The custom installation industry has been talking about virtual reality for the last few years, although the technology hasn’t particularly been a sure-fire hit with consumers. Much of the criticism comes down to the relative infancy of the technology currently available – requiring users to have high-end gaming PCs and traipse around wires while wearing a bulky headset. Thankfully that may not be the case for much longer, as Oculus is reportedly planning an affordable VR headset that ditches the cables and ditches the PC.
Oculus has been the driving force behind the resurgence of VR, although the company has struggled against competition from the likes of Sony with its PlayStation VR, and HTC with its HTC Vive. That’s why the company is set to go back to the drawing board to recapture the market that it revived.
According to Bloomberg, Facebook is investing heavily in a completely new VR headset that will be completely wireless and not require a high-end gaming rig in order to play games. Despite the lack of wires and the high-end gaming rig, Oculus is reportedly still planning a headset geared towards immersive gaming, watching videos, and social networking. That means the new VR headset is likely to rely heavily on streaming technologies – much like what is currently present on the Nvidia Shield TV.
The new VR headset is supposedly codenamed Pacific, and will be both more compact than the existing Oculus Rift, and lighter than the Samsung Gear VR. The design is said to not yet be final, meaning things could change between now and release. It’s thought that Oculus wants the device to be portable, however, so it should fit in a bag to watch movies on a flight.
Pacific will be unlikely to please existing Oculus owners, however. That’s because it’s unlikely to support technologies such as ‘Roomscale’, which allows users to move around freely in space. For those users, Oculus is reportedly working on another headset dubbed ‘Santa Cruz’, which is essentially a fully-fledged wireless Rift. That means users will enjoy the full power of a Rift, just without a PC and without wires. It’s hoped that technology such as Roomscale will also continue to be supported.
If Oculus continues with Roomscale, then a custom installer will still find quite a bit of work in the VR space, if not, there may need to be a serious readjustment as to where the industry is going in the future. The Oculus Rift was the original VR headset that caused users to actively want fully converted spaces in which to enjoy their virtual worlds, meaning any change in strategy from Oculus, could lead to the end of the dedicated VR space. Given the potential of the market, that would be detrimental to the installation industry.
VR is already threatening the home cinema and gaming rooms, and with a lack of replacement rooms in which custom installers can work, it could seriously threaten future business for the industry. Coupled with the rise of the consumer smart home, installers could find the market becoming much smaller in the future, as it pushes further and further into the high-end.
Thankfully, there’s a silver lining. While there will be many consumers unwilling to pay for VR rooms, the mega-rich could still invest in elaborate sets for their homes. Commercial properties are already popping up using real-world sets in collaboration with VR, and rich clients could have enough space in which to build these sorts of experiences into their homes. With an increased focus on the high-end, the installation industry could offer an even better, and more bespoke service to those with deep pockets.
Oculus isn’t the only company that could spell the end for the dedicated VR room, Microsoft’s VR strategy also does away with the need for a dedicated space. In Microsoft’s case, users won’t need sensors in the room at all, with everything handled by the headset itself, meaning any empty room could serve as a VR room.