The year of 2016 has brought about an unprecedented boom in new releases for the virtual reality niche in technology. With releases such as the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, the technology should be everywhere.
While the idea of playing a virtual reality game on your own PC might sound exhilarating to most of us, the release of technology has not met with the enthusiasm that developers had been hoping for.
The primary reason? Money.
Right now, the VR industry has been gaining steam, but if it cannot entice consumers to buy, then the niche will quickly peak as only a niche market. The solution is to make the technology more affordable, right? Oculus seems to think so.
VR becomes more affordable as Oculus shows off $500 PC
On October 6, the company announced a new PC that was qualified as an “Oculus ready” machine that costs . . . wait for it: $499. Sure, this is not pocket change, but if you look up the prices of other virtual reality technology, this is a substantial development. Especially considering Oculus was offering PC and Oculus Rift bundles at $1499 at the beginning of 2016.
But surely if they could make the technology so affordable why is the price so high to begin with? As you can imagine, virtual reality computing is slightly more complicated than what you look at on your PC every night when you play Call of Duty.
Here we turn to frames per second. Frames per second affects the flow of any kind of moving content on your computer. If your computer has lower FPS, then your PC gaming experience probably looks choppy compared to someone running on a computer with twice the frames per second.
Higher frames per second means better technology which means pricier technology. Virtual reality, being a newer and more complex technology, has required computers in the pricier range in order to run, not to mention the cost of the VR machine and accessories.
Oculus lowers the minimum requirements needed to run Oculus Rift
Oculus asserted that they were able to significantly cut the minimum standards needed to run their technology using what they call “asynchronous spacewarp.” Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with warp speed. This technology will make your low frame per second appear to be higher than they actually are, thereby allowing the technology to make a coherent and life-like picture for your enjoyment.
Previously back at the beginning of 2016 the recommended specs were as follows:
- GPU: Nvidia GTX 970/AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
- CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
- Memory: 8GB RAM or more
- Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
- USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
- OS: Window 7 SP1 64 bit or newer
The now even lower minimum specs are as follows:
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 or higher
- CPU: Intel i3-6100/AMD FX4350 or higher
- Memory: 8GB RAM or more
- Input/Output: HDMI 1.3 video output on the GPU, 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
- OS: Windows 8 or newer
VR could be big business in the near future if demand becomes great enough
If cost is the biggest barrier to entry into the virtual reality market, then the market should take off at the predicted rate. Most surveys predict that the virtual reality segment will be worth something around $30 billion by 2020. That is just a little over three years from now. This would be a substantial growth in a market that, for the moment, is stagnant.
Image credit: Digi-Capital
The other aspect of this market to examine is the “need” feature. Do gamers feel that they need this technology in order to improve their gaming? This question must take into account what is most important to gamers. Do they worry most about skill; i.e. what will put them ahead in the games they play? Or is the experience more important?
For my part, I have never felt like I need to have virtual reality capability to improve my gaming abilities. But if the segment takes off and the virtual reality becomes the standard, the “cool” factor might be able to sway me. For now, I think I will stick with my surround sound headset.
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