VR vs. Nostradamus (2018 Edition) – Part One

Well, here we are again everybody. It’s the beginning of the year, or at the very least the middle of January and it’s time once again for me to make some degree of predictions. Now, I think it’s actually more difficult to do this than this time last year. Then there were some logical degree of progression and I could sort of see which way the wind was blowing. As it turned out, what I actually predicted was over 50% correct which I call a humongous win. This year I’m going to deliberately have some more riskier and out there picks just to freshen things up. I actually see a little bit of a changing of the guard here and there. We might have standalone and wireless coming along but I still think we’re going to get some new players here and there. Some of these are follow ups to last year. Some of these might come across as a bit negative but I do feel like this’ll be a year where we’ll say an equal-ish number of hellos and goodbyes.

As with last year it’ll be a multi-part VR vs. For a number of reasons, mostly because I’ll probably have a lot ot say on a number of these to explain my stance and due circumstances beyond my control at the time of writing, frankly, I’m the only one even here at the moment and my attention is needed elsewhere.

So let’s look back at the list I started writing down in… I think late September last year.

1) Magic Leap Finally Say Something

Yes our old friends at Magic Le- Wait, what’s that?

They’ve actually now gone ahead and have? Oh, for goodness sake! I was relying on that one! Couldn’t they have waited for a few weeks? Didn’t stop them before. Oh well. Whether or not we’ll actually see it in action properly and whether or not it was worth the wait is obviously something I believe still very much up for debate. We’ll have to skip ahead to the next one. Hopefully that’s not got any problems.

Magic Leap One Reveal

1a) Welcome To AR, Amazon (I Said W-AR, Huh, Goo-gle God, Y’all)

Now I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t we just have a story not that long ago about how Amazon had patented an augmented reality (AR) mirror, or something along those lines? Well, yes we did. But this isn’t a situation where that uniquely disqualifies my second, er, first choice right off the bat. Firstly, that wasn’t the only AR stry in recent months there was also the Amazon AR View which, notably uses Apple’s ARKit as opposed to Google’s ARCore – more on that in a moment. And also back in July they patented some other items related to AR. Items with computer, camera and projector connotations. Plus they’ve just teamed up with smart glasses developers Vuzix to bring Alexa to their product. There’s no denying that Amazon are most definately involved in AR. Probably a lot more than many of you remember.

Thankfully, at least for me, that’s not what this prediction is about. Well, it was partly going to be an announcement by Amazon through their actions that they are taking AR seriously. I think that’s a definite now. The main part though was about how this was going to relate to Google.  As I mentioned above, that Amazon chose ARKit is not a big surprise as, for the last eighteen months relations between the two companies have not exactly been jolly.  Indeed, the two have been squaring up over a number of matters. Amazon weren’t selling Google’s Chromecast and Google Home so Google blocked access to YouTube from Amazon devices.  It’s been pointed out that Amazon are one of the few companies that could pose a threat to Google, and the matter probably wasn’t helped by Google making deals and partnerships in an effort to combat Amazon’s services.

My point is if we’re going to have a new tech heavyweight war it’s these two. Google is used to having everyone follow it Pied Piper style, dancing to their tune. Amazon doesn’t have to. And if Amazon is so inclined it could go directly against Google in one of its other fields of interest – and to me, considering those patents and other interests AR sounds like a good fit.  Expect some more stepping on toes from both sides, with Google’s assistant going to a Vuzix rival quite possibly to start things, before Amazon’s decide to spent a lot more attention on AR. Wherever Google are enjoying success basically.

2) Welcome To Immersion, Elon Musk

It must be so sad being Elon Musk.  So lonely. When you’ve got over 20 Billion (USD) in the bank what on earth do you do with yourself day after day? I mean it’s not like the American business guru has done anything recently. Let me see, he’s only trying to solve America’s traffic problems by starting his own tunnel digging company. Won a $50 Million (USD) bet about providing a the largest ever lithium-ion battery for South Australia. Speaking of power, specifically electricity he’s the head of Tesla and one of the people dragging the electric car kicking and screaming into feasibility. He’s looking to open access artificial intelligence with his company OpenAI – and integrate it with the human brain in another company he owns called Neuralink.  Then there’s his involvement in trying to develop super-fast transport with the hyperloop system thanks to his company, Hyperloop One. Is there anything else? Let me see…. oh yes, he’s trying to make freaking space travel viable!

Seriously, is there nothing this man isn’t doing? He’s like a modern-day Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  Well, as a matter of fact there is, solar power! He’s not doing anyth-… oh he is doing solar power? SolarCity you say? Oh.

Well, since taking on yet another big project isn’t beyond the possibilities of Elon Musk, one thing he isn’t currently involved with is immersive technologies – and considering a lot of his other businesses getting on board with either VR or AR would be a very interesting fit. Both would work well for integration into the hyperloop experience for passengers, or The Boring Company (yes, it is actually called that) for their engineers. AR would be interesting to develop with SpaceX in mind, and wasn’t Palmer Luckey working to develop VR beamed into your brains, or your nervous system or something like that? If you’ve got a company looking to combine the brain with AI that sounds like a conversation you may want to have together at some point.

And speaking of Palmer Luckey…

3) The Prodigal Son Returns… To Oculus Connect, Anyway

This year well have our fifth Oculus Connect event, so expect it to be called OCV nearer the time. It’s amazing how things have moved so quickly.  The first part of last year was obviously the ongoing saga of Luckey’s departure from Oculus and the ramifications of that. Now he’s back in the game with a Tolkien referencing company, and two conventions is probably just the right amount of time for people for enough water to pass under the needed bridges and for people to let things go enough that he make an appearance. To be clear, attendance is all I’m predicting here but I frankly wouldn’t put it past Luckey even making an on-stage appearance to perhaps discuss his work at the other company or as part of a panel debating something.  After all, he’s been on stage for HTC Vive, so that might be a sign to Oculus that it would not be okay for that to happen.

Palmer Luckey, Founder at Oculus

4) Bye Bye OSVR

Does anyone actually use the OSVR? I’ve got one. It’s currently sitting on top of a wardrobe in my bedroom after its installer tried to eat my new computer I’d just shelled out two grand on. But its place in the pecking order of VR PC head mounted displays (HMDs) has now been usurped by the Windows Mixed Reality headset, I rarely see support listed for it on steam items and…  frankly I don’t actually see a point in it anymore. What’s it being used for? Research and education probably. And whilst that’s (soemwhat) its present that should be its permanent future. Have existing headsets move into the education system and have the OSVR become the first headset college kids can easily get hands on to en masse and properly experiment with.

I just don’t see where it fits any more, and I have to wonder if Razer also think that. Either we get another upgrade, which I think is unlikely, or it’s time to pack up the tent, sell off the elephants and see if there’s anything on the patents side that could be useful. If we say farewell to anyone this year from the hardware side my bet is on Razer and the OSVR project.

osvr-headerThat’s enough for this week. I’ll be back next week for part two, which looking at my list will be very console VR related. I’ll see you then at the usual time. Have a good rest of the week.