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The age of virtual reality has finally arrived, part II

It all began in 2014 with the introduction of Google’s Cardboard

The rush to market smartphone VR

The VR tech community is impatient to get the word out about virtual reality’s rapidly emerging advancements. As many markets approach smartphone saturation, mobile device industry giants like Samsung and Apple are banking on mobile VR to generate a new wave of product innovation and sales. –It all began in 2014 with the introduction of Google’s Cardboard, selling a half million units within six months.

Newer smartphones can easily be turned into acceptable virtual reality devices. This is made possible by their good quality resolution, processing power, and built-in head-tracking technology, making it possible to view movies and simple VR games on inexpensive headsets that strap onto your face. The greatest advantage for mobile device VR products is that they cost much less than recent high-end independent units like Oculus Rift.

High-end VR product manufacturers have collaborated with smartphone companies to introduce high-profile products like Samsung Gear VR, a ‘light’ version of Oculus Rift that uses a Samsung Galaxy smartphone as its processor and display. “You just slot in your phone into the headset with an accompanying handset, and you’re in business.” There are many similar products.

As I commented in my previous post, the visual quality of mobile VR is still grainy. Computer engineers also need to improve latency/content streaming. Fortunately, emerging advancements will begin to resolve those challenges.


Emerging advancements

  • The next generation of smartphones is going to be much more powerful, with screen resolution at 4K or better.
  • ARM Holdings, designer for most of the world’s mobile processors, recently announced the Cortex-A73, a new type of chip in tandem with a new graphics engine, both designed with VR applications in mind.
  • These breakthroughs will significantly improve performance while saving energy, a necessity for preventing rapid battery depletion.
  • All the major chipmakers will take ARM’s design and integrate them into future flagship smartphones like the Galaxy S8 and perhaps the iPhone 7S scheduled for launch, respectively, in 2017 and later this year.
  • Even if smartphone sales don’t expand after introduction of this new mobile VR tech, over half of all ARM chips are used in TVs, cars (“Infotainment” apps) and Internet of Things products, so they’re not at all worried about demand.

Beyond smartphones

Who knows where all this will lead us? Will augmented VR create a smartphone renaissance or make them obsolete? –In the next installment of this series, I’ll take a look at speculation about VR breakthroughs expected in the more distant future.

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