Virtual Reality needs another generation or three of improvement to go mainstream

Neither HTC nor Facebook/Oculus has released sales figures for their respective VR (Virtual Reality) headsets. Analyst estimates are less than 500,000 units apiece.

This means that Facebook paid $3 billion for Oculus and has made less than $500 million in VR sales.

Sony did put out some sales figures for its Playstation VR headset in February which caused some initial excitement — with the company claiming 915,000 units sold since October 2016. But by June that figure had merely drifted past 1 million.

Famed movie director James Cameron noted the problems two years ago.

“There seems to be a lot of excitement around something that, to me, is a yawn, frankly. The question that always occurred to me is, when is it going to be mature, when is it going to be accepted by the public at large, when are people going to start authoring in VR and what will that be? What will the level of interactivity with the user be other than just ‘I can stand and look around.’ If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever. Oculus Rift is fine, it’s got a good display and that sort of thing,”

In a 2016 interview with Variety, James Cameron pointed to people experimenting with both virtual and augmented reality, calling them “interesting authoring tools” but stating that they’re still “not there yet.” He went on to explain that, because a filmmaker can’t move their camera within virtual reality, he didn’t believe that it was actually possible to make VR movies.

“How are you going make a movie and not move the camera?” he asked. “How can you make a movie where you can’t cut? So there may be a narrative art form that emerges from that, but it’s not a movie.”

James Cameron uses virtual reality all day every day to assist in the creation of his Avatar movie sequels.

Cameron has a detailed understanding of movies and of pushing the technical frontier with 3D and high resolution film making. Cameron’s opinion is that the resolution and immersion and interactivity with virtual reality needs to increase to the level of his 3D movies. This seems to be ten years away.