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Virtual reality still has numerous problems to overcome before it goes fully mainstream among gamers, but already has greatly influenced the video game market. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next week, game studios, developers and influencers are expected to discuss VR-focused hardware and software.
At GDC, Oculus will show off Rift, Razer is expected to promote its OSVR headset, while Steam is going to unveil the SteamVR headset.
"Nobody buys a piece of gaming hardware because they think it looks cool," said Lewis Ward, analyst at IDC, in a statement published by CNET. "Until there's a great experience to go along with it, the hardware simply opens the door."
Augmented and virtual reality devices will drastically increase in popularity, rising from 3 million units in 2015 up to 55 million in 2020, according to ABI Research. Head-mounted displays (HMDs) will lead the way, but mobile-reliant devices will see early success, with tethered solutions needing a bit more time to mature.
"There is a lot of excitement and hype focused on getting consumers to try out virtual reality, including the LG G3 shipping with an HMD in some markets, and Mattel's View-Master AR toy," said Michael Inouye, senior analyst at ABI Research. "These early experiences will be like any new toy-novel for a while and then fall off in use, with new content potentially driving periodic re-engagement."
It's unknown if gaming and movies will help drive VR, even though hardware developments are being made. Meanwhile with AR, which is increasingly popular in the enterprise, consumers find a lack of apps difficult to help embrace the technology - and ABI Research thinks it may be a matter of time:
It's going to take a while before 3D printers go mainstream, but consumers have shown a genuine curiosity about 3D-printed food.
3D food printers operate by printing out layers of edible materials, capable of creating pastries, chocolate, pasta, pizza, and other delicious snacks and foods. Unfortunately, supporters are struggling to find ways to turn this curiosity into a long-term business model - and whether this is an ideal strategy for home cooks or restaurants.
"The really exciting thing is the food we can't even imagine today because we don't have any way to make it," said Hod Lipson, Cornell University Creative Machines Lab director, in a statement to the AP. "That's the part I don't think anybody has really figured out."
3D printing technology has evolved at a fast rate over the past few years, but 3D printing still struggles to go mainstream among consumers. Prices for 3D printers and filaments are dropping, but consumers simply don't need one, even as more 3D-printed products and foods are introduced.
A wider selection of consumer 3D printers are available, but most consumers appear willing to wait for the market to develop further.
"Other than some of these cool examples, when does 3D printing go mainstream?" questioned Guy Kawasaki, tech analyst and former Apple chief evangelist, in a statement to CNBC. "I understand you can 3D print food. That's kind of a stretch for me. The fact that someone can 3D print a car doesn't mean you're gonna do it. So it may be that we're just a little bit too early to see what's really gonna happen there."
The Oculus VR Story Studio, an in-house laboratory, will be focused on creating movies and other content designed specifically for VR. Facebook opened up the checkbook to acquire Oculus, and while VR continues to impress many consumers, the company understands there must be an incentive for users to adopt the Oculus Rift.
"Oculus is getting focused on films," said Edward Saatchi, producer for Story Studio, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. "Story Studio is designed to inspire and educate - inspire by making awesome movies and educate by sharing our information with the community."
Story Studio consists of about 10 people, and includes Pixar Animation Studios and Lucasfilm veterans, to help streamline film production.
Microsoft's recent unveiling of its HoloLens has generated a lot of interest from consumers, but developers understand it will be up to them to create appealing apps for the new platform. Microsoft is promoting HoloLens as something different than Oculus Rift or Sony Morpheus, and will likely try to build its success piggybacked on Windows OS and Xbox One integration in the future.
"I think [HoloLens], for me, more exciting than even VR but it shares a similar problem as VR does and that is: what is the application going to be?" said Peter Molyneux, creator of Fable, in an interview with Gamesindustry.biz. "This is the problem with VR - the applications that we think are going to be great on it quite often are exhausting or very challenging. My hope is that their concept video doesn't over promise what the technology can deliver."
Molyneux is basing his opinion on a HoloLens prototype that was tested more than two years ago, however.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gambled on the future of virtual reality when Facebook purchased Oculus VR, and admits it will take time for VR to make a major impact. Facebook spent $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR last year, as the company continues to move forward with hardware development.
"It's extremely early stage and the early stuff is very rough still, but I think that's going to be a really important trend," Zuckerberg recently said regarding virtual reality and augmented reality, speaking during a question and answer session in Colombia.
Zuckerberg also believes VR could help eventually replace smartphones and PCs one day, though development will have to evolve. "We're really excited about that as well. We're building that with Oculus which I think is by far the leader in virtual reality and it's going to be very exciting to see how that develops."
Developers are finding a wide variety of different uses for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, and Toyota has demonstrated its TeenDrive365 distracted driving simulator. Participants sit down in a stationary car wearing an Oculus Rift headset, taking them through a simulation that involves multiple distracted driving scenarios.
Scenarios include other vehicles on the road, in-vehicle passengers, radio, and text messages - with drivers suffering the "consequences of distracted driving within the virtual setting," providing a more realistic view of everyday distractions that drivers face.
"Oculus Rift provides a virtual reality driving experience that mirrors real life behind the wheel, giving us a powerful, one-of-a-kind way to show parents and teens how everyday distractions can affect their ability to drive safely," said Marjorie Schussel, corporate marketing manager of Toyota, in a statement to the media.
Virtual reality products were on full display at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, and while VR continues to go mainstream, there are a lot of questions that still must be answered.
VR adoption should increase in 2015, as companies tweak their hardware and software offerings, though should remain most common in the gaming sector. However, VR will still be a niche technology, until several major roadblocks are accurately addressed.
"It will stay relatively niche because it still has several technological hurdles to overcome," said Piers Harding-Rolls, HIS analyst, in a statement to BBC. "A lot of people that have tested the current headsets, a good proportion of them have not enjoyed the experience. It can make them feel woozy and sick, and the manufacturers really have to overcome that."
The virtual reality market is growing, and seems to have drawn the most attention by the gaming community, but still isn't ready for mainstream adoption. However, it's possible that the movie industry has the most to gain from virtual reality, with consumers interested in embracing the unique viewing experience.
"We've said from the beginning we're big gamers, and we started Oculus to deliver consumer VR and revolutionize games," said Nate Mitchell, VP for product at Oculus, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "But it may well end up being that VR is more about film than games - [but] it's possible. We don't know what the killer app is."
Oculus is working with developers in the video game and movie industries, and it's possible Oculus VR headsets could also find their way into military simulation trainings. There is a tremendous amount of opportunities for virtual reality in the future, but consumers appear more interested in what can be done sooner rather than later.