Cordless virtual reality head-mounted displays may be the key to bringing VR to the masses, not just for households and especially for enterprise use. But companies will need technological innovation in battery life and other components before this can happen.
Virtual reality has generated a lot of media buzz as one of the hottest emerging technologies. Alongside autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the near future is starting to look more and more like a sci-fi film. But if VR is ever going to break its bad ‘90s movie look, there is one thing that has to go, and it’s not the price tag: it’s the cord.
VR cords and wires are distracting and potentially dangerous to the experience, but most headsets today require them. Luckily, VR is steadily progressing to a point where even the most high-powered headsets will be freed from their wired shackles and no longer need to be connected to a computing device. Within 10 years, there will be a complete shift to cordless VR headsets. We’ll see them in the marketplace in only five.
Major companies in the industry have already announced their intentions of releasing a standalone, high-powered headset including Oculus, Qualcomm, Alcatel and Intel. Intel revealed Project Alloy, an all-in-one VR headset, in August 2016 and will provide open APIs for the industry. This will accelerate the introduction of standalone headsets to the VR ecosystem as developers and manufacturers can improve upon Intel’s blueprints.
These advancements won’t only create a more immersive experience for consumers but also a safer workplace. Industrial, healthcare and automotive industries, among many others, are already adapting VR technology to cut costs and improve products and services. In fact, the non-entertainment industry will become the largest segment of the VR industry, accounting for a majority of hardware, software and services revenues by 2026.
VR is already changing the healthcare industry with some medical professionals evaluate, treat, and manage chronic disease. For example, Chicago-based ImmersiveTouch Inc., which bills itself the global leader in virtual and augmented reality software for surgeons, has focused their technology on creating a realistic experience for surgeons to practice procedures. Doctors can upload a patient’s CT or MRI scans to the program that will reconstruct the scans into 3D images so surgeons can practice on the patient before the procedure.
Wires that connect the VR headsets are more than just an annoyance in these training scenarios. Even the smallest interruptions, like moving the cord out of the way, disrupt the learning process and can be potentially dangerous. Users are blind to the real world while they are engaging with a virtual one, making tripping more dangerous with surrounding technology and equipment in work spaces.
In addition to safety, an additional obstacle is the setup process. A standalone headset will be able to run the entire experience from the headset, so the user can navigate content and training simulators on a single device. This will be streamlined and faster with connection to a cloud-based platform.
One of the major factors holding untethered, standalone VR headsets back is positional tracking. For standalone headsets to be feasible, they need inside-out positional tracking, which requires additional components and difficult computations to be performed to interpret live camera input. The additional components will likely add cost, weight and introduce new ergonomic challenges.. Therefore, there is a delicate balance between upgrading quality of end-user experience and applicability to the enterprise.
Nevertheless, the future is bright. Graphic card and processor chip advancements are greatly altering VR headset manufacturing. Qualcomm recently released the first-ever 10nm processor which requires 25 percent less power. The processor will make its debut in a new ODG headset set to be released in the second quarter of 2017, signaling the possibility of manufacturing higher quality processors.
The VR industry is beginning to fulfill sci-fi fanatics’ dreams, but it will take longer than expected. The theme of upcoming Greenlight’s 2017 Virtual Reality Industry Outlook is “Navigating a Dynamic World,” a concept that has perhaps never been more relevant than it is today. Greenlight’s latest publication spotlights the new generations of VR technologies and how they will impact global markets.
(Top photo: Courtesy Getty Images.)
Clifton Dawson is Founder and CEO of Greenlight Insights.
All views expressed are those of the author.