This year, several major tech companies are planning to debut next-generation virtual-reality hardware, promising to be cheaper—and less tethered—than anything currently on the market. Meanwhile, media and tech companies are racing to create content that people actually want to watch.
“I think it’s a content play,” said Intel CMO Steve Fund. “There is not enough quality content out there today. I think content will drive the adoption.”
Here are some of the hardware and content plays to pay attention to in 2018, with more announcements likely to come this week during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and throughout the rest of the year:
Hardware to watch
Along with its Oculus Go headset that’s expected to ship this year, Facebook is working on another piece of VR hardware, Santa Cruz, that allows user tracking from within a headset without being tethered to cords or wall trackers.
HTC is also working on a stand-alone, cordless headset. The $600 Vive Focus, which debuted in China last month, allows for free movement within a space much like the HTC Vive. The headset is not yet available in the U.S., but
its creation could be a glimpse into where HTC is heading.
Lenovo is going the partnership route as it readies the release of its next piece of VR hardware: the Mirage Solo, set to debut at CES, powered by Google’s Daydream VR platform.
In late December, the Miami-based augmented reality startup Magic Leap finally unveiled its first set of AR goggles, Magic Leap One. While an official release date has not been set, the company previewed what that might look like when it designed an interactive music experience with the Icelandic band Sigur Rós. No price has been announced.
Content to watch
Sundance Film Festival
Later this month, some of the best VR experiences will make their debuts in Park City, Utah. They include “Zikr: A Sufi Revival,” which will transport several users at once to Tunisia to learn about Sufi rituals; “Hero,” which explores war’s impact on civilians; “Chorus,” a social VR experience transforming users into female warriors; and “Dinner Party,” a thriller based on Betty and Barney Hill, a couple who claimed they were abducted by a UFO in the 1960s.
Several television networks are boosting VR content production in 2018. This NBA season, Time Warner’s Turner will team up with Intel and NextVR to produce one game a week that will put viewers courtside. Last week, Discovery announced it released all 38 episodes of its “Discovery TRVLR,” a VR travel series that takes viewers around the world to learn about the people and places on every continent.
Jaunt VR, a Disney-backed VR startup, focuses on both content and technology. Last Thursday, it announced plans to release seven VR films on the Olympic Channel that will showcase athletes at next month’s Winter Olympics. That’s not all. Today, Jaunt is scheduled to announce it will be providing technology for VR stories produced by Sky News.