Many industry observers consider standalone VR headsets to be the future of virtual reality hardware, and for good reasons. Cables, powerful PCs, and elaborate setups are all obstacles that stand in the way of mass adoption of VR. Add to this the cost of all the gear, as well as the space required at home and one, can begin to understand why everyone isn’t rushing to the store… yet.
Standalone VR headsets offer a number of benefits:
- All-in-one and ready to use,
- Easy to travel with,
- Perfect for casual immersive experiences.
Looking at some of the industries likely to adopt VR, such as education or real estate, for example, being able to offer an untethered VR experience is necessary for practical reasons alone. Lengthy setups and wires will distract individuals from the experience itself and, in the case of a classroom, could be the source of safety issues.
Standalone VR headsets offer the possibility of an easy VR experience, accessible to all, even to those that lack any computer literacy. Let’s take a look at how things are moving along in this space.
Next-gen VR: the rise of standalone devices
According to IDC’s latest report, the Oculus Go, released on May 16th 2018, makes up the bulk of the devices shipped this year. It’s still far behind PSVR’s impressive total of 3 million units shipped since its 2016 release (source). However, the numbers are encouraging and show this is a promising product category with lots of potential.
Indeed, while sales for tethered headsets fell 37.7%, shipments of standalone devices rose by 417.7%. Before the Go, user-friendly, content-rich standalone devices were few and far between and not available at such a competitive price. Oculus managed to hit a sweet spot.
Oculus Santa Cruz: a game-changing device?
The release of the Oculus Go earlier this year was an important milestone for the industry. Though it is only 3DoF, it offers a great immersive experience, especially for newcomers, dabbling in VR for the first time.
While little is known about Oculus’ project Santa Cruz, it is expected to offer a full standalone 6DoF experience. Judging by the success of the Go (212,000 units sold to date according to IDC), this could very well be a game-changer for the industry and a sign that VR technology is maturing.
The Santa Cruz will compete with the HTC VIVE Focus which is set for an international release later this year. Ultimately, price, content, and design will influence who wins the race.
HTC VIVE Wireless Adapter: a realistic workaround?
Another interesting development in this space is the soon to be released HTC VIVE Wireless Adapter, a very promising product. This device will allow turning any HTC VIVE into a standalone head-mounted display. To put things into perspective, the HTC VIVE represents 43% of the headsets used on the SteamVR platform.
However, an important barrier remains, price. The Wireless Adapter alone will sell for about 300 USD. The HTC VIVE costs around 600 USD and requires a powerful and costly computer. This new solution will tempt many existing users but it will likely be another barrier for newcomers.
2019 will be an exciting year for virtual reality, both in terms of products and adoption. Looking ahead, the future of VR is looking bright… and untethered.