Hurdles that keep virtual reality from being mainstream

While skeptics will continue to strain for old contrasts with past tech failures, such as Google Glass and 3DTV, some of the biggest names in tech innovation (with the most financial and intellectual resources to throw at it) continue to remind us that this will be one of the biggest tech breakthroughs in decades.
In September of 2015 Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion in a vote of confidence for virtual reality’s future. Like anything that’s seeking to generate massive amounts of excitement, however, it should be kept in check by a healthy amount of skepticism.
As it currently stands, VR is boutique technology. The price point places it in the field of early investors and, even among those, people with enough money to afford everything required in a VR setup. The headsets currently available to consumers, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, carry $599 and $799 price tags, respectively.
Further compounding the already steep entry cost is the technical hurdle you’ll need to overcome in order to run VR software on your home computer. Whether or not your rig has a dedicated GPU isn’t even a question; the actual question is if it even meets the minimum requirements, a NVIDIA GTX 970 or an AMD R9 390. You’ll also need a hefty CPU, and more on board storage for the increased number of assets that virtual reality programs will need to render.
For a technology that has yet to prove that it’s worth its salt, that’s a great big shopping list.
Time for an inescapable fact: A brick that’s covered in a sleek, black, matte finish is still a brick. It hangs off the front of your face, and no matter how comfortable it manages to be, it’s still a brick on the front of your face.
It’s not a slouch when it comes to setup, either, and if you want your VR experience to extend beyond your computer desk (currently only available with the HTC Vive, but coming soon for Oculus), you’re going to need several feet of free real estate in your entertainment space.
Happily, early reviews from Oculus and Vive owners have overall spoken to the surprising comfort of each headset. They might attract fingerprints, and they might still look a little gaudy, but barring a few exceptions, they seem snug, secure, and not as heavy as you might expect.
Nausea takes the cake as the foremost concern that I have for the VR experience, and even though many users claim to have their “VR legs” under them after only a short time spent with a headset on, a few still complain of the spatial discomfort that comes from spending any prolonged amount of time existing in a virtual environment.
The second concern is also a bit predictable, and it’s going to give naysayers and skeptics another reason to reach for a 3D TV comparison, glasses. While the Vive and the Oculus are adjustable enough to fit any size of head, those of us burdened with spectacles are sporting all variety of sizes and shapes of lenses. Some have said that the VR headsets are outright painful to wear, while others worry that their glasses are going to scratch the surely expensive lenses inside of the headset itself.
These are problems that hardware developers are going to have to solve for. With the already hefty shopping list required to get one’s home setup “VR ready,” contact lenses or eye surgery aren’t justifiable additions.
Maybe we’ve already covered the broader umbrella of “accessibility” with our more precise bullet points above, but I feel it’s still important to consider VR on a grander scale. If this technology is meant to take off for more than gamers, even if it doesn’t happen for five to ten years, some serious effort is going to have to be made to entice public perception.
VR has proven its capability. Now, it needs to prove that it has a place in the average household, and not just the boutique gaming den.