Shopping for a new Smartphone in 2017? Then you’ll be looking for a VR phone. New Smartphones will be Daydream enabled with motion sensors and better processors. Up to now, we’ve focused on screen size, resolution, cameras and other features when we bought phones. But we’ve never asked what they can do inside a plastic VR headset and positioned only inches from our eyeballs.
Mobile VR will take off in the coming year and it will affect our purchase of Smartphones and how we use virtual reality in education, work, entertainment and other areas in our lives.
Faster Processors Coming
Most of the world’s smartphone processors come from ARM Holdings, which just announced a new chip, the Cortex-A73 and a new graphics engine, Mali-G71. Both developments target the latency issue in using your Smartphone for virtual reality.
Mashable quoted Simon Segars, CEO of ARM,
When you think about the trends in virtual reality, augmented reality… latency is a huge deal when using a VR headset. You move your head, and the screen’s got to move. Any lag in that, and it can be pretty unpleasant. Refresh rate is key, you don’t want any flicker at all.
Latency leads to that queasy feeling you sometimes get in VR. Too often, you hear that we need to minimize motion in designing for virtual reality experiences. Actually, the technology needs to catch up with what we want to do.
New Sensors and Standards
The other development is Google’s recent announcement of Daydream – which will lead to new sensors and standards in our Smartphones. Right now, motion tracking is fairly primitive – designed to be used with our map applications. With Daydream, motion-tracking will be transformed. In mobile VR, your phone needs to instantly respond to your head movements.
Further down the road Project Tango will be a game-changer for virtual reality. It will give your Smartphone 3D motion-tracking and depth-sensing capabilities. Google and Lenovo are partnering on the first Tango phone to hit the market this summer. But don’t expect to see a large number of Tango-enabled devices this year.
Mobile VR and Convenience
As these developments take off, the real question is just how good can mobile VR get? Will we still want to be tethered to a high-powered PC for our immersive experiences? Or will we opt for the convenience of VR everywhere – at work, in the classroom, or at home on the weekend?
Portability matters more than we realize. Look at what’s happened to music in the digital revolution. Convenience triumphed over quality – and still does as streaming services replace downloaded songs. The same will hold in virtual reality, just as long as it doesn’t impact the suspension of disbelief.
Going beyond Google’s Daydream, new mobile platforms may let us walk around using position-tracking cameras and sensors. Upcoming developments like Project Goa have the potential to dramatically improve the sense of presence in mobile VR.
The VR Phone and High-end Labs
Mobile VR will make it easier on businesses and educational institutions as there will be less demand for full virtual reality labs. Of course, for specific research projects projects and fields such as architecture and medicine, dedicated spaces will be essential. But again, it’s a tradeoff. Many of us currently have access to video conference rooms at work but opt for the convenience of using Skype or similar platforms at our desks (or at Starbucks) for basic conference calls.
And mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous. It is estimated by 2020, 7 out of 10 people in the global population will have a Smartphone. Mobile VR solutions will be the doorway to virtual reality for students around the world.
If mobile VR lives up to its promise, you’ll be perfectly satisfied using your Smartphone for most virtual reality experiences. VR labs will serve high-end applications and entertainment centers like The Void will provide an alternative when you want a more social and deeply immersive experience.
Signs of the Future
The environment is changing rapidly as we speak. Yesterday, we visited B&H Photo Video, one of the major electronics retailers in New York City (and online). And right next to the sign for Consumer Video there it was – the sign for new VR area.
Expect to see a VR section in your Smartphone store in the near future.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.