Virtual reality is proving itself to be the buzzword this year.
At CES 2016 last month, VR exhibit space was 77% larger than 2015. Executives across the video and device world were eager to speculate on the potential of the new video technology; at NAB last year, it became clear that most all the major studios are now exploring VR and looking for ways to advance storytelling and monetize it; and at Mobile World Congress (MWC) last week, VR cameras, headsets and VR-enabled handsets proliferate.
The technology is still nascent, the gear is still pricey, adoption still early days, but it’s clearly on the rise. Research firm Tractica predicts there will be 200 million VR headsets sold over the next four years. 2016 will prove to be the make or break year for VR.
“Getting users to experience VR technology firsthand, and therefore truly understand its potential, remains a challenge, but the emergence of low-cost mobile VR solutions is helping,” the firm said. “The stakes are high given the huge amount of money invested in the industry by some of the world’s biggest companies.”
Samsung’s Gear VR headset: yours for $99 or even free with certain smartphone pre-orders
Virtual reality will receive a major boost this year as more consumers are able to capture an upload their own 360-videos that can be viewed in all their glory using VR headsets – thanks to support from social video platforms Facebook and YouTube.
360 Degree Cameras for the Masses
While GoPro and Nikon stole some thunder at CES for their respective high-end VR-capable cameras, the pool of consumer-friendly VR cameras has grown significantly so far in 2016.
Samsung has unveiled a new Gear 360 camera, which films and uploads VR video that viewers can then watch on their Samsung Gear VR headsets.
At MWC last week, Samsung revealed its two latest handsets, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, both of which have built-in cameras capable of taking 360-degree video, and are compatible with Gear VR headsets.
LG also unveiled its 360 CAM that records 360-degree video and records 5.1 surround sound. The videos can be uploaded and shared on YouTube and Google Streetview. No pricing was announced.
Headsets for the Masses
The tech giants have begun promoting their VR headsets for months now, and 2016 will finally see those hit the store shelves. Most headsets are designed with gaming in mind, but all of them can be used for entertainment viewing, too.
Google’s affordable $25 Cardboard VR headsets launched last year, and the company handed out headsets to attendees at CES earlier this year. The cardboard headset is comprised of a piece of glass and a slot for the user to slip his or her Android smartphone into, which plays the video from YouTube’s growing list of VR videos. The cardboard headset isn’t the easiest to use for long periods – for one, the user has to hold the headset up to his or her face to look through it – but for such a simple design and mass market price, what more can be expected?
Samsung’s Gear VR headsets sells for $99. It uses Samsung Gear VR-enabled smartphones to power the headset, much like Google Cardboard does, but the headset itself is much larger and more comfortable than Google’s, and doesn’t require the user to hold anything up to the face. Samsung is currently giving away Gear headsets for customers that order its newest line of smartphones before March 18.
LG announced its LG 360 VR headset at MWC last week, which works with its new LG G5 smartphone. It has a unique and thin visor design and connects to the LG G5 phone via USB cable. Once again, no pricing was announced.
Facebook’s Oculus Rift began taking pre-orders earlier this year. The headset, which will primarily be used for gaming, retails for $599. The Oculus kit includes a headset, microphone and Xbox One controller, along with a special remote for navigating through interfaces while wearing the headset. Oculus will offer video content and entertainment in addition to video games.
And finally, HTC has its VR headset Vive, which retails for $800, making it the most expensive. It’s arguably also the most futuristic VR headset; it includes a couple of room sensors that help transform the space into a virtual one visible through the headset. That means instead of just turning one’s head left or right, up or down to navigate, HTC Vive users can actually …
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