Man, 2015 was a real tease. After so much build-up, hype, investment headlines, product reveals, and game announcements, it still looked as though the dawn of Consumer VR would be pushed back yet another year. The Vive’s limited release was delayed from December until April, and today we’ve learned the launch of Oculus’ competing ‘Touch’ controllers has been moved from H1 to H2 next year (though their first PC tethered mask – the ‘Rift’ is still on course for Q1).
The silver lining in both cases is that we are told the extra time is only to improve the product, and not a bad omen of some kind. Well, if you backed the Virtuix Omni as I did, you’ll know that these pioneering VR companies are taking their responsibilities extremely seriously. The success or failure of our digital future rides on their shoulders, and they don’t want to release anything until it’s ready. Ready doesn’t mean perfect, especially in the case of VR masks, where it will take a few more years to increase the FOV and resolution to match the capabilities of human vision; it just has to work well, like the earliest game consoles worked well and were enjoyable, despite that their power is now dwarfed by today’s offerings.
Still, such delays could have been meant a frustrating start for many of us who have been riding this wave of anticipation since 2012. However, two products did see a release at the latter end of this year, and that changes the outlook considerably.
A huge landmark in the new medium was reached with the delivery of Samsung’s mobile-based ‘Gear VR’ mask and Virtuix’s flagship ‘Omni’ treadmill, which together ensure that when midnight comes and we look ahead to what 2016 will bring, we won’t be asking ‘when will VR happen?’ or even ‘Will it ever get off the ground?’; no – VR is already here, in the apartment of one Mr Fred Wood at least, and it’s here to stay; which allows us to ask the altogether more optimistic question of ‘what happens next?’
What happens next, at least from my humble point of view, is CES. This biggest consumer electronics tradeshow in the world, held annually in Las Vegas. It is from this great city, the brightest on Earth, that I am writing my first VR Blog entry for Explore VR – and I thank you for reading it! This will be my third CES, and the biggest yet. Interest in the Virtuix booth is certain to be even higher now that they have shipped their product, and adding fuel to the fire will be an exclusive event – the world’s first Active VR tournament, in which I will be taking part.
Omni Arena is a competitive multiplayer demo developed by Virtuix as a proof of concept for a new type of sport. E-sports have been growing rapidly in recent years, in some cases overtaking traditional sports in their viewing numbers. However, they have lacked a physical component, until now. Seeing the challengers pushing their bodies to the limit as they run in pursuit of victory will add a new layer of excitement for spectators, combining the best of both traditional and e-sports. This will no doubt attract a lot of interest not only from the gaming community, but also the e-sports industry. It could be beginning of a phenomenon, and of course I am very grateful to have been invited to be a part of this historic occasion.
I should say now that I am not feeling all that confident. Christmas has taken its toll. The bulge of my abdomen as I gazed in the mirror of my London hotel bathroom at 4am this morning did not inspire much belief in my fitness, which may have been compromised by too many mince pies, and too much cake (also too much time spent researching and writing articles!). I know I’m going to be pitted against younger, fitter guys so… wish me luck.
Still, there will be no lack of motivation on my part. The honour of perhaps being the first to lift this trophy will compel me to make the greatest effort. A severe week-long detox has already begun, and I will try to be in the best shape I can manage come the 6th of January.
Of course this means no ‘celebrating’ tonight. Once I am done uploading this blog entry I shall try to find my friend Lorenzo, and join him in seeing in the New Year, but it will be a Virgin Bloody Mary I hold in my tightly clenched fist. The vodka I’ll save for when I’m crowned the Omni Arena Champion.
Have a great time wherever you are tonight, and join me in wishing the VR industry a successful first year. Here’s to 2016, and the future!