While virtual reality is (by some distance) the most-tipped expansionary technology of 2016, there remain only a handful of companies actually building the equipment. At CES, there are few new pieces of hardware being announced, with all eyes still on the main players of Oculus, Facebook, HTC, Samsung and Sony. There is no shortage of accessories, though. Products like the 3D Rudder ‘VR Edition’ is a foot-based VR motion controller, used while seated. It lets the user move in VR or 3D environments while seated, for hours, purportedly without fatigue. It will cost approximately €175 when it starts shipping in March. Other gadgets, like the Vuzix iWear Wireless, provide a stopgap experience. This pair of “video headphones” gives users the impression of a wireless personal cinema, in a similar way to Samsung’s Gear VR. It extends the small mobile screen into one that seems 125 inches in size to the gadget’s wearer.
It’s worth bearing in mind the hurdles that virtual reality still has to overcome to make it to the next adoption curve. The computer graphics company Nvidia reckons that only 13m PC worldwide have the kind of computing power that VR applications will need to really shine. There are also sartorial and aesthetic considerations that still challenge more widespread usage. “Right now, VR is big and bulky,” said Oculus founder Palmer Luckey in Dublin in November. “If you were to put on a headset like that and go out in public, people are going to laugh at you.”
Nevertheless, anyone who has tried a few full-powered virtual reality applications will see just how powerful they are.