Why gamers are excited about virtual reality and augmented reality

September 11, 2015, 1:00 PM UTC
Koelnmesse GmbH

With big companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Sony, Valve, Samsung, Oculus VR, HTC, and Nvidia pouring billions of dollars into virtual reality and augmented reality, there’s no question that this time around the technology is here to stay.

Analysts believe games will be a key driver to get these mobile, console, and PC VR head-mounted displays and AR headsets into homes around the world. But what do gamers think of all of this development?

According to a new survey of gamers conducted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers via an interactive timeline on Facebook from June 11 through July 13, 51% of respondents, globally, believe that AR/VR is the future of gaming.

“Gamers are always looking to the next thing, whether it is the next game in a franchise or the next hardware platform/capability, Todd Richmond, IEEE fellow and director of advanced prototypes at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, says. “The current teen-to-20-somethings don’t remember previous VR false starts. They probably know about the mythology of Palmer Lucky going from garage to $2 billion Facebook buyout, so that helps.”

The same survey found that 18% of gamers believe second-screen gaming/smart glasses will be the next big innovation for gaming, which also ties into augmented reality, as well as blended reality (a combination of AR and VR, also called mixed reality).

“Game developers are already starting to embrace AR/VR and blended reality,” Richmond says. “There is no doubt that these immersive technologies will be the most important innovation of the next gaming generation, and will also impact every other aspect of our lives. The gaming industry will be an early adopter and help figure out how the technology is viable. By 2017, AR/VR/blended reality technologies will be easily and affordably brought into consumer homes thanks largely to video games.”

While gamers are excited about VR, AR, and blended reality, Richmond believes most consumers don’t know what to think right now. That’s partly because the majority of gamers haven’t had the opportunity to experience the technology yet.

“Right now there is a lot of hype around VR and it will disappoint many who try it because the content isn’t ready today, but like every other new digital capability, that will improve,” Richmond says. “If you have a story to tell or a game to play, you will have a new medium to use. And similar to how first films were essentially stage plays (porting an established solution to a new medium) but then evolved to what we have today, the same will happen with immersive. And then when you consider the blend and the human factors, it gets challenging but the payoffs are potentially greater.”

Right now, many consumers are getting their first taste of VR from very low-end devices like the Google Cardboard and MergeVR. Even higher-end options like Samsung Gear VR and Zeiss VR One can’t compete with Sony Morpheus, HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift, which is where the real “wow factor” and innovation will ultimately come from.

“While you only get one chance at a first impression, the hardware/software landscape will be changing rapidly, so consumers will have short-term memories about poor qualityif they can get their hands on emerging things and try them,” Richmond says.

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