The Big VR Elephant

Friends: we are entering a golden age of VR technology. A revolution in augmented and virtual reality that will change the world we live in, permanently. However, there’s a two tonne elephant in the room, and it’s not going away.

The problem is that regardless of whether you’re talking about VR, AR or Microsoft’s dubious coining of the term ‘hologram’ on its new HoloLens system, each requires the user to strap a large computer to their face.

It seems that the industry is ignoring the complete lack of practicality around these devices.

Imagine boarding a train, to find the face of the person you’re sat next to incased in a prison of plastic, as they game on their Gear VR headset. Or walking into the office to find a colleague walking around their desk, video conferencing inside a digital snorkel. The tech is too divisive to be effective in its current form. Even Google Glass, which was minuscule compared to HoloLens, added too much to the face.

We’re not in the business of damning amazing technological advances based on appearance, but anyone who’s strapped on one of these devices should attest to the lack of comfort and disorientating separation form the real world. Anyone who’s tripped over their chair while gaming or Oculus, or yanked their digital umbilical chord from their PC or console will confirm: this tech is such a long way from being finished.

It’s not just VR experiences. AR glasses are another abomination that isn’t even close to being fixed. The Epson Moverio is basically a prototype you can buy (if it has a cable, it’s not going on our faces) and after trying the Sony SmartEyeGlass at CES, we can confirm that the company has achieved little progress with its early work.

So now that the tech giants have impressed us with the possibilities, it’s time to blow us away with the reality.

WEAR: Google Cardboard

There’s plenty of expensive high end VR systems you can buy, including the Samsung Gear VR which requires you to have a brand new Galaxy Note 4 lying around. However, investing in a $20 Google Cardboard kit will give anyone an equivalent experience, and is open to any smartphone. Plus, you get to stick and glue like you’re ten years old.

We realize cardboard isn't necessarily the long term answer to the big VR elephant problem but these kits are so cheap and fun and accessible (not to mention spawning a mini industry of copycats from Archos to Carl Zeiss) that we don't really care.

SQUARE: Sony SmartEyeGlass

While there’s plenty of AR glasses out there to pick on, it was the Sony SmartEyeGlass that really depressed us the most. At CES we donned the demo glasses to find a 80s green graphic plonked in the centre of our eyeline, which seemed to behave independently of the wired control unit placed in our hands. Dreadful.

Still, much more promising is Sony's SmartEyeGlass Attach which is an attachable single lens display designed to work with existing frames. Make that small and inconspicuous enough and Sony will be on to something.

Nearly there: Google Glass

While Google Glass was given the chop this year, we’re still hopeful that its successor will be a big leap forward, whenever we see it. While Glass was horrible to use, its design, build and applications are a solid foundation to build on. 

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