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Google is reportedly shutting down its in-house VR film studio (techcrunch.com)
117 points by sidcool 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

I bootstrapped a VR company (1) after leaving a high paying CMO job. I put in around $100k, we released three games, one got some funding from HTC, we were shown at GDC, SIGGRAPH, VRLA, etc. We hit around 2,700 MAU before my co-founder tapped out after no salary for two years.

I took six months off from VR to go back to a normal job that paid well. That got acquired (in a very non-meaningful way, at least for me) in December and I’ve been drawn back to VR. Immersive computing is the inevitable next platform. Recent data(2) shows the kind of growth you’d expect and hope for at this stage.

As others have said, the Quest will be a game changer. I think an NDA says I can’t confirm or deny that I have one, but I certainly agree it is a game changer. During my six month break from VR, I didn’t have any of my half dozen headsets setup. We had turned my living room into our office prior to dismantling, so it was nice to just have my living room back to normal. Setting up my Vive again after six months reminded me of what a pain in the ass that process is. The Quest fixes all of it.

VR is not 3D TV. Anyone who has experienced both knows that to be true. AR will have a much higher install base, but VR will have an addressable market of tens/hundreds of millions.

I’ve been working on a postmortem about my VR company for a while, but can’t seem to finish it. Partially because I’m not sure if that company is over yet.

I’ve got plenty to say about VR, VR startups and VR venture, so any questions, ask away.

(1) http://www.RLTYCHK.co

(2) https://www.roadtovr.com/monthly-connected-vr-headsets-on-st...

Is home entertainment the breakout (sustainable) market for VR? That is where most of the public-facing hype is, but it's a very particular market (people are very price sensitive, "training" is self motivated and people eschew instructions, space is a concern, quality expectations are rather high). I also feel like it can be fickle and difficult to build something sustaining.

I've done some VR development and room VR is amazingly good at conveying scale and space. I was mostly dabbling with architecture and vehicles. When people are finished and take off the VR headset there's often a double-take because they forgot how small of a room they were in. It works for assessing scale and space in ways a video, picture, or diagram can't. It's the kind of difference that makes people order doll furniture off Amazon--something that would never happen if you bought it in store.

Other comments on here talked about how game changing Google Earth VR is. Not just for entertainment, but for surveying and planning outings.

The business market has its own problems and demands, though.

Like you I think the Quest will change everything. I feel that it has to, at this point, for VR momentum to break through. Do you think Oculus will dominate the space in the coming decade? I can't help but be reminded of Sense/Net from Neuromancer as a potential VR-only business with massive upside and potential (userbase in the hundreds of millions if not billions) that can be done _today_ if VR headset proliferation went beyond gamers. I am thinking if Carmack and Abrash can't get it done, chances that anyone else will are slim, at least in this generation.

I have conflicting thoughts about Oculus' domination. Last night was an interesting example, Facebook went down and took Oculus with it. But beyond that, if this is going to be the platform of the future, we're going to need more than one company behind it. History tells me that there is a better solution being built in a garage right now. If Lucky Palmer could do it in the 2010's, someone else can be doing it again now. I'd certainly vote for that company to be stand alone.

Have you read The History of the Future (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062455966) yet?

How's the market for VR doing in general? Is it growing or shrinking?

Around the time the first Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Microsoft's HoloLens were released some years back seemed to be high water mark of media stories about VR. Since then it seems to be pretty quiet.

Is VR dying on the vine?

VR is like AI.

It's a constant hype/disappointment cycle, albeit it's getting better at every iteration; it's far from delivering on their promises though.


“Mobile” was the same until it was just everywhere.

I think it is closer to electric cars.

Electric cars are far from new, in fact, the first car to exceed 100 km/h in 1899, was an electric car named "La jamais contente".

And for decades after that, other impractical electric cars came out. But as technology improved, they started looking more and more promising, then commercially viable, then desirable, and they are on their way to becoming mainstream.

I think we are at about the same point with VR. It is more than a novelty, but here are still kinks to iron out before it becomes mainstream.

Not really, mobile exploded immediately (in the early nineties), and kept expanding (with the smartphone boom).

As someone who developed WAP sites for mobile phones, I remember it differently.

Also, in the "Early 90's," state of the art was an AMPS Motorola bag phone on Cellular One.

WAP was just a failed technology for mobile.

Not the same as mobile itself being a hype for any period of time.

WAP was big in some countries. It never took off in the United States, and my boss at the time took a haircut on the project.

There was a lot of hype and bust too, but mostly because something better would come in and change the paradigm. For example, I remember the pushing of IMPS as answer to IM on phones in mid 00s, and then it just died out.

>mobile exploded immediately (in the early nineties)

The only people I knew who had cell phones in the early nineties were my rich uncle and Zack Morris.

That was because of high early adopter price.

Not because "huh, why would I want one" given the price being alright.

Ok, so we agree that they didn't explode in the early 90's. Good.

Nope. Mobile phones grew from a few dozens of millions to a billion users throughout the 90s. The started growing around 1991 and never looked back or stalled.

In case you forgotten what we're disputing, a grand-grand parent wrote "[VR] It's a constant hype/disappointment cycle" and another replied: "Mobile” was the same until it was just everywhere".

To which I replied that no, mobile wasn't "like that" (= a constant hype/disappointment cycle).

Mobile started growing fast (exploded) in early nineties and KEPT growing. Like with the iPod (that broke in early 00s and kept growing and growing until it was superseded by smartphones), there were no hype/disappointment cycles with mobile.

VR, on the other hand, did have hype/disappointment cycles. In 90-92 VR was touted as the "next big thing", then the craze passed and it disappeared (living only the legacy of having inspired the Lawnmower Man movie), taking 15+ years to re-emerge.

Similar, AI was touted as "imminent" in the 70s, only to break down in the 80s (the so-called AI-winter) and it took 20+ years to drive back mainstream tech interest again.

Mobile, on the contrary, never stalled once it got going.


I think your definition of "early nineties" is off, and that plot doesn't show what you think it does. Let's recap your own statements.

You: There was an explosion of mobile phone use in the early nineties.

Me: no there wasn't.

You: well that's only because the tech was too expensive.

Me: glad we agree.

You: no I was right the first time, look at this graph which shows an exponential increase in use in the early 2000's.

Me: ?

I think you're confused.

Explosion in the early 90s != everybody used them in the early 90s.

Explosion = the industry got traction / was kickstarted and kept on going and going.

Just as in the chart.

As contrasted with VR which in 90-92 there was a huge hype, and it got nowhere, people forgot about it, and it was resurrected 10-15 years later.

>You: no I was right the first time, look at this graph which shows an exponential increase in use in the early 2000's.

Err, the graph starts around 1988 -- and the "increase" is sustained from then until the end of the graph (and probably still today).

>I think you're confused.


>Explosion in the early 90s != everybody used them in the early 90s.

Never said that

>Explosion = the industry got traction / was kickstarted and kept on going and going.

No, explosion means something along the lines of "a sudden outburst". Anything that plods along slowly cannot be considered an explosion. The slope of your own reference is rather timid until at the later nineties.

>As contrasted with VR which in 90-92 there was a huge hype, and it got nowhere, people forgot about it, and it was resurrected 10-15 years later.

Not the same thing. The tech simply didn't exist. At least, not in a manner which we would deem acceptable. Cell phone tech was fine, but it was simply too expensive.

>Err, the graph starts around 1988 -- and the "increase" is sustained from then until the end of the graph (and probably still today).

It is not "sustained": it begins increasing rapidly in the late 90's! In other words, it "explodes". Let's be honest here; in a response to another person you claimed that the plot showed 1B users, but the Y axis only goes to 300M. I'm not convinced you can even read that thing.

>Anything that plods along slowly cannot be considered an explosion

That's a pedantic distinction (not that I mind). I wasn't going for "explosion" as in "suddenly tons of people had one", but as in "suddenly there was a boom and a new viable market had emerged".

How hard is to get my main point?

Mobile got some kind of kickstart in the early 90s (I called it an explosion, but I could not care less if it's not that, that's not my point), and it never stopped going. Perhaps you'd agree if I'd merely called it "a bang" in the 90s? A starting point for big growth?

That was my point in a throwaway response I made at someone's comment that "mobile was like VR" at the start of this thread.

Whether that can be called an explosion or not, I could not care less. In my country, that's what we'd call it. There was a market that started from almost nothing before (some flat numbers in the US, almost zero in most of Europe). Unlike early 90s VR, which was a short hype in 1990 or so that then stopped.

From 1990 onwards, every year we had a big boost in the sub numbers. As I wrote, from a few dozen in 1990 (~16M globally) to ~1 Billion in 2000 (~ 800M to be precise).

That's explosive growth in my book, and I've lived several others techs that never seen such rapid growth. The only comparable thing would be the internet itself (from mostly academics in 1990 to a huge economic force in 2000). To contrast, it took 5 decades of development for PCs to get to the same point.

In any case, my focus wasn't on it being an "explosion" part, but on it never have been an "hype/unhype" cycle like early VR was. Unlike 90s VR hype (and other hypes) mobile merely went from strength to strength.

>Not the same thing. The tech simply didn't exist.

Sure, but that didn't stop the media and companies then to hype it for a couple of years. And then forget about it for 15+ years.

Here's what I'm referring to:


Early 90s isnt an explosion by a long shot.

Actually it was just that. A continuous growth from 100M 1990 to 1B in 2000 and onwards:


Is the year 2000 now considered "the early 90's"?

Am I reading your linked chart wrong? No matter how I look at it, it says 100M in 2000 and a negligible amount in 1990 (instead of 100M in 1990 and 1B in 2000).

No, I just typed the numbers wrongly (I had bookmarked 3 charts with similar data, but ended up pasting the link to the US user's growth).

Globally the numbers were ~15M in 1990, ~100M 1995, ~0.8B in 2000 (far from 100M in 2000).

And my point was, mobile exploded in 1990 and "kept expanding" (literally my words") -- there was like VR "a constant hype/disappointment cycle" (literally the thing I was responding to in this very thread).

It's hard for me to figure out what the right analogy even is. Is the first version of the smartphone a (non-smart) mobile phone or a PDA? In some ways the Newton is a precursor to the iPhone, and those sort of devices had an enthusiastic but niche audience and didn't seem close to going mainstream for a while.

For VR, most of the major industry players are continuing to invest (and were never expecting it to go mainstream in the last few years), and the active user count is persistently going up. The absolute numbers are relatively low. But the cost, software, and hardware right now are all pretty terrible and rapidly being improved.

With a growing base and major cost/quality improvements on the horizon it probably has a fairly secure future as a niche gaming platform. I don't think the data is conclusive yet on whether VR is the Next Big Thing.

There's kind of a chicken-and-egg SW problem for new platforms. Most of the popular mobile apps were only developed because of a large existing base of networked devices. For iPhone 1.0, the killer app was probably the ability to use the desktop web. Is there anything VR could do for normal consumers, that doesn't require enormous software investment (before there's a market)?

People watching TV/movies on their phone/tablet is pretty common (in addition to the living room). It doesn't seem too out there that VR could become cheap/good/comfortable enough to be popular for that use case (watching 2D TV on a phone). It's only marginally less social if you're watching by yourself anyway, and could even feel more social depending how the virtual theater is set up. Maybe that's one pathway that could drive more mainstream adoption.

I think it's premature to mark VR as a fad just yet, at least before not-terrible mobile systems come out. There's not too many tech products I can think of that would be popular if they could only be used chained to a $1000 desktop PC.

This guy is trolling us or... I don't even know what.

Or you, know, typed a number wrong.

In any case, it's not really debatable: mobile grew and kept growing. I know, I was there in those "early nineties".


I think we're done here. It's ok to just say you were wrong you know.

.* It's ok to just say you were wrong you know.*

I just did that re: the numbers, above, you know.

Explosive, we have to agree to disagree. I'm not a native speaker, but it seems to me a perfectly OK use of the word. In any case, it wasn't my main fucking point, which was simply that unlike VR in the 90s, mobile never had a hype/flat period: the market got on, and never stopped growing until almost everybody on the planet had one. I already wrote that like 6 times. Do you disagree with that?

Amazing how someone can go into such trivia and miss the main point I was making and in a thro-away comment of mine at that... Jeez...

I have spent quite sometime with Vive, Rift and PSVR. (rift, psvr at home, vive at my office)

PSVR is unironically the hope for VR right now, even though it has by far the lowest quality.

It has some very good games (Astrobot, Wipeout, RE7, Ace Combat 7, Moss, Beat Saber). It's cheap, easy to set up (aimed towards couch VR instead of room scale), cool helmet design, and the fact that the headset works as a regular monitor for non-vr games and one person can be watching TV while the other person gaming, is genius.

Compared to let's say Oculus where you need, 4 usb ports (3x usb 3.0), cables everywhere, space, a ~$1200 pc/headset combo...

I do believe in VR though and am excited for what the future holds.

> PSVR is unironically the hope for VR right now, even though it has by far the lowest quality.

For me it's the upcoming Oculus Quest. I've been refreshing /r/oculusquest daily, hoping to get a release date or a way to reserve it.

My big hope for the Quest is that they'll say "Surprise! The USB-C port isn't just charging, it also supports VirtualLink alternate mode!"

Would be great to have one device that can operate as both a standalone device and be connected to a computer for more graphically intense experiences than the Quest's snapdragon hardware can provide.

IIRC it's running at a lower framerate than a Rift does, but it'd still be cool to have that option because I have no plans to buy a dedicated PC-connected headset.

Odds of this actually happening are probably not good, but fingers crossed anyway.

I'm pretty sure they've already said to the public that the Quest hardware isn't capable of of video input over USB-C, so I wouldn't hold out any hope for that. They did say they were investigating streaming from a PC over wireless though which might be even better if they can get it working decently.

For Elite: Dangerous fans, what's the current best bet for a VR setup if one doesn't have 4 USB ports? Is there even an option?

I got a gaming laptop right as the first VR headsets were coming out, and I'm just at the cusp of being able to power them with my setup, but the input ports may be my limiting factor.

Windows Mixed Reality headset is your best bet in my opinion. I just got a Samsung Odyssey+ for $300 dollars. It has the exact same high res oled screen as the vive pro, and it only has an HDMI and USB 3.0 connector. Doesn't even require external power. Worked right out of the box for me with Elite as well and looked amazing. So much clearer than my Vive.

cool helmet design

Save those helmets. 30 years from now they'll be worth a fortune on fleaBay the way Philco televisions are now.

Is gran tourismo vr ready?

They claim it to be, but your experience in the game is very limited in VR mode.

Well, I guess i can wait a bit longer for an upgrade

I have an Oculus (DK2, development version though, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt), and while it is great, there are some show-stoppers:

• Games needs to be reinvented for VR, which basically makes adoption much harder - playing a FPS in VR will get you dizzy very quickly, even for people that are not very motion-sickness sensitive

• Quality is still not good enough, you can feel the pixels, and it breaks immersion - 4K screens, or even 8K screens, are probably the minimum, which means that we need also graphic cards that can deliver two 3D scenes combined at 4K or 8K, and these cards aren't there yet

• Plugging/handling all the messy cables is a pain

• And of course the price, but I don't think this is the biggest issue here

I actually disagree in several areas.

1. It's surprising how well flat screen games work in VR with minimal changes. 3rd person RTS, retro top-down shooters, casual puzzle games. I personally would love to see more "low-effort" ports to VR of existing content as just adding stereoscopy, 6DOF and 360 to a game can make it visually stunning.

2. I wouldn't turn my nose up at more resolution but even first gen Vive and Rift and more than enough to make me happy. You see past the pixels fairly quickly. I've demoed VR to over a hundred people and very few comment on the resolution (I'd prefer more FOV than more pixels personally)

3. Cable management varies from the annoying (Rift with 3 cameras) to a non-problem (plugging in a Windows MR headset is basically just 1 USB and a HDMI)

4. You can grab an Acer WMR for close to $200. The GPU cost is still a burden but we're on the 3rd gen of VR capable cards now so a 1060 or a 970 is now entry level for PC gamers.

There's no such thing as "low-effort ports to VR" as you are describing. When you model a 3D object for flat screens, scale is really not that much of a concern whereas in VR the player's immersion might be completely ruined if something feels just slightly off. Here's a nice blog post I found on the topic which goes much more in depth: https://blog.teamtreehouse.com/size-matters-scale-relationsh...

The argument in that post is extremely overblown. I've messed around with dozens of Unity assets that were not intended for VR and they usually work perfectly well.

"Completely ruined" is hyperbole in any case.

Whilst I haven't produced any commercial VR games I have spent two years working with VR in Unity and there are many shortcuts to moving traditional content into VR.

Note that I'm not talking about turning FPS games into room scale experiences. I'm talking about using VR as a stereoscopic 360 view into the game world but maintaining existing control schemes. First person games might be more problematic.

Honestly, I'd envisage buying a VR device if I could play games like XCOM or Supreme Commander. I'm not really interested in the games currently offered

Have you seen Brass Tactics? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95rgdaN25t0

> 3rd person RTS, retro top-down shooters, casual puzzle games

What does that get us then? Just a worse version of the games we already have?

I don't understand how your comment relates to what I was saying. Could you please elaborate?

I had a DK2, I now have a Vive. I highly recommend the upgrade, it's like night and day. It's still not perfect and suffers from the same issues you mentioned, but being able to wander around my living room in a VR world, and at a much higher resolution/framerate is fantastic.

" which means that we need also graphic cards that can deliver two 3D scenes combined at 4K or 8K, and these cards aren't there yet"

Hopefully we will have quality eye tracking and foveated rendering in a few years, so we will not need to render the whole screen in high resolution ever.

From my direct experience it's a quality thing. Once we're at 4K per eye @ 120FPS or something approaching this - and able to maintain it steadily without dropping frames, it's going to be a pretty mind blowing experience. The problem is right now the resolution and framerates just aren't there to make it feel visceral enough. I think even with just a sitting still model of a headset that has ultra high resolution and frame rate will be an iteration where things start to take off. I'd love to see things take this direction over trying to solve the problem of physically moving in a 3 dimensional space while engaging with VR.

Immersion is the killer feature of VR, not standalone graphical fidelity. FOV, 6DOF tracking are far more important today than 4K per-eye resolution and 120 FPS. Moreover, foveated rendering will give us drastic graphical fidelity improvements, in the very near future.

It's still a niche, but growing steadily. Here's a spreadsheet I'm maintaining with statistics from Steam's monthly hardware survey: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12GKZ3qsTZ7WuC_lj1-04...

As you can see, over the past 2 years we've gone from 0.36% of Steam users having a PC VR headset, to 0.89%.

We're also nearing the launch of the next generation of VR headsets. Both Vive and Oculus have products in development, and its rumored that Valve is working on a new headset as well. I expect we'll be seeing the launch of a few new headsets over the course of the next year.

So no, VR isn't dying on the vine; it's just taking longer to reach maturity than some may have expected.

Nice resource! One thing worth keeping in mind: the Steam survey only sees a VR headset if the VR software stack is running while the survey is taken, and that requires the headset to be plugged in and powered up. So those figures likely underestimate the number of VR-equipped systems by some significant factor. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's 2 or 3.

Yeah, that little quirk is both a blessing and a curse, because while it does make it harder to judge the actual number of VR-equipped systems, it also makes the numbers more representative of _active_ VR users rather than just users who _have_ a headset but don't often use it.

If you're trying to judge the size of the market in absolute numbers, you also have to account for the fact that this survey only measures _Steam_ users. So Rift users who don't use Steam, and owners of non-PC VR headsets like PSVR aren't included.

> makes the numbers more representative of _active_ VR users rather than just users who _have_ a headset but don't often use it

YMMV. My Vive-equipped PC launches Steam on boot, because that lets it install updates quietly in the background as they come in. Otherwise, the first thing likely to happen when I try to launch something is a long wait for stuff to download.

The Vive on the other hand is only plugged in when I actually use it. It gets hot, and I don't particularly want it to burn electricity for no better purpose than to die a premature death.

So even as an active VR user, my Vive is only visible to Steam for a minor fraction of the time my PC is logged on.

It's not dying, but 0.89% seems awfully low tho...

Like I said; still a niche, but growing. Though to put that in perspective, that's still higher than the number of Steam users who run Linux (0.77%).

Personally I see more in Augmented Reality than Virtual Reality, certainly regarding applications.

It's also not that commercial interesting that a big percentage of people gets sick of VR. We stopped demoing because of this. AR seems to have less of those problems from empirical experience. I can use a Hololens for hours without feeling anything while with an oculus rift I get queasy after a couple of minutes.

The only thing that I'm still waiting for is project northstar (http://blog.leapmotion.com/northstar/) so the devices becomes cheaper. The high price seems to hamper the adoption a lot.

Doesn’t everyone see more in AR, at least in the near term.

Even conservative Apple is was working on AR.

The ability to augment the real world has lots of useful benefits.

I don't. I believe in AR but not short-term. I think AR will go into a "winter" soon and will be picked up by the mainstream some years later after key technology challenges are solved. I think AR (glasses) is at where VR was in the nineties.

Currently AR has two form factors, phone and glasses.

Phone-based AR is gimmicky. It can be fun and can work in some scenarios but it's monoscopic, has a ridiculous field of view, requires holding your phone in the air, and it's not really augmenting reality anyway, it's augmenting a video stream of reality (increased latency, reduced dynamic range, motion blur, etc.).

Glasses-based AR will be great but currently has fundamental challenges with field of view, latency, optics, and integration of augmentations in the real world (e.g: procedural objects dynamically matching physical obstacles). It requires new inventions in hardware and software to fully realize the vision we have of it.

On the other hand VR has a clear technological path for the next decade into human-like field of view and visual fidelity. The full enclosure means we can get +200° and fit eye tracking cameras in the headset. Foveated rendering, only render what you actually look at at full res. The advent of ray tracing hardware (easier foveated rendering and non-linear optics). There is no fundamental barrier to get from here to 60 pixels per degree at 200° fov.

> I don't. I believe in AR but not short-term. I think AR will go into a "winter" soon and will be picked up by the mainstream some years later after key technology challenges are solved. I think AR (glasses) is at where VR was in the nineties.

> Currently AR has two form factors, phone and glasses.

> Phone-based AR is gimmicky. It can be fun and can work in some scenarios but it's monoscopic, has a ridiculous field of view, requires holding your phone in the air, and it's not really augmenting reality anyway, it's augmenting a video stream of reality (increased latency, reduced dynamic range, motion blur, etc.).

> Glasses-based AR will be great but currently has fundamental challenges with field of view, latency, optics, and integration of augmentations in the real world (e.g: procedural objects dynamically matching physical obstacles). It requires new inventions in hardware and software to fully realize the vision we have of it.

> On the other hand VR has a clear technological path for the next decade into human-like field of view and visual fidelity. The full enclosure means we can get +200° and fit eye tracking cameras in the headset. Foveated rendering, only render what you actually look at at full res. The advent of ray tracing hardware (easier foveated rendering and non-linear optics). There is no fundamental barrier to get from here to 60 pixels per degree at 200° fov.

I 99.9% agree with this assesment, particularly with respect to the timeline of product maturity/adoption. However, I also agree with Andybak above, that AR & VR applications are complimentary, but largely different. One will not displace the other, but the technologies will merge such that you can seamlessly transition from AR to VR nd back using the same hardware (likely Virtual Retinal Display-based displays) and operating system.

I use VR in my job (evaluating power plant designs), and for that, I need to be immersed in a 3D model as opposed to AR where not being fully immersed would be unnecessarily distracting. On the other hand, after a plant is constructed, AR will be extremely useful (not yet, but eventually) in identifying where the actual design departs from the contractual model, or for training (new people learning how to operate the plant), or for monitoring (seeing overlays of temperature/pressure/planned maintenance data/etc., and so forth).

VR right now is mature in that the quality of display and ease of UI make it useful. It's still a pain to set up and get the models imported. It also still suffers from relatively low resolution. Resolution is still too low to say, emulate a computer monitor (i.e. present a virtual desktop computer monitor and use it at normal seated viewing distance - which requires a minimum 35PPD). For my needs, it's hard to read even large text on virtual signage in VR (you have to get VERY close to the virtual sign to read it). So, unlike the above comment, I think the VR industry has quite a bit of work to get from it's current sub-35PPD to a 60PPD display approaching the limits of human eye resolution.

Varjo VR-1 headset gives 60PPD making reading text possible. It is meant for industrial design, modelling and prototyping. It is a VR only headset, but they plan to convert it to an AR headset. It would be the same VR headset including a camera. The camera image is projected to the VR world. The display resolution should make it workable.


That's interesting; thanks for the link. If they used foveal rendering and custom optics to tackle the problem, I could see this ultra-high resolution being feasible with current LCD/LED display resolutions. I will attempt to check it out, but it depends on the price point. I'm certainly not going to buy sight-unseen based on website claims. I can make a website:)

Also, regarding your AR remark - I do think video-see through AR can (will?) have it's place while optical see-through AR matures.

My company is trying to push use of VR in engineering, and I have been a bit confused by the desire. We have had 3D models for years that could be viewed on a normal desktop, and peoe usually prefer 2d plans. The improved UI seems to be very attractive to people though.

I wonder if a major benefit of VR is that it forces us to create visualisations that are responsive. It is easy to get away with slow rendering on a desktop, but you can't on a headset. The software has to be realtime, and the model optimised for that.

For me, we are concerned with designing our plants to ensure humans can interact efficiently & safely with the systems (power plants) we're designing. Here are some benefits for me of VR over 2D viewing of 3D models:

1. Visibility assessments. In VR you can get a true sense of Field of View (FOV). For example, operators want maximum visibility through windows in control stations (or in a flight control tower, or sitting in the driver seat of a car). In 2D viewing, you can adjust the perspective settings to be anything and you simply can't match a humans natural FOV, which in addition to matching true perspective, you also capture the real time dynamics of how visibility changes as a user's body/head move. I've seen control stations completely redesigned after being built because the customer didn't like the experience (a risk largely mitigated with VR). You can't put 'control stations' in glass bubbles. It just isn't feasible. You need reasonably-sized windows and mullions, and there are many obstructions to contend with. 2D visualizations of 3D walk-through models simply don't accurately capture what's a VR experience can. We've actually found that, concerns about visibility identified from 2D visualizations are often discounted when we check it out in VR, just because the way and how quickly people move around naturally and subconsciously improves visibility.

2.) Ergonomics (Human-Machine Interface). In VR, you can literally reach out with your physical hands and determine if a valve, or a button is safely reachable by an operator. In initial design, you rely on standards/rules of thumb for placement of these items. However, as the design matures, you inevitably end up with pipes/wires/beams that complicate matters - it's impossible to right rules for every possible scenario. Historically, the only way to be sure.

3. Efficiency. I've found that user's can intuitively move around in a VR model much faster than they can with a screen/mouse. Especially, when you have a complex nest of pipes you're trying to evaluate. Using mouse/joystick/keyboard clicks and rotating takes people much longer than simply bending down and turning their head to see an object hiding behind a pipe or other object.

4. Remote Inspections. Once the plant (or whatever) is built, it's typically not near the office of the engineering firm that designed it or customer's headquarters that paid for it. Historically, when you get reports of people complaining about a design, you go into a 2D model first to check it out. If you can't get a good sense of the issue (typically because you can't get a true feel for the ergonomics/visibility aspects of the issue), you buy a plane ticket, rental car, hotel, and go an inspect in the plant in person. However, VR is good as assessing ergonomics and visibility issues (as described above), so you can use VR to avoid the need for travel. This has occurred already on a few occasions.

We currently only use static models, but smarter people can begin encoding dynamic features (e.g. opening doors, removing panels, etc.). I'm sure other people are doing this already. In conjunction with the ergonomics/visibility aspects above, I expect this will greatly enhance VR benefits.

Thanks, that's interesting.

They are complementary and overlapping.

You don't want AR if you're aiming for a sense of immersion. The real world just gets in the way.

You don't want VR if you also need to engage with your environment. Taking a headset on and off is a productivity killer.

But VR can approximate AR with pass-through cameras.

And AR will at some point approximate VR if it's overlaying enough of it's own stuff that the real environment is entirely obscured (display tech is far away from this point however.

It really depends whether you're talking about productivity or presence. And that's not the same as "entertainment" vs "business" as some business applications require immersion (architectural viz) and some entertainment apps don't.

VR has the advantage of being a much more mature technology with much lower technical hurdles. AR display tech is a very tough nut to crack. The best current tech - as demonstrated by the Hololens 2 - is woefully low on field of view, luminosity and affordability. 53 degrees horizontal FOV, non-functional in strong sunlight with a several thousand dollars price tag? Fairly niche...

Exactly. AR and VR are different sides of the same coin and will converge. I am certain that Facebook is investing so much into VR because of the ultimate promise of AR as a platform, not because of a belief in VR "over" AR.

A bet on regular VR is conservative in the sense that there are existing games, game engines, game fans and game companies. All of them used to 3D and fancy graphics cards and spending money.

Given the choice between spending $X on porting Skyrim to VR, and spending $X on an all-new AR game, and spending $X on trying to find an unmet industrial need AR can fulfil, I know which I think is the safer bet!

The devices just aren't there yet to be the goto solution for low hanging fruit gaming ecosystems with large existing audiences. If you look at the best players and their equipment, VR isn't a part of what's used competitively.

You can see this with racing or flight simulations, genres that translate perfectly to VR in theory (also in practice if you ignore competing solutions).

People there still buy and recommend monitors or projectors to get an competitive edge, to be able to use other peripheral devices like controllers and indicators (which would be blocked out in VR).

This existing market of peripheral devices and their manufacturers are tightly knit with the core audience, and recommending VR would go against their own business. A VR user wouldn't buy a controller that he can't see.

Augmented Reality with a VR like FOV could be a solution for both, VR manufacturers and existing audiences because it doesn't exclude a large part of the existing market and removes that resistance.

The problem with native VR genres is that you can't show off how it's really like to people who don't own VR headsets. On top of that they compete for attention with existing gaming ecosystems which can be seen as hobbies in their own right, meaning that VR really needs to conquer existing genres one by one, which is difficult if it ignores existing market forces.

To give a perspective. Former Second Life founder and CEO founded Highfidelity.com to create an open source social VR world platform. 5 years later, and with at least 75M dollars in funding the platform is empty[1], even though it is in Steam, and even hardcore VR creators dont seem eager to use it. They had to pay users to join them for their stress tests. The creators' stories in the forum may be telling about the shortcomings of creating amd using VR regularly[2].

Meanwhile, secondlife's open source clone, opensimulator, has thousands of regions and users online[3] despite being a super buggy platform, with less than $0 in funding.

1. https://highfidelity.com/user_stories?include_actions=concur...

2. https://forums.highfidelity.com/

3. https://opensimworld.com/ (disclaimer:shameless plug)

I always thought Fortnight was the new Secondlife.

> How's the market for VR doing in general? Is it growing or shrinking? ... Is VR dying on the vine?

VR is a fairly radically different technology and in the scheme of things it's still in its infancy. Given that, whether it's currently growing or shrinking probably isn't very meaningful, as that doesn't really say anything about VR's longer-term prospects.

The focus seems to be on games, but VR has huge potential in the workforce (engineering, medical, perhaps even office work - data mining/etc.). However, utility software companies like Autodesk products have very shoddy and fickle VR support.

I currently have to pay a pricy $2K+ license for a 3rd party software (Revizto) to view Navisworks files in VR. It's worth it for my work, but it amazes me the lack of VR support these companies provide given the huge potential.

VR in my field is still very new. Many engineers (young and old) I show it to have never used it or had just done a demo somewhere and had no idea you could use it for work.

You can do stuff in VR you simply can't do on a 2D screen.

There just hasn't been a big killer app for VR, and it's pretty expensive to get into it for any serious usage. Beat Saber [0] appears to be among the most popular games, but I don't think many people are playing regularly. Anecdotal, among my friends, people that own VR rigs don't use them very frequently either.

The big problem is that even doing something super simple takes a fair amount of effort. Even watching a 3D video requires sourcing content and then finding a compatible video player.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV1sw4lfwFw

> There just hasn't been a big killer app for VR


Watching a baseball/soccer/basketball game virtually from the stadium should be a pretty big market (?)

This misses all the physicality of being there while taking away the benefits of varying camera positions chosen for you by the TV coverage.

If someone could manage the point cloud reconstruction techniques that would let you watch from positions in the middle of the game while there is no camera, they'd be on to something.

Oh, and it's a bad business model - the sports IP owner would want almost all the money.

>This misses all the physicality of being there while taking away the benefits of varying camera positions chosen for you by the TV coverage.

What are you missing? The ability to pay $20 for a water bottle?

And such a view would also work on a normal screen, and could follow the play smoothly. A VR view relies on the user moving their head, rather than letting a camera man do it for them.

Who wants regularly wear headgear to enjoy a sports game?

I can see it being a novelty but not a normal situation.

bunch of people go to a pub to watch a game. they all wear oculus. in the end their cables got so tangled up they had to call firemen

Apart from the people actually playing the sport, they tend to wear a lot of head gear.

In my opinion, the VR market in a bit of a holding pattern right now, and it's running out of opportunities. I personally believe if the Oculus Quest flops and/or Sony opts not to build a PSVR2 for the next-generation PS5, it's over for now. Google and Samsung have pulled back, MS is not happy with their MR headset sales. Oculus continues to push forward, but increasingly they are alone.

To put VR’s scale into perspective, steam has as about many Linux gamers as VR gamers, ~0.8% of all users.

I wonder if those stats have / will change in regards to Steam Linux gamers due to their added support for running games under Wine.

It just needs a generational reboot.

In the late 1990's I had seen the Virtuality VR headset on various Orbital album covers, when I got to have a go with the headset I was quite taken by it and didn't even notice that the '3D' wasn't ever stereo. At around the same time I saw Virtual I/O's iglasses and thought the experience was compelling. Had it not been a trade show I would have bought them there and then.

I have a feeling that some person at Facebook had a similar moment of 'oh yes this must be the future' as what I had. They just had more money than me and bought the company instead of hoping to buy just the headset.

Around the time this happened I was saying 'we have been here before' and everyone was saying 'this time it will be different!'.

It wasn't different, there were just more pixels.

So we will see what happens next time around when the next generation comes along and gets wowed by the VR of the day.

Incidentally some of the use cases of the Virtual IO iglasses included being able to watch TV soaps whilst doing the washing up. People got dishwashing machines and Netflix instead of standing at the sink watching broadcast TV to occasionally look down at the draining board.

Rinse and repeat.

The same happens with 3D. Every 15-20 years, manufacturers and content producers seem to think "this is the year people will want to watch X in 3D".

I'm a little skeptical that either will become mainstream daily-use technologies.

It's not dying, for full fledged VR (i.e. not Cardboard/GearVR) the active user base is small but persistently growing.

There's a of low hanging fruit for improvement in the first wave that came out recently. Needing to be tethered with a cable to a $1000 PC is one of the big ones, and that should be addressed by the Quest in a few months.

I don't know how it will compare to mobile phone growth, but I expect VR to grow at a much faster rate once the Quest comes out. It will bring the entry cost to $400 (from ~$1400 for most people, who don't already have gaming PCs), remove one of the biggest nuisances (the cable), and be drastically easier to set up. The software library is still small but better than it was a few years ago.

Also keep in mind there's huge numbers of people who haven't ever tried VR yet. The Quest is likely to get in front of a much larger number of potential customers since it's so easy for a friend or relative etc to bring it over compared to the current non-portable systems.

It seems that with VR the technology isn't really there yet, especially at the price needed for mass adoption. It's not clear to me that any company is really ready to put in more money to move it forward right now. But at the speed things are moving, it wouldn't surprise me to see another push in 2-5 years.

AR is the more interesting space right now. On the consumer side, Pokemon, Ingress, and the new Harry Potter game are doing ok from what I can tell. I'm not sure when we'll really get to a wearable AR device that is popular (Google Glass obviously wasn't able to meet people's needs).

Microsoft is still investing in AR, but they're focusing on business use rather than the consumer space. I'm not sure it will really take off with the HoloLens 2, but another iteration that improves the field of view and if they can bring down the price (the newest version starts at $3500) they might be able to manage broader adoption. But even that is likely to be a couple of years away.

The same could be said even moreso about (wearable) AR - that the technology isn't there yet, especially at a price needed for mass adoption. I see VR and AR as different sides of the same coin, and I believe that Facebook does as well from various comments they have made. Many of the technological problems are similar (with VR being "easier" to solve). It seems pretty clear to me that Facebook is investing heavily in VR because they see AR as being a big future platform. (And FB is still putting a lot of resources into VR, with the imminent release of Oculus Quest and continued heavy R&D.)

These are a very different sort of map-based AR, not a view-based one.

Yep. Lumping Pokemon and the Hololens into the same product category is a bit of a stretch. I can't see much in common other than buzzword sharing.

The market is growing slowly, but it is very small yet. Personally I don't want it to grow too fast just yet, because I need time to develop/strengthen my bootstapped VR 3D editor product before the highly funded competitors enter the market. I am almost afraid that the Oculus Quest will push the growth too fast, despite I am a diehard VR fan.

> Is VR dying on the vine?

No VR is heavily used in architecture, healthcare industry and other professions.

VR as a mass market however is not doing that great right now, because it's not yielding the results the entertainment industry hoped, which leads to less investment and so on... it's a vicious circle.

Ultimately someone will get it right. Apple, maybe.

I'd be interested in reading more about its use in architecture or healthcare. Running into it at a hospital or doctor's office doesn't seem all that likely?

This is Google saying VR as a medium for passive consumption is dead, or at least the market isn't ready yet. There's could still be plenty of potential for interactive media like games though.

> This is Google saying VR as a medium for passive consumption is dead

Not quite. The OP is about 3DOF content where the stereo is baked. You can't move your head around and can't tilt your head.

You can have passive content like a static or living scene that isn't interactive but where you can move your head a bit or explore, and it can be photorealistic (6DOF video, light fields, which Google is also working on).

VR has this property of being the best hardware to consume some kind of contents that don't fully take advantage of it. Like monoscopic 360° videos, stereoscopic 180° video or stereo panoramas. Not quite VR but there is no better way to consume them. I wonder if it sometimes confuse people assessment of VR potential.

> The OP is about 3DOF content where the stereo is baked

The OP is about Google Spotlight Stories, which mostly produced non-interactive 6DoF experiences. Obviously on Daydream headsets or YouTube videos which don't support 6DoF you'd only get 3DoF, but if you download the videos on Steam 6DoF works just fine: https://store.steampowered.com/search/?term=Google%20Spotlig...

As a semi-early adopter of the GearVR, to me it seems like the monoscopic 360° videos are kind of a dead end and should be a last resort for scenes that can't be captured any other way.

Once I saw the 3DOF videos where you can actually move your head around, everything else instantly paled in comparison. I have no desire to view monoscopic video after I went to all the trouble of putting this headset on (unless it's the only way I can watch that video because I'm sitting in a crowded room or vehicle).

This really is the next-gen way to consume immersive 3D content, and if what you're doing is not 3D it is probably a niche use case.

Watching movies clearly only makes sense in a social context and is therefore predictably unsuitable for VR.

However the "interactive media" market is also way overhyped, maybe similar to 3D-TVs. When the initial excitement of the user for VR wears of it feels more like a gimmick rather than an immersive experience. I know plenty of gamers who have rarely used VR goggles stuffed away in some cupboard while going back to their plain old 1080p monitor. VR will stay a small niche even in the context of gaming.

> Watching movies clearly only makes sense in a social context and is therefore predictably unsuitable for VR.

It amazes me at how much difference there can be depending on the social circles and culture perhaps ?

On the other end of the spectrum there will be people for who movies and TV are a way to distance from reality and the last thing they want is other people interfering with their experience.

I think your view is aligned with how the movie industry sees itself, while the opposite view is materialised by how a whole swach of the viewers stopped or limited their going to cinemas, don't sit on the family couch and prefer to watch things on their iPad in their room or at home at night alone.

I agree with you. Watching movies in the theater here in the US (with the exception of some Rocky Horror Picture show type screenings) is distinctly -not- a social experience. Talking and interruptions are forbidden and will get you removed for too many infractions.

I would say serial TV shows can be a more social experience; I get together with friends to watch Westworld and I know the bachelor/bachelorette have big followings.

Even if VR was alive beyond all expectations, why would Google have an in-house studio? It just does not seem to be a good fit long term, no matter how you twist it. I can see how Google might want to have some content creation in house to kickstart platform/technology projects, but it would not be intended as a permanent institution no matter the outcome.

Because a vr platform that is successful would be a great place to advertise.

Is it? Google as a content creator is not exactly what comes to mind first. So it could just be them thinking “we are in over our head here”.

when is google _not_ shutting something down, tbh

When they are raising prices on it...

VR is in its infancy for over 30 years now. It is just not really good.

> It is just not really good.

I suspect you having been shown the right content. I could reel of a long list of amazing work being done in VR. Google Earth in VR is one of the most astonishing things I've tried in the last decade. Narrative works like Dispatch and Manifest 99 show the potential of VR as a storytelling medium. Tilt Brush, Gravity Sketch are already genuinely useful creative tools...

Oh - and Beat Saber. :-)

I have a Mixed Reality headset and Google Earth is amazing with room-scale VR. It's not something I would have thought would work as well as it does.

Beat Saber is the only VR game I keep coming back to - the controls are spot on. So simple and intuitive. You really need to work to get used to all the buttons and sticks to control most other VR games.

> You really need to work to get used to all the buttons and sticks to control most other VR games.

This is a controversial opinion but I prefer the Vive wands to the Oculus touch for this very reason. It pushed developers towards simpler control schemes on the whole.

Trying to remember which button does what is not immersive.

Picking the controller up with the wrong hand every single time is not immersive.

Being reminded you're using a game controller is not immersive.

The best controls in VR are your hands but failing that - the Vive wands are often used as a lump with a single trigger - which I find ideal.

This is one of the reasons why public demos are always smoother with the Vive. You just pass people the controller and show them where the trigger is (and maybe the big trackpad button if necessary)

> Google Earth in VR is one of the most astonishing things I've tried in the last decade.

It really is hard to overstate how game changing google earth VR has been for me. I use it extensively to plan outdoor excursions now. I can memorize the route ahead of time, get a quick sense of how exposed I'll be, plan bailout routes, etc.

Getting a headset needs to be stupid simple. The Oculus as someone else mentioned rrquires 3 - 4 USB cables. What!? Regular non geeks dont have time for that. It should hook up to a single hub via USB C now that its a thing and do the rest wirelessly not necessarily BlueTooth since that can be unreliable. Whatever Logitech has been doing for their keyboards and mice seems efficient when BlueTooth fails their dongle just works.

If the barrier to entry is beyond turn this thing on and use it. It will not get people crazy about it. Also you need some sort of fun goofy games that will be addictive / fun enough to market themselves. They dont need to be full blown Skyrim or Minecrafts just something free and simple enough media hype about it will make people want to buy it.

Hell if Fortnite was somehow better in VR I could see people buying any headset they deem worthy.

At the moment inside-out 6DOF tracking isn't millimeter accurate, so we require additional hardware. Oculus uses cameras which is where the USB requirement is from, and Vive requires laser beaming stations (no USB required). Hopefully we can get rid of this extra hardware in the next few iterations.

This actually looks like it will be solved pretty soon; Microsoft VR headsets have been using inside-out tracking for a year and a half, the Quest will use it, and a revision to the rift is widely expected to launch soon with inside-out tracking too.

SteamVR tracking might have some advantages if you want lots of tracked objects (that may be outside the headset's field of view) but it seems like good-enough inside out tracking will be widely available this year.

It could just be that VR at Gooogle scale is not ready. There may still be a huge part for VR to play in "niche" markets like games, training simulators, data visualization etc.

Yeah perhaps there's just not that much room for large companies who want to throw gobs of money and resources at it.

Smaller players, even capable hobbyists, who iterate and find what works and what doesn't and keep rolling on / don't shutdown if they don't hit a goal in X time, might just be the folks who find what works.

I was a co-founder of a VR lab at SAIC in the 1990s. We shut down because we lacked a clear path to monetization even though everyone who tried our system loved it.

It seems like a `chicken and the egg` problem: if enough people had VR gear then studios would have a chance of profitability.

Daydream hardware didn't support most phones for no reason, I don't know what they thought was going to happen.

> aggressively hocking

Possibly they mean "hawking"?

I think they mean “hock” in the pawn off sense of the word and not intense falconry.

"Hawking" can also refer to the sale of goods, usually in a kind of bazaar-like fashion

No, that's "hocking".

Actually, it’s “hawking”!

To hock something is to pawn it, i.e. sell it because you need the money (and possibly plan to buy it back later):


Reality is almost nobody wants to wear VR headsets, and that's going to take a while for VCs to admit that.

Billions of people never knew it existed. Nobody knows what they even did or produced.

Flagged as who gives a heck.

billions of dollars were also invested, at the expense of other technologies

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