Virtual reality had a big year last year, and it's set to have a big year in 2017, too, although perhaps not in the same way. Last year saw a rather significant leap forward in terms of hardware. Four of the most major virtual reality hardware offerings made their way to market. This included the likes of HTC's Vive headset, the Oculus Rift, Sony's PlayStation VR, and then Google's Daydream View. All four of these were heavy hitters and represent part of the VR landscape that were a big push for the market as a whole. While options like the Gear VR and numerous Google Cardboard-based options had been available for at least a year or two, these four headsets that were finally available brought with them new and exciting features and content that simply wasn't available before, from extremely high-end games to non-Samsung Android phones finally having a decent mobile VR option. This year looks poised to be different when it comes to hardware, and is likely to be more about software.
Having said that, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it will certainly have some major benefits. This will give all of last year's options some much needed time to grow and expand their content library and focus on bringing more content to consumers, instead of trying to advance more on the hardware front. Content is king, after all, and even the slickest, most advanced hardware means nothing if there is very little content with which to use with it. Still, CES is the Consumer Electronics Show and it was likely expected to deliver droves of new and exciting VR hardware, but much of what was VR-based at the event was largely very similar to last year's offerings, having little no new technology or features. It was a lot of similar tech from new companies that just didn't present their own offerings last year. Save for technology like the HYPERSUIT, which is looking fairly promising and one of the few pieces of tech that aims to offer something different in the VR space.
The HYPERSUIT is not actually a piece of virtual reality technology on its own, but it does allow you to experience VR content in a whole new way that you couldn't really do with the headset and hardware that supports it. Allowing you to lay down and simulate activities such as swimming, skydiving, flying, and more, complete with fully accurate and full range of motion arm movements, the HYPERSUIT just might be the most interesting piece of VR-related hardware from the show. There are of course other unique pieces of VR-related hardware, like the Cerveo Taclim, a pair of shoes and hand-worn glove-like devices that let you literally feel tactile sensations in your hands and feet during your VR immersion. While interesting, one has to wonder how viable something like this might be for the VR mainstream. It's taken a few years for more and more people to get excited about VR headsets, so it wouldn't be shocking to see it take a few more years for something this niche gain a little momentum.
Beyond products like these, much of what was seen were headsets from the likes of Lenovo, which doesn't offer much in the way of different technology when compared to what's already available, although it does boast a less expensive cost than options like Vive and Rift, albeit without actually mentioning a price point yet. Other options like the Pico Neo CV are promising in their own right as they offer complete freedom of movement, while also being free of a reliance on other hardware. There are no smartphones to slot in, no computers to connect it to, just a headset that is packed with all the necessary components to functions, right down to the displays and the processor, which is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 I might add. It's even fitted with a camera on the front that seems to work similarly to the HTC Vive in that it lets you somewhat navigate the spaces around you so you don't hit walls and trip over objects. In fact, although this is just another VR headset it's still much more compelling than almost anything else as it's aimed at consumers, is likely to be affordable, and boasts decent specs. Still, though, it is just another VR headset, and although it does offer something a little bit different from what else is out there, it's not a completely new piece of VR technology. Overall, though, while VR hardware seems to be just a bit lacking this year and didn't have a huge presence at CES when it comes to new and exciting devices, there is still new hardware that seems interesting and will likely capture people's attention and, as mentioned above, less of a focus on hardware this year gives way for companies to focus on providing new content for the hardware that's already out there, and that definitely is something to get excited about.