As the curtain drops on CES International 2016, there is one clear and very obvious takeaway. Forget self-driving cars and 8k curved TV’s; VR is the Next Big Thing. That much was made obvious by the sheer number of HMD manufacturers, software vendors and third-party hardware companies vying for attention on the exhibition floor, as long lines of people patiently stretched around Oculus’ colossal double-storey booth just to get five minutes alone with the Rift. Similar scenes accompanied anyone that had something VR-related to show off, and it felt as though you couldn’t move for VR hardware and software.
Oculus had by far the biggest VR presence at the show. On the very day that CES opened to attendees, Oculus opened pre-orders for the final, finished version of their highly acclaimed Rift VR headset. CES was one of Oculus’ last chances to demo the Rift (alongside Touch, a pair of tracked hand controllers) to the world’s press prior to its release, and the immense size of their booth this year reflected the sheer magnitude of this event for the company.
VR’s last pre-launch party
Oculus has arguably done the most to bring about the current VR resurgence and it is fitting that they garnered so much attention at CES. It’s been a mere four years since Oculus first made its CES debut with a handful of duct-taped demo units, and since then we’ve seen ever more advanced prototypes, culminating in this finished, final version. Judging by the astonished expressions of the people exiting their booth, it seems it’s ‘mission accomplished’ from Palmer and the gang.
Vive Pre debut
Of course, Oculus were far from the only VR company to attend CES. While HTC didn’t have an official presence at the show, a multitude of third-party developers were demoing various games and experiences using HTC’s Vive. Most notably, the Vive Pre made a welcome debut with several software and hardware vendors. The Vive Pre is the final development kit to be released by HTC before pre-orders for the finalized Vive open on February 29th, with headsets starting delivery some time in April.
The Vive Pre highlighted the breakout features of the new development kit, such as the smaller form factor, new ergonomic hand controllers and a pass-through camera capable of rendering an outline of your surrounding environment. This last feature appears to be the “Very, very big breakthrough” that caused the Vive release to be delayed from Q4 2015 to the start of this year.
It didn’t end there, of course; Samsung, Vuzix, Avegant, Homido and countless others also set up stall at CES. It’s fair to say that VR utterly dominated CES 2016, and it’s clear that there is a voracious appetite from both content producers and content consumers to invest serious time and money in VR. Perhaps the one thing that CES 2016 will be most remembered for was giving VR fans a final preview of the new VR ecosystem prior to its arrival on the mass market. Talking about VR as a technology of the present, rather than of the future, really begins here.
Do you think VR deserved to be centre stage at CES this year, or do you think that the tech world’s obsession with VR is just a fad? Have your say in the comments section below.