CES 2017: Introducing the next wave of VR

By - CTL
January 4, 2017

For lovers of consumer technology, the annual CES Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a mouth-watering gadget banquet, where hundreds of manufacturers display their new wares that (they hope) will be making their way into our homes in the months or years to come.

Even now, as the event gears up for take off, the technology press is already frothing at a number of expected announcements, whether it be robotic home helpers, new TV formats, new laptops, self-driving super cars, or whatever else you can imagine in the world of future technology.

Some of that new technology may even point to an evolution for us, as content creators, filmmakers, marketers. It might change the way that we film and produce that content, or indeed, it could herald a new evolution in platforms that we make it for.

Back in 2013, the big news was Oculus Rift, which only had a simple demo to show off. There were no details on its business plan or how its gadgets would get into the hands of customers.

But as Nathan Ingram of EnGadget stated: “That didn’t matter. We were captivated, and Oculus rode that wave to partnerships with Samsung, a purchase by Facebook, and status as one of the most dominant players in the nascent VR market. Indeed, the company directly influenced the business paths of four of the biggest companies in technology: Facebook, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft, all of whom have heavy investments in VR now.”

And here we stand, in the early days of 2017. According to the US Consumer Technology Association (CTA), virtual reality headset unit sales are projected to reach 2.5 million units this year, 79% up from 2016, to drive $660 million in revenues with 43 percent increase.

In its latest semi-annual industry report, unveiled in advance of CES 2017, CTA projects that the 2017 US consumer-tech industry can reach a record $292 billion in retail revenues, with 1.5 percent increase year over year.

But with the really big tech giants already embedded and off the blocks with the likes of Samsung Gear, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Playstation VR in the hands of consumers, are we really going to see much that will change the way we look at content creation?

Paul James, of leading industry news site, Road To VR, writes: “The focus for CES this year will likely be less about hardware revisions and more about a glimpse of technologies we may see forming part of the next generation of yet-to-be announced VR hardware. We’ll see the strides made by companies in the field of wireless VR, hopefully progress in the eye-tracking arena and perhaps a handful of VR-centric input devices. That said, the joy of CES is that you never can tell what might happen.”

There are some interesting things like the unveiling of the Lenovo headset, a prototype device that works with Microsoft’s Windows Holographic platform. Apparently, next to other tethered PC headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive, it’s noticeably smaller and lighter (Lenovo says it will be around 350g for the final product’s weight versus the Vive’s 555g), it’s also going to be cheaper, with a price the company claims will be ‘close to $300’. But of course, what they will be showing is just a non-functioning prototype, so hold your breathe on that one for now.

Elsewhere, Upload VR’s Will Mason, a prominent journalist who will be getting his hands on all of this tech, talked about the team at Oculus Developers, Pimax, who will unveil a headset that it claims has 4k per-eye resolution (2x 3840*2160) and a 200-degree field of view – something that the head of Oculus  stated wouldn’t be around until 2021.

Yeah, sounds great, but at what cost for the consumer, as Mason points out.

“Running a VR headset at the current resolution at the required 90 frames per second is tough enough on modern hardware as is. But 4k per eye? You’re going to need some kind of super computer. The price point on the hardware to run this headset will likely keep it off consumer shelves for a while unless the team has something miraculous up their sleeve.”

But of course, this is CES…so who know’s what could happen?



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