VR: the new testing ground for mobile giants?


At MWC 2016, we’ve already seen some of the biggest companies throw their hats into the VR ring, announcing headsets and 360-degree cameras. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise appearance at the Samsung Galaxy S7 launch where he talked about VR content on the social network.

High-end virtual reality is slowly becoming a reality thanks to devices like the HTC Vive, announced at MWC with a price tag of $799 (roughly Rs. 54,900) and the Oculus Rift, which you can buy for $599 (about Rs. 39,500).

The high price means it will be some time before these types of headsets become a mainstream product, but as we’ve said before, mobile virtual reality is going to drive adoption of the technology, at least in the short term. term.

And from the news already coming out of the MWC, it’s clear that the telcos are seeing it too. Mobile phone sales are slowing – even Apple’s – and regular spec updates aren’t the answer.

That’s why LG rolled out its own VR headset and 360-degree camera to create VR content. Samsung already has the Gear VR headset, and it announced the Gear 360 camera which is quite similar.

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(Also see: MWC 2016: Camera Boost, Virtual Reality for New LGs, Samsung Flagships)

VR brings the instant wow factor – even people who are technologically averse have (in our experience) shown an interest in looking around in simple VR experiences. It hugely redefines the experience of using a smartphone, and that’s what phones have been lacking in recent times.

For now, the content is mostly 360 photos and Google Cardboard content such as spherical videos. As more headsets ship, expect the quality and quantity of content to increase as well, while accessories such as the Gear 360 camera will also contribute to the proliferation of amateur content via platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

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And that’s how virtual reality is becoming more than the flavor of the month – for many people, the mobile phone is now the primary means of media consumption. The downside is that the screen size is a limitation. That’s part of why our phones have become so oversized and bulky – it’s a fair trade-off for a ‘big screen’ experience.

Companies like Lenovo are already betting on it (as its “TheatreMax” ad currently on TV in India highlights), as are LeEco and others. Virtual reality has a long-term use case that starts with watching movies and will go beyond that as people become more familiar with the technology, and it can get people talking thanks to the instant wow factor.

These are things that a new processor and more RAM simply can’t accomplish anymore. So it’s hardly surprising that this year is shaping up to be the year of virtual reality, and that this evolution is being driven by mobile phones.

Tech

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