Is the VR hype justified, or just another 3D TV?

Is the VR hype justified, or just another 3D TV?
Credit: betto rodrigues / Shutterstock.com

With one of the biggest mobile trade shows in the world wrapping up last week, the one message that came from many big-name manufacturers is that 2016 is going to be a breakthrough year for VR – but is that really true?

With Samsung, LG and HTC all bringing VR news to Mobile World Congress, and virtual reality being used heavily to show off new products, the overriding theme for me was that VR is the here to stay. VR is the future. Right?

Another conference. “Great.”

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Of course, a few years back manufacturers and content producers were all saying that 3D TV was finally ready for the mainstream and would revolutionize the way people watch movies and TV shows. Now, not so much. Many manufacturers aren’t even making 3D TVs any more and channels have switched priorities to getting UHD/4K content out to the masses instead.

As such it’s easy to be sceptical of VR. It’s still a niche proposal but the brands don’t want it to stay that way.

For me, it has more chance of success than 3D ever did. 3D TV promised to let you get an additional view, a new angle on what you’re watching. VR promises to let you go anywhere and do anything.

With the most realistic experiences likely to set you back around $2,000 for a high-spec PC and VR headset, it won’t be too long before that barrier to dipping your toes in the virtual waters falls. That’s why Google Cardboard and cheaper VR headsets that you pop your phone into exist – to give you a taste of the real thing.

To really succeed, however, it’s not just about consumption – it’s also about creation, and the show also had plenty of 360 cameras and VR-like gadgets to put those tools in the average user’s hands. That’s the crucial part of this equation.

If those tools are well received when the go on sale, VR looks set to continue to march towards mainstream acceptance throughout 2016 – but whether it’s here to stay or not is still up for debate.

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