There has been a debate for years now about whether VR will take off as the next big thing, or whether it will crash and burn like 3D TV. After years of technological improvement, we’re finally at a point where VR looks really good. Unfortunately, it seems that average consumers are not interested anymore.
An April 2023 survey found that 29% of teenagers own a VR headset, but only 4% of those who own a headset actually use it on a daily basis. It’s a pretty grim reality for VR, but not too surprising if you own a headset, or even know someone with one. But what’s stopping people from using and embracing what were once thought to be the computers of the future? Today we take an in-depth look to find out what went wrong!
1. Complicated computer requirements
VR headsets require high-end computers to play smoothly
The need for an advanced computer prevents many potential VR users from embracing the technology. In addition to buying an expensive VR headset, the devices require a good gaming PC with a powerful GPU. Even with a good gaming setup, getting the settings for a VR headset can still require some tinkering.
This leads to some comparisons between PC vs console games. Casual gamers and VR users want something they can pick up and start using. While devices like Meta’s Quest are standalone headsets, the mobile processors used cannot handle more demanding games and apps.
2. Poor graphics
Low resolution VR screens create a screen door effect
Until this year, a major problem for VR was poor graphics. Video technology has largely held back the VR industry as small high resolution screens are needed. That changed in recent years when companies started producing very small, yet high-quality display panels. Headsets that use these better displays, like the Meta Quest 3 and PlayStation VR 2, started rolling out this year.
Unfortunately, it may be too late, as many consumers have already given VR a shot. Bad experiences with previous generations of headsets may end up scaring people away now that VR has come to the point of being useful.
3. Controls are unnatural
Many games require the use of motion controls.
Controllers haven’t changed much over the decades. In fact, the Wii had one of the few successful unique controls. Because gamers are so used to the standard control system, some people find VR controls unnatural. Some controllers are worse than others, but the original PlayStation VR easily had the worst.
Most headsets available today use a fancy hand controller that outlines each hand. Although the controls feel nice, many games require you to stand up and flap around, which is often annoying when you want to sit down and enjoy a game. Apple’s Vision Pro looks to shake up the VR control system in favor of hand gestures. It could be a game changer in making VR a more natural experience.
4. Headsets are uncomfortable
Heavy headsets that dig into the wearer’s face are a recipe for discomfort
Wearing a VR headset for a little while offers a cool novelty, but wearing it for an extended period of time is a real pain. VR headsets are rarely comfortable, and even the better designed ones still start to get annoying after prolonged use. This is a real problem as companies push to adopt VR headsets for businesses.
The comfort issue is about having a big, heavy piece of plastic attached to your head. Most devices hold the headset tightly against the wearer’s head, creating additional discomfort. Fortunately, VR technology will continue to improve in the coming years, and some headsets like the XREAL Air 2 are coming very close to being able to be worn all day.
5. Long-term use is difficult
VR headsets are not designed to be used for hours on end
Using VR for long periods of time is not only uncomfortable, but it can also cause dizziness, nausea and headaches. VR headsets simulate three dimensions by showing each eye a slightly different image. This can be very disorienting if not done correctly. Additionally, those prone to motion sickness often complain that VR triggers symptoms.
Even people who don’t usually experience motion sickness have trouble using VR for long periods of time. It’s also a problem when manufacturers try to use VR to watch movies or even replace computer screens.
6. Good VR headsets are expensive
High-end VR headsets still cost more than most people are willing to spend
VR headsets are cheaper than ever. Unfortunately, good VR headsets are still too expensive for many consumers to embrace. Meta Quest 2 was the most affordable option, but that was only possible thanks to Meta’s data collection, which helped offset the costs.
In reality, good headsets, including the Meta Quest Pro, are very expensive. Of course, PC VR headsets still require a high-end computer to run, adding to the cost of getting started. Then you are still connected to a computer, where there may not be much room to move around and play.
7. The games are not good
VR games are shallow and lack the kind of detail most gamers expect
The last reason people don’t get on board with VR is that the games and apps aren’t good. There are a few exceptions, including Sony’s Horizon: Call of the Mountain. However, that presents another problem, as several of the good VR games are exclusive to a particular headset.
Also, most of the games available in VR are super simple. Titles like Beat Saber are a lot of fun to play, but offer little depth, so they can get boring pretty quickly. Massive worlds are very rare due to hardware limitations and the cost of designing high quality games. But it’s hard to convince people to buy a headset when there are few blockbuster games.
What’s next for VR?
Despite the flaws, VR headsets are still popular, and manufacturers continue to improve their designs. There is a lot of potential for VR in the future, plus displays and processors are only getting better. Now manufacturers have to convince consumers to adopt the technology. For that to happen, they need to get game developers on board to create must-buy titles. In terms of commercial and desktop use, VR headsets still need to get a little smaller and more comfortable to wear for hours at a time.
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