There is no greater show for looking into the future than CES, not ony because it happens right at the start of the year but because companies attend so they can communicate their message for 2017.
Virtual Reality was up front, but only a few strong pieces of news captured the headlines — that’s because everything really interesting wasn’t flashy or ready for the consumer.
Royalty Free Tracking
SteamVR Tracking just made compelling VR experiences freely accessible. SteamVR Tracking is a hardware/software solution that lets your devices know where they are within a room, in real time. Valve is now making SteamVR Tracking fully available to other companies without licensing fees.
SteamVR Tracking lighthouses bathe a room with lasers you can’t see with the naked eye. These lasers spin, scanning the room in a timely pattern. Sensors on the headset record when these lasers arrive, allowing the system to pinpoint the headset’s precise location.
We’ve all heard of eSports — well, vSports is virtual reality gaming competitions. At CES, VirZoom held a competition on connected bikes. The eight racers all wore VR headsets and could see each other in their virtual race.
Independent Object Tracking
The Vive Tracker can attach to anything and allows for the object to be tracked in the game. With the popularity of the Vive headset this really opens up a lot of gaming possibilities.
Mixed Reality is here
Growing on the possibility of the Vive tracker you can also attach it to a camera for six hours of mixed reality footage. You can also attach it a phone to make a single player game with a 2nd player looking into your virtual world.
Touch for VR
SteamVR is ripe with possibilities, and combined with the Vive Tracker there are several companies looking to bring touch to VR. Many developers I talked to have been exploring tactile feedback in the gloves themselves.
Honestly, I keep thinking of a vest and helmet that I tried in 2008, which used air to jets in a tight vest to simulate being shot with a gun in counter strike. Probably my least favorite demo of all times, but that won’t stop it from becoming a trend in 2017.
Inside Out Tracking
Intel and Facebook are trying to solve the issue of tracking by allowing the headset itself to do the tracking. Intel has committed to releasing their self-contained headset, Project Alloy, by the end of the year.
Intel has several problems to deal with. At CES every person on the show floor staffing a VR booth lacked any knowledge of their product, was not allowed to hand out a card (I could write down the website name) and it left me with the same feeling from their Smartphone days. Intel may not have learned their lesson, that paying people to make content for their platforms is not a viable solution. They’re doing this right now with IoT products based on Curie.
Couple this flawed business backend with the question of whether or not any OEMs will actually manufacture the headsets. If you’re manufacturing them you have to be first. For example, ASUS might not jump on board if Acer is going to make one. You also have to take into account that many already have their own VR solutions like ASUS with the Zoom AR.
Regardless of my suspicion of Intel’s strategy, Inside Out Tracking is going to be a trend the industry will be working on heavily in 2017.
Series or Subscription based content will become a serious option for content delivery on platforms. HTC announced their commitment to building a VR subscription service and has unveiled a content marketplace for VR arcade operators.
Offering a subscription service can help with these kinds of discovery problems, and entice consumers to give lesser-known fare a try
Wearable AR Remains Enterprise Focused
Wearable AR will remain focused on enterprise and industry-specific solutions. Pokemon Go is a great example of AR, but companies like Microsoft and their Hololens will remain primarily focused on business solutions this year.
Smartphone AR/VR Continues to Grow
Smartphone AR will continue to make characters leap off the pages of books and we’re sure to see more than a couple location based role play game featuring AR emerge this year.
Google’s Tango finally looks good with the launch of ASUS AR which we went hands on with at CES 2017.