Virtual reality has become a recent craze, ever since modern technology has granted the capability to make such a thing possible. Originating in video games and now driving towards meeting other needs and desires (i.e. virtual reality films), this technology is emerging in abundance. In 2015-2016 alone, we saw the release or publicizing of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Microsoft HoloLens, Razer OSVR, FOVE VR, Zeiss VR One, Avegant Glyph, and Freefly VR Headset.
As each of these companies rolls out their own virtual reality (VR) headset in an attempt to capture part of this new market, they need to make decisions on the interoperability of their product. With new technology such as VR, it is very possible for developers and manufacturers to design a product with software and programs that are incompatible with other VR headsets. While this can help to establish an industry standard, it can also limit the growth of the technology and discourage interested consumers with the overwhelming variety.
Some of these VR headsets currently make use of software that is compatible among other platforms. For example, the Freefly VR Headset is compatible with over 200 Google Cardboard applications. Similarly, the Zeiss VR One can be used with almost any smartphone, an accomplishment because many VR headsets are only compatible for use with a single computer or phone operating software.
However, the headset that is truly pioneering the idea of interoperability in VR is the Razer OSVR (stands for Open Source Virtual Reality), which is intended to act as a piece of open source software and hardware to progress the industry. This headset can be ordered by anyone in the public who would like to help develop the technology.
Not all VR companies seem to be conforming entirely to this mindset. Despite the fact that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has referred to the Oculus Rift an open platform, the company is locking many of the headset’s games for use only on the Rift. While this doesn’t quite make the VR headset a closed platform, it is creating exclusivity. This tactic has long been used in video game consoles, which develop first party games that are not designed for use on more than one company’s console.
This exclusivity might seem a little strange for PC gaming, as it is similar to a game being locked to a single manufacturer’s computers, but Microsoft has actually long used this method to create exclusive titles for Windows, which effectively helped it become the de facto standard for PC game development. By following this pattern, the Oculus Rift could become the industry standard.
However, the VR market, in its current state, is a great example of why we need standards. This technology not only has many different companies and developers involved, but it is also in its infancy. It’s hard to tell where exactly VR is going to be and what it will ultimately be used for beyond gaming. As developers begin to create virtual reality films and other programs, all parties involved will have to continue confronting issues such as reducing physical harm from faulty ergonomics and other technological aspects that can impact users’ experiences.
Wevr (pronounced “Weaver”) is a virtual reality organization that is in the process of establishing itself as the main contributor of content of the industry. With a product that acts as an engine with which to download content for different VR platforms, the work of this organization can help to establish a truly standard system for VR content.
This standardization process can be carried out in several ways. While OSVR and Wevr are working to create standards among the different VR headsets, it will be difficult for it to accommodate every single aspect of virtual reality technology. At a certain point, the consumer will help decide the success of this market and its featured items. This doesn’t necessarily mean that some kind of format war will be carried out between these competing companies, but it is not likely that all of them will last.