From The Seattle Times’ Nick Wingfield: For a technology to crack the mainstream, there is an unspoken understanding: It shouldn’t make the people who use it want to throw up. And yet there was a reminder, at this month’s International CES trade show in Las Vegas, of how far virtual reality has to go until everyone is ready to fasten 3-D goggles to their faces.
At a news conference, the chipmaker Intel provided virtual-reality headsets to about 250 attendees so they could watch a 3-D video from the perspective of sky divers hurtling out of a helicopter in wingsuits. Intel also passed out motion-sickness bags in case anybody felt inclined to vomit, an unfortunate side effect of turbulent virtual-reality experiences for some people.
Laura Anderson, an Intel spokeswoman, said the company had provided the bags “out of an abundance of caution and to be tongue-in-cheek about our immersive experience.” No one used the bags, she said.
It is time for a reality check for virtual reality, one of the most hyped technologies of last year. Sales of the most capable headsets have been sluggish by most estimates, held back by high costs, a lack of must-have content and the complexity and awkwardness of the products. Less expensive mobile headsets that use smartphones as their screens are selling better, but are far more limited in what they can do.
Many technologists and early adopters of virtual reality remain unchanged in their conviction that the technology will eventually change how entertainment, including games and movies, is experienced by the masses. The major virtual-reality headsets from Oculus, HTC and Sony went on sale to the public only last year, and those who thought they would find a large audience within months of release had unrealistic expectations, virtual reality’s advocates say.
“This is going to be a long slog; as the technology continues to improve, more content becomes available and awareness increases,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research.