VR vs. An Immobile Stance On Mobile

VRFocus' Gear VR announcement video showed there's a lot of dislike for mobile VR...

The week of the end of February through to the beginning of March seemed unreasonably long with both Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the Game Developers Conference (GDC) to deal with.

For those of you who aren’t in, ahem, ‘The Business’, international events aren’t actually that much fun, especially for those left behind. For us, not only do you not don’t get to work the event, take in all that that entails and see all the games and tech up close and personal, but you also get the joy, out of necessity, of not only working UK hours but the hours of the show as well. It’s also very difficult, even working from home, to just get away from your desk even for ten minutes as you’re always having to react to something or the other. Meaning that you’re in for a very long day indeed. As the perennially left behind (sigh) I can certainly attest that said week where we had two big events going on at the same time was decidedly unamusing.

Something that is fun, of course, is seeing everything that comes out of the events, and now we’ve the addition of two new members of staff Rebecca and Nina – through whom we’re producing a lot more video content on the site – we now get to see and show you a lot more. In fact the most interesting item of that week was probably the surprise announcement of a newly redesigned Gear VR and the introduction of a Gear VR controller, a combination that already has over seventy games in development for it.

It was an announcement we were able to quickly capture on camera:

It’s not a perfect video by any means, the announcement kind of came all of a sudden and we did well to get the camera on it at all I’d say. But as a video it certainly got attention. In fact, it did very well for views, disproportionately better than the rest of our YouTube channel – a channel you should definitely subscribe to by the way, and click the bell whilst you’re at it.

Then however I noticed something. Both the likes and dislikes were going up, and fast. They were also pretty much even. For a few minutes I mulled it over trying to understand why that was. The statistics weren’t any help since those generally take a few days to appear in the back end of YouTube and strangely no one was commenting on the video itself. Then it dawned on me. This wasn’t so much a reaction to the video, it was a reaction to the news there was a new Gear VR in the first place. I even commented on this on our Twitter account – something else you should certainly follow.

In the days that followed, along with a number of comments I was seeing flick past on social media it appeared that I was indeed right. The negative reaction was more for the fact that there was a new and better Gear VR coming.

Are we… Are we still actually doing this?

For a while there’s been this nonsense going on where 360 degrees is decried as not being ‘proper’ or ‘true’ virtual reality (VR) and it began to spread a while back into covering by extension all of mobile VR.  It isn’t right, some mutter, and it’s not nearly as good as VR on PC. A fact which, you know, is news to absolutely no one. But to some not only should people not mention mobile in the same breath as VR the more extreme end has it be that it shouldn’t be treated as VR at all.

Now if you’re not a fan of smartphone-based head mounted displays (HMDs) in VR, then that’s fine. Absolutely. However, if you’re taking the strange stance of ‘If it’s not the very best there is then it is bad, doesn’t matter at all and stop caring about it.’ I have but one question.

Why?

Actually let me take that back a second – it’s more…

What the heck is wrong with you?

Firstly that logic makes no sense. If I go out for lunch and let’s say I grab a burger from a local vendor the food isn’t magically bad just because gourmet burgers or Five Guys exists. By this ‘rule of expulsion’ that would mean if you don’t drive a supercar you should be banned from driving. “Koenigsegg? Through you go. Vauxhall Corsa? Ooh, I’m sorry sir. I’ll have to ask you to step out of the vehicle…”

I’ve mentioned previously about my belief people would be less fussy about what ‘virtual reality’ should mean if it was more actively treated as an umbrella term with the various forms or types of VR then included under it. All types forming a sort of VR spectrum of quality and immersion but all being accepted as part of the same family.

Mobile VR is the most readily accessible platform the industry has. Mobile VR has introduced more people to this world, this new generation of VR than any console or PC HMD. The Samsung Gear VR is at the heart of that and shows the possibilities of that technology. Likewise Google Cardboard and cardboard-based VR headsets might not be flashy and the experience may be at the bottom end of the VR quality spectrum but Cardboard HMDs made it so practically anyone can get a VR headset for practically nothing so long as you have a smartphone.

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With Google Daydream and the continued development and evolution of the Gear VR you now have the addition of motion controllers to mobile VR. That’s great! You’ll be able to buy online or see in your local tech store. Whilst those at the higher end of the VR spectrum, especially Oculus for PC, works to push the costs and hardware needs downwards to make things more accessible the most accessible platforms are pushing hard upwards to make it what you want to be and be closer to a PC or console level experience. Both sides are trying to meet in the middle so you then have a full range of high quality, accessible, affordable VR options across the board.

I mean, isn’t that the entire point? We’re always talking about VR needing to become a mass market technology; that is making VR accessible to everyone.

End of the day, if you don’t like mobile VR – fine. The good news is, it’s working to get better. But don’t look down on those that use it and certainly don’t decry it for existing at all. Mobile isn’t the VR peasantry, it’s part of the family. A part working just as hard to make everyone’s dreams of a VR future come true.

Final score at time of writing:-
Likes: 153
Dislikes: 138

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