2017: The year of VR

VR headsets came onto the scene in 2016, but it looks like 2017 will be the year they hit their stride, with more headset hardware options and plentiful libraries of content being developed catering to this newest of hardware mediums.

Hardware
The options and offerings for VR hardware are growing increasingly robust for this fledgling industry.

While three major VR players including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation’s VR are leading the pack, they are facing new competition.

Tech companies including Samsung, Google and startups like Fibrum have become burgeoning challengers, offering more affordable and accessible via VR through consumer mobile phones.

The market is increasingly offering something for everyone at price points of all types.

Content
Along with the increasing options for VR hardware, content offerings including games and entertainments will continue to flourish in 2017, with a a wide swath of new gaming options on all three major VR headsets.

Resident Evil 7, one of the first major gaming titles to be fully playable on VR, was just released on Jan. 24 (complete with blood-scented candle to complete the 4D experience). HTC Vive will be following this year with an installment from another major gaming franchise, Fallout 4.

Google Daydream, newly released in January, will be offering over 50 apps worth of content for users, along with the capability to play movies and YouTube videos as well as view photos and maps.

Movie studios increasingly waded into the waters of VR in 2016, offering VR experiences paired with blockbuster films. Developers and film makers are continuing this trend in 2017.

Delving into other entertainment possibilities of VR, Samsung VR released the first scripted drama series Invisible at end of 2016, with others sure to follow.

Oculus continues with its film aspirations in 2017 after winning an Emmy for its hedgehog movie Henry, offering a VR experience based on BladeRunner 2049 to be distributed near the movie’s release in Oct. 2017.

HTC will also be moving forward with its VR content subscription service and content marketplace, announced at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronic Show in January, which will only further increase the advancement, diversity and availability of current VR content.

Privacy and security
Concerns abound over the surveillance capabilities mics and other sensory input’s potential for being monitored.

Monitoring of virtual social environments and third-party spaces, especially those which would allow for user manipulation and customization, is also a key concern for both developers and users. Enabling freedom in third party environments while protecting users from the common plague of harassment or from others negatively impacting their experiences on the platforms will be one hurdle that VR developers can pull lessons from gaming developer previous efforts and hopefully continue to build on.

Future possibilities
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showed that hand tracking modules may be on the horizon to pair with headsets to increase immersion.

Developers and film makers are also looking at other uses for the medium, including remote attendance of events, tours of historical sites, karaoke, business meetings, escape rooms and ARG and immersive theater experiences.

It looks to be a promising year for VR innovation and development. As more hardware and content options become available, it will be interesting to see if and how quickly consumers will begin to embrace this brave new medium.

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