, in my opinion, the big innovation was extremely wide field of view. This changed the game. It's going to be big, we are just in the first stages of getting resolution, framerate, and feedback latency under control.

      I'm biased though. I've been playing with various VR coding experiments since the Oculus DK1. my fav so far is an interior for the Mako I've modelled with a basic driving simulation using Bullet3D. Busy adding various objects inside the cockpit that crash around when you take hard turns (fast food trash, soda cans, rubber squaak chickens). It's absurd. I'm having fun. I have high hopes for VR this time around.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:04PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:04PM (#787056)

    I went ahead and got a VR setup. Overall I am happy with the decision but there are problems that hamper the experience.

    The wires! It really sucks being tethered especially when you have to keep track and be careful of the cables.

    Gameplay. There are many enjoyable games, but personally I can't stand the teleportation method of traveling and it really ruins a game's experience for me. Saw this video reference and this [] is a great video metaphor.

    Controls. VR games should allow for a variety of control options, I don't always feel like standing and turning around and around to play a game. It would be really nice if they supported keyboard/mouse and game pads, but obviously this adds a non-trivial amount of development and I recognize it might not even be possible with some games.

    Headset quality. On these first models you can see the pixels too easily and it gets really obvious in the dark. So wireless and better screens is a must.

    Requirements. To run VR games well you need a newer computer with a beefy graphics card, this by itself drastically reduces the market. If someone plays on inferior hardware they will report that the experience totally sucks and gave them motion sickness or a headache.

    VR has a future but a slowdown seems reasonable until the next few hardware iterations, and VR software standards need to be developed unless we want to have separate ecosystems like game consoles. A bad idea I'm sure most devs would agree with.

    • (Score: 2) by ikanreed on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:36PM

      by ikanreed (3164) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 15 2019, @09:36PM (#787071) Journal

      Well, there's definitely a reason that when Facebook took over Oculus from Luckey, they said "we need affordable and standalone, not high-performance and big-budget games". Can't say I like either owner nor either policy much, but the corporate controllers seem to have a better sense of where the technology needs to go in the short run.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:14PM (3 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday January 15 2019, @10:14PM (#787076)

    The VR enthusiasts I know already have a couple of generations of gear, and nothing on the market at the moment is terribly compelling to get them to buy yet another round of hardware.

    What really needs to happen is to get the software ramped up to a point that it's not just the enthusiasts buying the gear when better gear comes out, but actual users buying the present gear because there's a compelling application for them to use it on.

    🌻🌻 []
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16 2019, @12:42AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16 2019, @12:42AM (#787138)


      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16 2019, @01:08AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16 2019, @01:08AM (#787150)

        I haven't looked for it but I vaguely recall that such is already available.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 17 2019, @07:03AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 17 2019, @07:03AM (#787806)

      All the dev tools for VR are split across a half dozen platforms, controller types, oses, and libraries.

      Another issue is the current inability to say, tether a cellphone as a display to your computer, so you can use your cell phone and google cardboard headset to play inside of games running on your PC and streamed over your network/wifi.

      The fact that the non-smartphone hardware starts at 300 dollars and goes up doesn't help either. If you want the userbase to make this profitable, you need the hardware pricing starting at 100USD. A hard number to hit, but that is almost into the impulse buy range for many modern day consumers.

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday January 21 2019, @12:29AM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Monday January 21 2019, @12:29AM (#789245) Journal