Virtual Reality has had so many rebirths and new year beginnings that it resembles the myth about a cat having nine lives.
2018 was touted as the big year for virtual reality. With over four months until the end of the year and a Christmas period in the Q4, it could still be a big year. But it depends on how we are measuring what constitutes a big year for VR. If we are gauging it on a consumer level and expecting the world to be gripped like in the movie Ready Player One, then unfortunately that is not the case.
Movies such as Ready Player One, were expected to drive the public's curiosity about virtual reality. Although it was not the aim, it was hoped the movie would help drive overall sales in headsets like the recently launched Oculus Go and the various mixed reality headsets built for Windows Mixed Reality.
The Fifa world cup was also an opportunity for viewers to get involved in virtual reality on a mass scale, with the BBC allowing viewers to watch matches by downloading the VR app.
But the truth is sales figures have fallen below forecasts predicted by analyst and sales have not generated consumer home adoption that was hoped for by the standalone Facebook owned Oculus Go.
The Oculus Go, at a cost of $199, is a standalone virtual reality headset. Unlike previous headsets that require a mobile phone or a connection to a powerful PC, the Oculus Go was deemed as the first mass market headset that was affordable and can be used by all.
Released in early 2018, Oculus Go made an estimated 289,000 shipments in Q2, helping major headset sales grow close to 40% in comparison to the first quarter. But overall, major headset sales were down 50% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, according to SuperData.
Sony's Playstation VR headset shipped an estimated 100,00 units in Q2, in comparison to three-times as much at the same period in 2017. Meanwhile, Microsoft appears to have dropped plans to introduce VR to the Xbox One X, with plans to concentrate solely on Windows Mixed Reality.
Although overall figures were down, what is clear is that consumers have adapted to the convenience and selling point of the Oculus Go. Sales of the standalone Oculus Go in its launch quarter, outstripped those of the PC-powered Oculus Rift in the entire first half of 2017.
On the other hand, Augmented Reality appears to be having a more mass appeal on mobile phones, than on HMDs (head-mounted devices). The application is an excellent tool for location-based discovery, games and retail shopping.
So far in 2018, it is appears that virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality (in its HMD version) are still taking baby-steps. But with the introduction and cost of standalone devices, it looks like we are approaching the point where devices will be as comfortable to carry like mobile phones and super cool to wear like your favourite pair of Ray-Bans.
If the Virtual Reality industry is like a cat, then 2019 could be the year it uses its ninth life. But even if 2019 is not the breakthrough year, the time is near when the self-image of The AR & VR Industry changes reality and takes a huge leap, roaring like a lion!!