Is virtual reality ready for retail?
After much hype over the last few years, the Oculus Rift is set to land at retail accounts starting in April. Its arrival, along with HTC Vive and Sony Morpheus, will finally reveal whether virtual reality has much appeal beyond gamers.
At $600 per headset, Facebook’s Oculus Rift is the leader in the space. Available for pre-order since Jan. 6, the Oculus Rift quickly sold out with backorders mounting to four months. While driven by early tech adopters, many question how much mainstream customers will pay for the experience.
“Enthusiastic reactions to VR at trade fairs or at industry conferences, based on a few minutes of usage, may not convert into mass market demand,” wrote Deloitte in its “Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions 2016.”
Casual gamers will also need to upgrade their computers to use the VR hardware.
Deloitte also noted that the disappointing launches of smart glasses and 3-D TV glasses indicate that consumers may be averse to wearing padded headsets for long periods of time.
Finally, the first crop of VR devices for living rooms may not pack enough quality games to stimulate purchases.
Another challenge is trying to demonstrate the technology’s touted ability to transport the user to another world in advertising using only standard video or still imagery. Oculus is working on bringing actual demonstrations to stores. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe recently told CNBC, “Virtual reality is a very experiential product and experience, it’s something that you really have to see to believe.”
Still, Deloitte predicted VR would reach its first billion dollar year in 2016 with rising revenues in coming years. Sales in 2016 are expected to be driven by the “tens of millions” of core gamers rather than the “hundreds of millions” of occasional gamers. Opportunities for other applications, such as 3-D filming for television and movies, aren’t there yet.
Wrote Deloitte, “VR’s potential is unlikely to be reached imminently; as with all emerging technologies patience is required.”
- Deloitte 2016 TMT Predictions: Cognitive Technologies to be Integrated into 80 of the Largest 100 Software Companies – Deloitte
- Deloitte – Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions 2016 – Deloitte
- The Oculus Rift Will be in Retail Stores Come April – Roadtovr.com
- Oculus CEO: Working on pre-order issues, will be OK soon – CNBC
- What to expect from virtual reality in 2016 – Chicago Tribune (tiered sub.)
Do you see this as a potential breakout year for virtual reality products? What obvious and less obvious hurdles may prevent VR from becoming a major category?