VR vs. Third-Party Hardware

The crowd-funding scene has been flooded with hopeful virtual reality (VR) projects over the past few years. From software to hardware, creators have been hoping to imitate the success Oculus VR had with its Oculus Rift, raising nearly $2.5 million USD back in 2012. In terms of hardware, many earlier campaigns saw great success; Sixense secured over $600,000 for its STEM motion controller and YEI Technology raised over $320,000 for PrioVR. Even some projects from late 2014 have had success, such as the campaign for Perception Neuron that raised over $570,000.

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But, more recently, certain VR hardware has struggled to even come close to initial goals. Both foot-based motion controller Stompz and motorised chair RotoVR raised just fractions of their goals before their respective creators cancelled their campaigns over the past two weeks. Did these projects simply not get the coverage needed? Or is the truth of the matter simply that VR input has already become saturated while Valve, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Oculus VR have laid out their own paths for control?

VR is changing by the day. One simple acquisition can change the entire landscape; from Facebook to Oculus VR to Oculus VR to Nimble VR. While the Oculus Rift creator insists that it isn’t ready to showcase its work in input, its purchase of hand-tracking company Nimble VR back in 2014 suggested a general area that it is looking at. Likewise, Valve and SCE seem to be making their bed with their own motion-tracked controllers in Steam VR and PlayStation Move respectively.

There’s a very real question at the heart of most third-party hardware, no matter its form factor on Kickstarter success; how does it plan to stay relevant?

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If Oculus VR really is planning to go all the way with hand-tracking and Valve and SCE have their own in-house options for motion controls, how does a company like Sixense make a case for the STEM? How will PrioVR and Perception Neuron manage to fit into the majority of VR experiences if hand-tracking and, on Valve’s side, even user-tracking is already taken care of? These input methods all have software that’s committed to supporting them, but will companies be able to secure enough partners to make their products worthwhile?

Certainly the Open-Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) ecosystem provides a big chunk of the answer. OSVR’s entire goal is to make VR development across the broad range of input devices as accessible as possible. Each and every controller that has signed up as part of the group will benefit, with developers able to easily integrate support. Should OSVR take off once consumer HMDs are released, then any device that’s a part of it stands a good chance of getting increased support.

VR doesn’t have a dedicated, definitive form of input just yet. As we move closer and closer to the releases of Project Morpheus, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, more and more third-party input companies are undoubtedly finding themselves in increasingly challenging situations. The next few months will prove pivotal to many of these outlets, as HMD manufacturers reveal their plans for input. It’s a sad truth that some may well struggle to find a place in the market as the consumer rush begins,

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