VR headsets, where are you going?

We’ve had two important news related to VR headsets during the last weeks, making a relevant milestone in this industry. The VR path is changing, and we need to understand how we are facing the future to be ready to cope with the new scenario.

First, the confirmation about the end of smartphone-VR in the high end. Samsung dropped VR support from its Galaxy Note 10 handset during the summer, confirming the deprecation of Samsung Gear VR. A few weeks ago, John Carmack (Oculus CTO) declared «It is probably time for me to give a bit of a eulogy for Gear VR». He explained the main reason Samsung gave to quit VR was the low retention of the user, in comparison to Rift, Rift S, Quest, and Go. And low retention was produced for the user friction, because users were reluctant to spend battery (so quicky), compromising their mobile availability, and the fact the users had to «get their phones out of their pockets, pull off cases, mount and dock it».

A few days later, Google announced they will stop selling Daydream headsets. The company declared to Variety: «We saw a lot of potential in smartphone VR—being able to use the smartphone you carry with you everywhere to power an immersive on-the-go experience. But over time we noticed some clear limitations constraining smartphone VR from being a viable long-term solution. Most notably, asking people to put their phone in a headset and lose access to the apps they use throughout the day causes immense friction». Again, this terrible word for a marketer: "friction".

Usability is the main reason for this friction, but another point has also to be considered: the hard requirements for processor and screen (and eventually battery), pushing the devices further than the specs they were designed for, high-end models included. Different devices for different specifications makes sense, and this is the path VR headsets are taking.

The second news is the Oculus Link. Oculus Quest will be able to become a tethered headset with a USB 3 cable, playing most of the PC content developed for Rift. Then, the user will have the opportunity to choose how to use the headset, as a standalone device, for VR video watching and low requirements VR games, or as a tethered device, getting all the power of the PC. This new hybrid headset concept can change the industry, the customer journey into VR and the way content is produced so far. In the near future, standalone and tethered flavors of the content will be available for the user.

The next step is the wireless link, they are working on that and the USB 3 cable will be changed by a radio link.

Soon, gamers, today more focused on tethered models, can get the opportunity to enjoy VR far from their PC. Video watchers, now more fans of stand-alone models, could easily step forward to a gamer experience when an equipped PC is available.

What is the summary of these two milestones? Smartphone-headset is dead while hybrid-headset has born. VR headset is not more a gadget, VR headset is an independent and first-row device.