Weekend Open Forum: Are VR headsets and smartwatches tech fads?

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

Tech history is full of products that are looked back on as fads - 3D television being a prime example. But some say that we’ll eventually see two of today’s technologies face the same fate: VR headsets and smartwatches.

VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive still haven’t taken off. While the much cheaper, though admittedly less powerful, smartphone-powered devices such as the Samsung Gear VR are selling quite well, their expensive counterparts are struggling. This was made evidently clear with the news that Best Buy is closing 200 Oculus VR demo stations, reportedly due to lack of interest.

I’ve always been a fan of what the Rift and the Oculus can produce, but the lack of a killer app, the price, and limited content are holding them back. Even the PSVR, which was expected to reignite interest in virtual reality, had its sales forecast lowered in November.

Smartwatches seem to be going through a similar crisis, though to a slightly lesser extent. While there were conflicting reports over how many of the wearables sold last year, it seems many people just don’t think they’re worth the money. But manufacturers continue to bring out new products, and Android Wear 2.0 was launched a few days ago, so maybe things will change.

For this Weekend Open Forum, we want to know your thoughts on VR headsets and smartwatches. Do they need more time for their technologies to improve and become cheaper before being widely adopted? Will they forever remain slightly niche products? Or are they destined to disappear completely before the end of the decade? Whatever your thoughts, do let us know in the comments below.

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hahahanoobs

TS Evangelist
Ask me again in another 3-5 years. Currently I have no interest in what I've read about either of them up to this point.
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Smart watchs are certainly a fad although I don't think they will die out entirely. VR has so much potential in various educational applications I can't help but think it will grow, but like anything, the makers better be exploring that market to the hilt or they will simply starve themselves out of existence ....
 

TomSEA

TechSpot Chancellor
They both belong in the fad category as far as I'm concerned. Although as Uncle Al mentioned, VR has potential in other areas such as military, medicine and education. But as a gaming platform - nope. It would take a Fallout, Witcher, Mass Effect type game to spark any interest. And even then I don't think most players would be interested in strapping on a headset for an 8-hour gaming stint.

I live in Seattle and so tech is really dominant around here. And the dumbest thing I see is Amazon/Boeing/Starbucks IT employees walking around wearing smartwatches, but staring at their smartphones. The only thing they really use their smartwatches for are...........telling time.
 
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Brock Kane

Smart watches I don't think will catch on, unless they have a "Beam me up Scotty" app.

But as for VR headsets. I think this is just the beginning. I believe the next VR controllers will be gloves, making every finger be useful in the virtual world. Using a virtual keyboard perhaps. Also, VR headset will have much higher pixels (4K and above) and wider aspect ratio. Wireless and implemented for AR as well as VR.

Also see live sporting events being brought to you in a VR world, like the Superbowl. Putting you in any seat and even on the field during the live game!

Seeing the latest movies some day, watching them in a VR environment instead of the traditional flat screen in front of you. There will be scenes in a movie simultaneously in 3 different directions, where the movie goer will have a choice at what scene they want to watch.

Hospitals performing surgery in a VR world, or buying a new home by taking a virtual tour of a new home in another state, without having to fly there to see it. This goes on and on, the possibilities are endless. Again, this is just the beginning! VR is not just for gaming, VR is for life!
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
They won't be fads in the sense that they became really popular and then went away. Neither VR nor smartwatches are mainstream. I do believe that both have a place. Just difference devices for different lifestyles.
 
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yRaz

Nigerian Prince
Smart watches, maybe. As a health device they could be incredibly powerful with wirelessly no monitoring things like pace makers or helping diabetics check their insulin levels. Otherwise, yes, they're a fad.

VR is a fad, but augmented reality could be useful. It could help architects and potential homeowners, or even shop keepers, see in 3D what their building will look like before they put a penny down.
 
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davislane1

No on both accounts. Smartwatches haven't been doing as well as some would like on paper, but there is growing interest in them in retail stores. VR will grow as two things happen: 1) substantial content is created and 2) the technology shrinks. Technologically, the Oculus and Vive in their present forms are to VR what the N64 and PSX were to consoles, they just lack the library. When this changes, they will take off.
 
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ikesmasher

TS Evangelist
Vr NEEDS to standardize an omni treadmill to get anywhere. The best attempt ive seen so far is the Virtuix omni http://www.virtuix.com/. but VR cant continue with 10 foot square areas. The best uses right now are sitting games like driving or piloting simulators.

Once the omni treadmill becomes common and the prices for the whole setup (minus a PC) drops below $500 VR can become mainstream quickly. It will be a LONG time before its anything remotely close to how VR is portrayed in movies but it can be alot better than it is now.
 
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Phr3d

TS Guru
Killer app and both are legion, cost no object.
presently, cost IS the object and you can't 'show off' either of them to any expectation of friends squealing 'I gotta have it' which is, IMO, how many/most tech products become legion.

VR to niche ventures? Already happening, cost no object, unqualified success.

Watches? DOA but for health (still debatable) at present -- it doesn't help that Cheap equals yecch as a fashion accessory, and the Designer editions don't hold a candle to a 30 year old Rolex, a timeless design (apologies).
 
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m4a4

TS Evangelist
Smartwatches in their current state seem more like a fad. Too small to be terribly useful.
As someone who has worked with VR, it will stick around. It's great for arcade style games, and it will be great for other non-gaming purposes (like training).
 

Skidmarksdeluxe

TS Evangelist
VR is a fad right now but it could eventually turn out to be something of a benefit. Time will tell. Speaking of time, smartwatches are the perfect example of fads. There is simply no good reason for their existence apart from making the manufacturer a bit of money. Activity trackers are well worth buying if you're the sporting or health conscious type, but they too can be nothing but glorified smartwatches when buying the 'premium' models with fancy, flashy finishes, a totally superfluous thing for activity trackers.
 

amghwk

TS Guru
VR is fad. When the novelty wears off (already worn off, if you ask me), they will go back to sitting in front of their monitors to play as they have always did before. No question about it. And a watch you need to to plug to the wall socket everyday to recharge along with your smartphone? That's ... meh... too.
 
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BSim500

TS Evangelist
Yes. Smartphones are the most obvious, essentially doing nothing but replicating a fraction of your phone's capability. Tired of using your smartphone? Buy a smart watch! Tired of using your smart watch? Buy a smart hat, smart necktie, smart socks, smart underpants, smart bracelet, etc. Gotta love "solution looking for a problem" marketing... The only useful smartwatch feature is exercise, and the monitoring side of that is way overblown (again by marketing). ie, unless you're training for the Olympics, the only people who "need" constant minute by minute monitoring are geeks / Yuppies wanting to be seen to engage in "premium exercise" (and who tend not to last more than a couple of months once the novelty has worn off), more than people who actually do exercise regularly and find that after a while, they can learn how to mentally gauge distance and pulse rate without needing any tracking device at all.

In it's current state, VR is a fad mostly due to the way the overhype ascribed is almost completely divorced from reality of sales far lower than even 3D-TV's (once the early enthusiast adopter backlog was out of the way). People talking it up are those who already own it and the common response to any criticism is "Anyone who disses it can't possibly have tried it". Well I have tried it, and whilst it "technically" worked it was not without issues (comfort, vergence accommodation conflict, motion sickness, spectacle wearer discomfort, heat build up, no content, owners spend more time toying with novelty tech demo's and less time gaming, and was a lot more uncomfortable to use than a decent 2D monitor once you cross the 30-45min barrier for multi-hour gaming of having something stuck over your face), lack of standardisation, etc.

When next gen dual 4K headsets come out, cost of PC hardware will soar again. It's nothing like the Wii craze a few years back. VR won't die off. It has plenty of potential simulation applications, but in its current state it is absolutely even more overhyped than 3D-TV's were for the consumer arena, and consistently misses the point it isn't just about technology, but psychology, ie, many gamers just want to flop out and relax on the sofa with a controller, and when even sitting at a desk using a keyb & mouse is "too exhausting" for many living room console gamers, you know these visions of the same average Joe spending thousands on treadmills and body suits, etc, or the whole family buying 4x headsets to "watch a movie in a virtual theatre" at 10x the price of a large screen TV which a dozen people can use at once, are niche as hell marketing fluff.
 

cuerdc

TS Booster
Vr great but needs work price size of headsets, should have some sort of mech to stand sit in to give relavent feedback and lack of content. Smartwatches potential but req battery life and many more features if only all company's could work together to create something worthwhile as so many things are split across so many platforms there could so easily be the one thing for everything
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
VR isn't so much a fad, its more like unobtaniam. It is just too expensive to have a good VR experience right now. Once the tech improves, prices drop, and VR games actually have full content and are fun then VR will take off. It don't think it will completely replace monitor based gaming, but I think it will be a large chunk of the market for serious gamers.

As for smartwatches.... it may morph into something else, but honestly with tiny screens and limited capabilities not much is going to happen with it. It may morph into something that is completely capable for things that don't rely on visual media consumption and will be common place. Time will tell.
 

Igrecman

TS Maniac
If I have to upgrade my computer just for VR to triple the computing power I really need , then forget it. Same for the majority of people I bet. Hence this VR technology is arriving too soon. In 5 to 10 years when most people have a computer fast enough, then this technology could catch on. In the mean time, it's a sure fail. A worst fail than 3D TV
 
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Brock Kane

If I have to upgrade my computer just for VR to triple the computing power I really need , then forget it. Same for the majority of people I bet. Hence this VR technology is arriving too soon. In 5 to 10 years when most people have a computer fast enough, then this technology could catch on. In the mean time, it's a sure fail. A worst fail than 3D TV
Fact is as VR evolves, so will the demand of higher end PC's get lighter. Don't knock VR until you at least demoed it.

Most will be impressed!
 

Igrecman

TS Maniac
Fact is as VR evolves, so will the demand of higher end PC's get lighter. Don't knock VR until you at least demoed it.

Most will be impressed!
I know it's visually amazing but most people won't even try it if they know they can't afford it with the computer they have to buy for it. I read somewhere that Best Buy was removing lots of Demo VR Booth for lack of interest. Not surprised.
Found the link http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/facebook-closing-hundreds-of-oculus-vr-pop-ups-in-best-buys/article/485456
 
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Brock Kane

Fact is as VR evolves, so will the demand of higher end PC's get lighter. Don't knock VR until you at least demoed it.

Most will be impressed!
I know it's visually amazing but most people won't even try it if they know they can't afford it with the computer they have to buy for it. I read somewhere that Best Buy was removing lots of Demo VR Booth for lack of interest. Not surprised.
Found the link http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/facebook-closing-hundreds-of-oculus-vr-pop-ups-in-best-buys/article/485456
Yeah, I've read that. But they're not going to get the interest they had during the holidays.

Anyway, the prices on these will fall as more competition gets on board. There is a lot of interest and the interest continues to grow. Even IMAX theaters are developing VR theaters soon.

The headsets will be more trim-line and cost less to build. Soon there will be stand alone units where you won't need a big and expensive PC to run it. Give it time, don't give up on VR just because it's expensive right now. I remember a time when only "the rich" were using wireless (cell) phones. Now even 3 year old's have them.
 

amstech

IT Overlord
95% of people that say VR is a fad have not tried it.
VR is awesome and it's here to stay.
Its a pain to configure and use sometimes, its still in its infancy.

SmartWatches though are not going to last.

Fact is as VR evolves, so will the demand of higher end PC's get lighter. Don't knock VR until you at least demoed it.

Most will be impressed!
I know it's visually amazing but most people won't even try it if they know they can't afford it with the computer they have to buy for it. I read somewhere that Best Buy was removing lots of Demo VR Booth for lack of interest. Not surprised.
Found the link http://www.digitaljournal.com/tech-and-science/technology/facebook-closing-hundreds-of-oculus-vr-pop-ups-in-best-buys/article/485456
A comment like this shows exactly what the problem is...a lack of knowledge.
1) My Samsung 2016 Gear VR cost $70, brand new.
2) People have short attention spans and do not care to fully give it a shot. I am a PC Enthusiast and even I didn't want to try it at first.
 

ET3D

TechSpot Paladin
In think they are fads in the sense that they are not the final form factor things will take. Smart watches are just a way to bring data closer, which is what good AR will ultimately bring, and VR headsets are still cumbersome and low-res, and would also work better as AR/VR.

In the long run, I do think that AR could replace pretty much everything from smartphones to gaming displays. It just needs a lot more work.