As we all know by now, Google has unveiled a new kind of standalone headset that does not need to be wired to a PC or external sensors. The VIVE headset is the main one in question for today.

In a way speculating is futile as we know so little about the headsets, yet for the last few weeks I have been pondering whether the headset is set for the hype. In theory it is; having the corresponding components for the headset, it lowers the requirements of having expensive components or a killer PC for use. Then again, I have my personal doubts which shape my thoughts.

First is support. We do not know whether the VIVE headset is compatible with Steam, or whether it can access Steam’s library of games. If it does, that is fantastic- yet I do not think it can run them all considering the power of the lil’ device. I can imagine Steam introducing labels of whether they are ‘compatible’ with certain headsets. Which may mean the VIVE is usable with all games, and the standalone is usable with a smaller selection. The same logic can be placed with the Oculus store as well with Google’s set, though I would imagine HTC would be levering its own partnerships with Valve and its PC service.

Then there is the more mass-market appeal of the headsets – where its potential could be enormous. Vijay Michalik, Industry Analyst, Frost & Sullivan, agrees with the potential: “Despite the processing performance tradeoffs that have to be made, these headsets point to the more likely mass-market VR scenario that people don’t buy high end gaming PCs to power VR.” Though rightfully, he also notes that “early adopters will still face a high price point until scale and application revenue are achieved.”

But that’s the thing – haven’t we seen this with Google Cardboard? Wasn’t Google Cardboard already a cheap type of headset with the trade off for low power? Potentially so, and though it will be slightly higher in price, I can imagine emulating the same success, to a lesser scale of sorts. It’s a bridge point.

Christian Barlow of Glass VR says the same: “Sitting between mobile and tethered in terms of price and performance, the standalone Vive headset could be the tipping point which sees virtual reality enter the mainstream.” The hope is high indeed.

We’ve felt for some time that we have been moving towards all-inclusive headsets, as it would tie the whole package together. The technology is almost there – what I hope is that these headsets are linked to already-existing places where games and experiences can be dipped into. For now, let’s see what the tech and support is like.

Tom Ffiske

 

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