Are AR and VR only for special occasions?

Julio Franco

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

As exciting and fast moving as the topics of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) may be, there’s a critical question that needs to be asked and thoroughly analyzed when it comes to these technologies.

Are they well-suited for regular use or just special occasions?

While simple on the surface, the answer to the question carries with it key implications not just about the potential size of the market opportunity, but the kinds of products that should be created, the manner with which they’re marketed and sold, and even when different types of products should come to market.

As an early enthusiast of both AR and VR—particularly after having tried several devices, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and HTC’s Vive—it was (and still is) easy to get caught up in the excitement and potential of the technology. Indeed, the first time you get a demonstration of a good AR or VR headset (and not all of them give a great experience, by the way), you can’t help but think this is the future of computing.

The manner with which VR engulfs your visual senses or AR provides new ways of looking at the world around you are pretty compelling when you first try them. That’s why so many people and companies, from product makers to component suppliers to software makers to retailers are so eager to offer an AR or VR experience to as wide a range of consumers as possible. The thinking is (or has been) that once people try it, they’ll be hooked.

Is it realistic to think that AR and VR are ready for general use, and if they’re not, is it fair to assume that people are willing to spend good money on something they may only use occasionally?

While that’s certainly a valid and worthwhile effort, as time has passed, it’s not entirely clear that merely exposing people to AR and VR is all that’s necessary to achieve the kind of market success that many presumed would occur. In fact, a number of recent consumer studies have highlighted what general market trend observations will also confirm AR and VR products are indeed growing, but at a slower pace than many (including me) expected.

So, the obvious question is why? Why aren’t more people getting into AR and VR and purchasing more of the products and software that provide the experience?

While there isn’t likely one answer to that question, one can’t help but think about the underlying assumptions that are buried in the title and first question of this column. Is it realistic to think that AR and VR are ready for general use, and if they’re not, is it fair to assume that people are willing to spend good money on something they may only use occasionally?

At its essence, that’s the fundamental question that needs to be answered if we are to understand how the AR and VR markets are likely to evolve.

To be fair, some of the technological limitations facing current products certainly have an impact on the market. Large, clunky, wired headsets are not exactly the stuff of mass market dreams, after all.

But even presuming the technology can be reduced to a manageable or even essentially “invisible” form into regular-sized glasses—and it will still be a long time to really get things that small—is the very fact that it’s in a form that has to be put on our face going to keep it from ever really succeeding?

As we’ve seen with smartwatches, just because technology can be reduced down to a reasonable size and into a well-known form, doesn’t mean people will necessarily adopt it. Even cool capabilities haven’t been able to convince people who’ve never adapted to or cared for wearing a regular watch to don a smartwatch. They just don’t want it.

In the case of glasses, it turns out that over 60% of people do wear some kind of eyeglasses (and another 11% or so wear contacts), but the results vary dramatically by age. For the highly targeted segment under age 40, eyewear usage is less than half of that, meaning nearly ¾ of consumers under age 40 don’t wear corrective eyewear. Trying to convince that group to put something on their face other than for occasional special purposes seems like a daunting task, regardless of how amazing the technology inside it may be.

Even if we get past the form factor issues, there are still potential issues with the supply of engaging content and experiences once the initial excitement over the technology wears off—which it does for most people. A great deal of effort from companies of all shapes and sizes is happening in VR and AR content, so I do expect things to improve, but right now there are a lot more one-time demos than applications with long-term lasting value.

Ironically, I think it could be some of the easiest and simplest types of applications that end up giving AR, in particular, more lasting power and market influence. Simple ways to augment our knowledge or understanding of real world objects or processes will likely seep slowly into general usage and eventually reach the point where we’ll have a hard time imagining life without them. We’re not there yet, though, so for now, I think AR and VR are best suited for special occasions—with appropriate adjustments in market expectations as a result.

Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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TomSEA

TechSpot Chancellor
"We’re not there yet, though, so for now, I think AR and VR are best suited for special occasions—with appropriate adjustments in market expectations as a result."

Good analysis. The clunky headsets are tiresome, there's a quick fatigue factor wearing them - that really needs to be resolved. You can also toss in the pricing, quality of presentation, motion sickness and quality media availability as to factors why AR/VR haven't taken off like a lot of people expected them to.

I don't think it's as bad as 3D TV's that were crammed down our throats as a "must have," but there's a long ways to go before AR/VR become commonplace.
 
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davislane1

I don't think it's as bad as 3D TV's that were crammed down our throats as a "must have," but there's a long ways to go before AR/VR become commonplace.
It will take two generations. With the next generation, they will likely eliminate the SDE problem (I've heard Sony did this with the PSVR but it is certainly present on the Oculus). After that will come the first major downsize and optimization of wireless. This is when they will get popular and you'll start to see a lot of serious content.
 

yukka

TechSpot Paladin
I have enjoyed using Playstation VR at a friends house. He has purchased nearly every headline game (he got bridge commander yesterday) and quite a few of the smaller games so I have experienced much of what it has to offer.

In comparison I sit at home playing a normal game this weekend (Mad Max if anyones interested), drinking a beer, eating from a bowl of snacks, feet up on my coffee table, able to converse with other human beings if they wander into the room, not getting neck ache or arm ache. and not having spent £450 to buy all the equipment.

I hope it catches on and gets cheaper (I hope Microsoft do something revolutionary with it when Scorpio comes out, introducing a higher cheaper headset that improves on the PSVR) but its not compatible at this time with the relaxed way I (and many others) usually spend evenings or spare time.
 

kapital98

TS Guru
"We’re not there yet, though, so for now, I think AR and VR are best suited for special occasions—with appropriate adjustments in market expectations as a result."

Good analysis. The clunky headsets are tiresome, there's a quick fatigue factor wearing them - that really needs to be resolved. You can also toss in the pricing, quality of presentation, motion sickness and quality media availability as to factors why AR/VR haven't taken off like a lot of people expected them to.
Click bait-y title but good analysis.

VR headsets need to improve in all the ways you're talking about. I think the motion sickness part is pretty overblown (with the exception of a tiny part of the population). Almost all motion sickness is due to either inadequate hardware or poor software. Something like the Doom 3 mod is amazing but causes me terrible motion sickness because the entire game cannot be integrated into VR. Native games like The Brookhaven Experiment have a similar problem due to really bad textures and latency issues. On the software side (say, Virtual Desktop) this isn't an issue. Neither is an issue in almost every native VR I've played (say, Serious Sam: The Last Hope).

All the other improvements are incremental and will take time. It can/will be done to an extent. This can also be seen in the hype between different VR companies. One company said it would explode and everyone would get it. They came out with an inferior product and have had difficulty pushing it even with one of the biggest companies in existence behind them. The other has been more conservative in their approach (but not the hardware) and have settled on it being niche product for now. Essentially, early adopters are beta testers. The second method seems to be a better long term solution.

Meanwhile, on the AR front, that is being handled with kid gloves in respect for consumers. It will be very interesting to see those products when they become commercially accessible (specifically, the next generation of the Hololens).

Too early to tell anything about how common these devices will become. Still, I'd put them in a different category than 3D TV's. Worst case scenario: They are the equivalent of smartwatches.
 

Trillionsin

TS Evangelist
MONEY! MMMMOOOOONNNNNEEEEYYYYY...... Does this need to be mentioned again? That and having everything you need for a good setup.... translation, money.

I still do not want to pay $500 - $800 for a setup. Then build a PC with a GTX 1080, or a PS4 or whatever else would be required. (thankfully I could have afforded the PC with the 1080) (Yes, I know a 1080 isnt required)

Alright, I'm a little behind on VR tech.... Out of site, out of mind.... while trying to wait on prices to drop this just becomes a fad and dies off like everyone else is doing. Well, I kind of hope not.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
Both the headsets and content need work. It's very annoying that these HMD don't have a standardized API / programming framework. It's too much work for devs to optimize for each device out there and it segments the already small market.
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
Those are certainly contributing factors... for me though, price and display quality are the primary reasons I haven't bought a VR headset. If we had some quality 4K or higher headsets I would shell out $800 for that and controllers, but with these low resolutions screens in the Oculus and Vive I'm not going to pay that much.

Wireless and content are # 3 and 4 on my list of concerns. I don't know about everyone else though.
 

AncientYouth

TS Rookie
I've tried it and in its current form it simply isn't a must have......it's far too cumbersome to feel relaxed and comfortable, I'm a diver and it reminds me a bit of doing that..fun for an hour or so but not something I would want to spend hours doing. I imagine like diving it could make some people feel a bit claustrophobic with all the gear stuck to their face.

It feels very isolated and cut off....which is part of its main selling point but again not a feeling many would want for hours on end in its current manifestation
 
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Emexrulsier

TS Evangelist
Having used Google Cardboard, Occulus DK2, PSVR and the Vive I have quite a bit of experience with VR. Yes it isn't without faults. The main issues the systems currently have are the focusing of objects far off in the distance. I don't think this is anything that can be resolved soon as I don't think we have the tech to rectify the problem. I am sure we need amazingly high ppi values litterally in the 1000s and some added eye tracking to fix that. Other items that need to master are movement within the VR environment. Many games have various methods of doing this, yes room scale allows some physical movement but you still have boundaries (these boundaries show you how something like a holodeck is impossible if the physical person is moving), you either point and click, or with the rift just use simple xbox movements. We need some sort of leg straps with sensors. They would need to be low powered and accurate then you could walk on the spot, this though prevents the use of the room scale as you couldnt walk around as again you would hit your room boundaries.
Another issues is the wires, again we are far off fixing this solution. Sure there are some 3rd part battery solutions but they are heavy and not something you want strapped to your back if you plan on playing a more active VR game.
Out of all the VR units I have tried, the PSVR is the more comfortable headset, but the complete package of the vive just blows others out of the water. Room scale really adds to games, as does the controllers. Yes the rift now has their own touch controllers and they are testing roomscale, but vive got their first and admittedly they got it pretty bloody good from the one go. The joypads track so well, with little to no movement lag, because of this fights with VR become accurate. It kinda reminds me of the experience I was expecting when I first bought a wii. I had some Samurai game but was disappointed when the wii remote didn't replicate what the guy one screen was doing. Now in VR I have held swords, shields, even a light sabre (trials of Tatooine) and I can say they have finally done it, which ever direction you swing it swings.
Next for VR I would like to see some gloves or somethings that you can wear in addition to holding the vive controllers or similar, where you can better feel and act with the environment. That is one major task that we can never ever do I don't think is to stimulate all our senses.
 
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CrazyDave

TS Enthusiast
I must admit, VR doesn't interest me at all in it's current form. I personally don't see much future in it going mainstream, I see it as a fad that will be short lived. It's too encompassing, it aims to remove you from the real world.
AR on the other hand, HoloLense specifically, interest me greatly. I can see applications for it in many daily tasks. I work in the engineering field and I can definitely see how this can help to visualize models, and the entertainment/gaming possibilities are endless. I like the fact that it doesn't isolate you into another world, it incorporates virtual content into your world. You can use it while walking around your office, or on a construction site because you can see what is going on around you. It's going to take some time, but I see AR as the future.
 

ET3D

TechSpot Paladin
It's still early days, both for the tech and for acceptance of it. There's no AR consumer set on the market, and the VR ones are rather primitive, so it's natural that there's more hype than substance. Current market isn't indicative of the market in 10 or 20 years. I think that mobile phones and then smartphones are a good example. It still baffles me that people feel comfortable going about with 5.5" screens in their pocket, but smartphones are such an integrated part of our lives now that hardly anyone (young, in particular) would consider being without one.

Like CrazyDave, I believe that AR is the future. Once we're able to view data and content all the time, we'll no longer need a screen device in our pocket, and we'll be able to do a lot more than our current mobile devices can do.
 
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Bubbajim

TechSpot Staff
Staff member
It's a brand new tech category (not counting the crappy 90s versions) that's been out for just over a year and already, just with the Vive alone we've seen:

about 1,000 games released
add-on wireless with TPCast
eye-tracking inserts
15% reduction in weight
refined strap for comfort with built-in audio
new software upgrades to enable running on cheaper hardware

Yes, I'm biased and want it to succeed, and if the innovation and refinements continue at the pace they have been so far, I genuinely can't see VR/AR going the way of 3D TVs.

Many of the complaints in this thread have been or are being addressed, so if people are genuinely interested in VR but have held off buying for the reasons they've given, I'd really encourage you to look again. My Vive gets almost daily use for a couple of hours at a time, and it's only going to get better in the future.
 

C Heald

TS Rookie
I always kind of saw AR as what we'll use throughout the day, and VR is what we use when we get home or on off days. AR is really better suited to use interactively in real life, while VR seems destined to be a couch favorite.
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
I must admit, VR doesn't interest me at all in it's current form. I personally don't see much future in it going mainstream, I see it as a fad that will be short lived. It's too encompassing, it aims to remove you from the real world.
AR on the other hand, HoloLense specifically, interest me greatly. I can see applications for it in many daily tasks. I work in the engineering field and I can definitely see how this can help to visualize models, and the entertainment/gaming possibilities are endless. I like the fact that it doesn't isolate you into another world, it incorporates virtual content into your world. You can use it while walking around your office, or on a construction site because you can see what is going on around you. It's going to take some time, but I see AR as the future.
So may I ask, what form would VR have to be for it to interest you? The whole point of VR is to remove you from the real world. Gaming, movies, even reading a book for some is because of their desire to enter into an alternate reality. Sure right now it is cumbersome and still has a lot of room for improvement in terms of interactive immersion, but lots of people want that. I don't think it is a fad, I think it is here to stay. It may not become mainstream (and I don't think it will), but I think since the technology is here, it will always be here.

As for AR I completely agree, there are so many useful applications for it, including some entertainment and gaming. However I think AR is less mature than VR and has a LONG ways to go in terms of technology.

I think both VR and AR are here to stay, and perhaps even one day they can be provided with the same device.
 
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IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
Having used Google Cardboard, Occulus DK2, PSVR and the Vive I have quite a bit of experience with VR. Yes it isn't without faults. The main issues the systems currently have are the focusing of objects far off in the distance. I don't think this is anything that can be resolved soon as I don't think we have the tech to rectify the problem. I am sure we need amazingly high ppi values litterally in the 1000s and some added eye tracking to fix that. Other items that need to master are movement within the VR environment. Many games have various methods of doing this, yes room scale allows some physical movement but you still have boundaries (these boundaries show you how something like a holodeck is impossible if the physical person is moving), you either point and click, or with the rift just use simple xbox movements. We need some sort of leg straps with sensors. They would need to be low powered and accurate then you could walk on the spot, this though prevents the use of the room scale as you couldnt walk around as again you would hit your room boundaries.
Another issues is the wires, again we are far off fixing this solution. Sure there are some 3rd part battery solutions but they are heavy and not something you want strapped to your back if you plan on playing a more active VR game.
Out of all the VR units I have tried, the PSVR is the more comfortable headset, but the complete package of the vive just blows others out of the water. Room scale really adds to games, as does the controllers. Yes the rift now has their own touch controllers and they are testing roomscale, but vive got their first and admittedly they got it pretty bloody good from the one go. The joypads track so well, with little to no movement lag, because of this fights with VR become accurate. It kinda reminds me of the experience I was expecting when I first bought a wii. I had some Samurai game but was disappointed when the wii remote didn't replicate what the guy one screen was doing. Now in VR I have held swords, shields, even a light sabre (trials of Tatooine) and I can say they have finally done it, which ever direction you swing it swings.
Next for VR I would like to see some gloves or somethings that you can wear in addition to holding the vive controllers or similar, where you can better feel and act with the environment. That is one major task that we can never ever do I don't think is to stimulate all our senses.
Paragraphs man... paragraphs. That sh*% is hard to read.
 

giantboy

TS Rookie
Back in the late 90's I was responsible for the UK launch of the SGI (Silicon Graphics) Reality Centre - a $1,000,000+ graphics system designed for multi-person VR applications such as oil rig, car & aircraft design & maintenance as well as advanced medical imaging. This system is based on using a section of a sphere onto which the output of three projectors are focused. The users wear active glasses (but not headsets) that are sychronised with Left eye / Right eye switching of the projector images. This type of system enables the users (often designers) to interact with each other in a wrap-round environment and 'walk' through the finest detail of what is being displayed. The system was purchased by many of the world's car, aircraft & oil-industry manufacturers and without it, these industries would not be where they are today.
I'm sure headsets will continue to be developed for consumer and some industrial applications, but they can never give the person-to-person serious interaction that the Reality Centre type of product can.
Virtual Reality is certainly a 'live' technology - as it has been for the past 18+ years, but it is not a toy and should only be used for applications where it can add value to what is being viewed.
 

CrazyDave

TS Enthusiast
So may I ask, what form would VR have to be for it to interest you? The whole point of VR is to remove you from the real world. Gaming, movies, even reading a book for some is because of their desire to enter into an alternate reality. Sure right now it is cumbersome and still has a lot of room for improvement in terms of interactive immersion, but lots of people want that. I don't think it is a fad, I think it is here to stay. It may not become mainstream (and I don't think it will), but I think since the technology is here, it will always be here.

As for AR I completely agree, there are so many useful applications for it, including some entertainment and gaming. However I think AR is less mature than VR and has a LONG ways to go in terms of technology.

I think both VR and AR are here to stay, and perhaps even one day they can be provided with the same device.
A holodeck would be awesome, some way of interacting with a VR world without having a headset strapped to my face. Who knows, maybe in a few years, VR Tech may mature far enough that this will be possible. I just see it as very claustrophobic and isolationist. I like to know what is going around me.

Perhaps the problem lies in lumping VR and AR into the same group. Yes, both have a headset, but I think they are fundamentally different in terms of user experience.
 

giantboy

TS Rookie
In the late 90's there was no distinction between AR & VR - it was all called VR as you were working in a 'Virtual World' At that time VR was much too expensive for the consumer games industry to use, so the only consumer-type experience were those that industrial software developers created in their spare time to run on the $1,000,000 system as a demonstration.
As PC graphics technology developed (Nvidia is a spin-off from Silicon Graphics) developers could see the opportunities for VR in entertainment - hence the development of consumer-level headsets.
I'm not a game player, so I wouldn't get a headset for that purpose. However, what I really would buy one for is viewing interactive geographic & engineering films in virtual reality. That could be awesome!
Certainly, AR & VR are going to stay around for the long term
 

That Dude There

TS Booster
You might have started the article with...what IS AR??? I still have no idea
I have an occulus btw, and after reading all comments, I assume AR is artificial reality. Anyone who says VR is a fad is wrong. Those who love it can't wait to spend money on the next generation,. Also as technology improves it will only become more popular. As far as the point of the article, who cares if it's mainstream? Stopp trying to force technology on tbe masses. Yes it worked with facebook and twitter, since there is obviously a media push to make it a lifestyle, but those are free. Even today a Fox News guy made a comment that included twitter in a worldwide news story that was so out of place and obvious to me that it is being programmed into the minds of the sheeple...proving there is a HUGE elite push for social media. Those uninformed would think that is silly, but are being closed minded, and don't see the government all servailence potential of social media. I proudly closed my FB account recently and will never go back. As far as VR...I'm on board until Jesus comes.
 

giantboy

TS Rookie
AR or Augmented Reality is the term given to viewing / creating things in 3D virtual reality that will (eventually) become physical objects. So here in the UK for example, in the late 90's car manufacturer Rover completely designed the Rover 75 (and 'ran' it in a computer) before cutting any metal. This obviously saved them a lot of money (and time) by eliminating the need to make many prototypes. Ford & BMW took the same approach. In the USA, Boeing did the same when designing the 777 aircraft. In fact, it was said at the time, had they not done so (but had used the old physical prototyping method) they would have gone bust.
In the oil industry practically all the main oil players use AR to study the complexity of oil rigs so that they can work out how modifications and maintenance can be done quickly and safely. Much better to work things out in a warm room rather than the cold North Sea!. More recently, the designers of London's new Cross Rail almost certainly will have used AR in the complex design process - they couldn't have designed Cross Rail without it.