Tech Talk: What Happens If VR Is An Epic Fail?

Right now, all the talk is on virtual reality, or as it more affectionately becoming known, VR. A day does not pass without some form of VR news coming through. A sign of the times some would say, as VR is the current 'in thing'. But who decided that VR is where it is at? Consumers? Not really as VR is still not mainstream enough and still largely a techie thing at the moment. Manufacturers? Well, again, in spite of the growing number of high-profile names that are becoming attached to VR, those names have only recently got involved with the platform. It was only the select few companies who showed their colors early when it comes to VR. The truth is, it is not clear when exactly VR became a thing, but it is a thing now nonetheless. A thing which could change the way people engage with media and their mobile devices. Or then again, it could end up being an #EpicFail. Which raises the question, what happens if VR does flop?

The problem is there is so much talk about VR now that it is difficult to independently consider the platform. It is just being assumed that because the tech industry is continually talking about it, it matters. But that could all change in a shake of a VR controller. A couple of years ago, smartwatches was all the talk and while there's still some talk, it certainly has not taken off like the manufacturers who invested so heavily in the platform had hoped for. VR could quite easily go down the same route and especially considering VR is becoming a divisive price market. At the one end you have the likes of the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift which come sporting the most engaging and cutting edge version of virtual reality. One which will leave you breathless and your wallet largely empty due to the high-prices attached. And this is without even taking into the considering that Rift and Vive rely heavily on the gaming market and the fact that you need fairly decent hardware to make use of either of the two. On the other side of the spectrum, there are many headsets coming through with the price-conscious in mind, made of plastic or cardboard and although provide a taste of virtual reality, it is only a taste. Where VR would most likely succeed as a market, is in the very market that it is currently avoiding, the middle-priced sector. The experience which is as good as it can be, at a price that is affordable to the masses. And there is where the problem will lie and the possibility of VR being a flop lurks.

If it was to end up being a fad industry then there will be obvious losers. Samsung has invested greatly in VR and are one of the leaders as well as the pioneers, so it would hurt them to see a platform they have spent so long and so much money on fail. However, it would not be detrimental to them, as after all, this is Samsung and another 100 million smartphone sales or their next contract to build more ships will ease the financial burden. Much can be said for Facebook who owns Oculus. While they are currently very big promoters of the industry, for it to close would not have an everlasting impact on them. They are busy with other forward-thinking areas like machine learning and A.I. HTC on the other hand, will feel it and will feel it a lot. It is no secret that HTC has endured a difficult time in the mobile space and this is thought to be one of the clear reasons as to why HTC is backing VR as the next big thing. They are an all-in company and have clearly stated they believe VR to be more important than smartphones. So for the platform to fold when they have invested so much into it, will be a real blow for HTC. Whether it is a killer blow or not, remains to be seen, but they will certainly feel it more than the likes of Samsung, Facebook or even Google who have just recently entered the fray (Cardboard aside). The same could be said for Sony. This is another company who has struggled of late in the mobile sphere and they are also another company that has invested heavily in virtual reality with their PlayStation VR. So if the bottom of the VR market fell out, then like HTC, Sony would be another one who gambled and lost out to the house.

Of course, all of this remains to be seen at the moment. What is clear is that right now VR is a thing. Whether it will remain one or become the thing that everyone thinks it should be, remains to be seen and will largely depend on market-penetration. VR will need to become mainstream to recoup investment and it can only do that if it appeals to the masses and that is often a battle which is in turn, decided by accessibility, aka price. However, VR does have one clear advantage in its corner, the number of high-profile companies who are invested in it and who will do all they can to ensure it does not flop.

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About the Author

John Anon

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]
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