This week, just earlier today in fact, LG announced their latest tech innovation – a new VR headset prototype which it currently has in development. LG’s VR headset is called the VR HMD, and as you might expect it looks a lot like most of the other headsets out there, while still having its own unique design elements that will differentiate it from other offerings once it eventually goes on sale. Therein lies a potential issue for LG though. The release date. By the time LG ends up getting the VR HMD headset to market will they be too late to the game to make any real dent in the industry and will they be able to compete with other brands that have offered products to consumers for months or even years?
It might be too early to tell if LG’s new technology will be a massive success but just from what they’ve shown off at the 2017 Game Developers Conference this morning where they officially unveiled it, there is some promise. First off, the VR HMD does have a camera along with sensors on the front that will allow the wearer to sense what’s in front of them so they have a little bit of movement without worrying they might run into something. This is similar to how the HTC Vive works and it’s certainly a nice element to add into the mix as you don’t feel so confined like you might with something like the Daydream View, Oculus Rift, PSVR or Gear VR. It also comes with a set of paddle controllers that look a whole lot like what you get with the Vive, right down to the touchpad. Where it perhaps sets itself apart is the way it connects to the hardware that will power the experiences.
LG is trying to develop a wireless box that connects to the hardware and transmits the video wirelessly, but connects to the headset itself via a short cable that comes out the back of the headset with the box being able to fasten on the hip of the wearer. You can see the description of this in the video above where LG explains the technology in an interview with Upload VR, and although it’s still in development and they could end up changing some things before it reaches the market, if it reaches the market, it’s certainly a promising piece of hardware that would give wearers more freedom. If you’ve ever worn an HTC Vive, you know how cumbersome that cable that connects to the PC hardware can be. Even though you can sense most of what’s in front of and around you to protect you from running into a wall, you still have to be on your toes to make sure that you don’t end up tripping over the cable that’s connected to the headset, and this could be one way that LG ends up being able to set themselves apart from other hardware. This is an ingenious idea if they can get it to work, as there will be much more freedom of movement and the wearer wouldn’t have to worry about taking a tumble.
Still, exciting new hardware will only be able to take LG so far when it comes to the VR market, and content is still king as the VR industry still feels like it needs more engaging content to grab the consumer and take VR into the mainstream. That may still not happen for a while, but LG may have the content part covered as well so they can catch up to other companies, at last to some degree, as they have reportedly partnered with Valve on the development with VR HMD headset, just as Valve partnered with HTC on the Vive. That means that if and when it ends up in production and sold to consumers, those who buy it should be able to expect compatibility with Steam’s growing list of VR game titles and other VR content, and more to the point it shouldn’t be too far behind already existing hardware when it comes to content you can enjoy, which is absolutely a good thing as LG is already behind in this space. Playing catch up won’t be easy, but that doesn’t mean that LG can’t do it, especially if they have help from Valve. Whether or not they succeed might depend on how quickly they can get their headset to market without compromising on quality and without cutting corners. How much LG is willing to invest into VR could also have a role to play not just in their own success apart from everyone else, but also in comparison to companies like HTC, who have reportedly just sold another phone factory to allow them more funding to invest in VR.