What it is: A slew of Windows VR headsets from various companies are due out soon.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets have been around for years, but there have always been problems. First, they’re expensive. Second, there’s still no compelling reason for most people to have one. Third, they wrap around your face like an Alien face hugger so it limits where you can use them (indoors in a safe environment where you can’t walk into anything because your vision is totally obscured).
So this fall, a slew of Windows VR headset are coming from Dell, Samsung, Lenovo, and others. The problem is that they still haven’t solved their three big problems. These latest Windows VR headsets cost around $400, which isn’t expensive but will people buy something if they don’t see themselves getting any value out fo their purchase?
That brings up the second problem. What will people use VR headsets for? In niche applications like training astronauts or soldiers, virtual reality is perfect. For ordinary use, what will the average person use VR for during their average day?
People can easily see how to use a smartphone multiple times during the day, which makes them valuable. Nobody’s going to lug a VR headset around with them, which means it needs to stay in either the home or office. In the office, what business use will VR headsets serve? In the home, what entertainment value will VR headsets offer? Games are the obvious answer, but will people want to buy a $400 VR headset to play games? Will VR games be that much more interesting to play than today’s video games?
After all these years, VR headsets still haven’t offered a compelling reason to use them beyond niche applications. What Apple normally does is introduce new technology and then demonstrate how it offers clear advantages. When Apple introduced the Macintosh with a graphical user interface, they showed how a word processor could show different fonts and how easy it was to draw or paint using the mouse. When Apple introduced the iPhone, they showed how it could not only make phone calls but easily browse the Internet, essentially a computer in your pocket.
What compelling advantage does VR offer to the average person? That question still goes unanswered. The biggest problem of VR headsets is the cost and inconvenience of strapping a headset to your face. Will people wear a VR headset for extended periods of time? If the answer is no, then why bother getting one in the first place?
People use computers for extended periods of time. They use smartphones multiple times for short bursts of time. People aren’t likely to wear VR headsets for extended periods of time, nor will they likely use it for short bursts of time like a smartphone. It’s not portable like a smartphone or a tablet, and it’s not unobtrusive like a wearable computer such as an Apple Watch. So the question boils down to what good is a VR headset for the average person?
Oculus once tried selling VR headsets in Best Buy but stopped because of a lack of interest. This latest batch of VR headsets is likely to repeat this same problem. insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Expect this latest batch of VR headsets to quietly disappear just like the Oculus VR headsets did. Until someone can figure out a compelling reason for the average person not use VR despite the headaches of strapping a device to your face, VR will remain niche product.