The evolution of virtual reality headsets

Virtual reality headset
Astrid Baron - 06/09/2021

The history of virtual reality headsets :

The idea of donning a virtual reality headset and escaping is not new. Until recently, this idea was rather reserved for works of science fiction. So how did the evolution of virtual reality headsets take place? virtual reality? The history of virtual reality began in 1957 with the filmmaker Morton Heilig. He invented a machine designed to immerse users in an imaginary world. Called the "Sensorama", it gave viewers a new cinematic experience. Unfortunately, his invention did not see the light of day during his lifetime. However, the foundations of virtual reality were laid.

The evolution from 1968 to 2010

The first "functional" virtual reality headset appeared in 1968 thanks to Ivan Sutherland. It allows the display of simple shapes superimposed on the real world. A great technological breakthrough, but it remained in laboratory tests because it was too heavy.  From 1970 to 1991 other engineers continued to work on different projects. This was followed by a number of launch failures, including in 1991 the first VR headset dedicated to gaming marketed by Sega. In its wake, the VR Virtual Boy, launched in 1995 by Nintendo is not a great success either. It was not until 2010 that the first prototype VR headset, Oculus Rift, created by Palmer Luckey (then 18 years old), appeared. "The device offers a 90° field of viewand manages to raise 2.4 million in 2012 on Kickstarter"according to the article in virtual-reality.com. But when will the first virtual reality headset actually be released?

The first commercialization of virtual reality headsets 

It was in 2014 that Mark Zukerberg bought Oculus for 2 billion dollars. A risky bet at the time. This was followed by a considerable investment by Facebook, which launched the first commercial version of the Oculus Rift. This version marks the beginning of a real democratisation of virtual reality. Despite their high price, virtual reality headsets are gradually becoming accessible to the general public. Since 2016 "VR headsets are finally become reality.  Electronics giants such as HTC, Sony, HP and Samsung are taking up the technology". Just one year after the launch Oculus Rift, headset offerings are flooding the market with their own virtual reality headsets with one goal: to make headsets accessible to as many people as possible, with more affordable prices. It was from this point on that virtual reality headsets were to experience a major expansion.

The expansion of virtual reality headsets :

The evolution of virtual reality headsets: The figures speak for themselves

Since the arrival on the market of the Oculus and then the HTC, many variants have been developed, each more innovative than the last. (The Oculus Rift, the Oculus Quest and the HTC vive). The year 2021 marks a real turning point for virtual reality headsets. According to the report by PwC, "le virtual reality market achieved a global turnover of US$1.8 billion in 2020, an increase of 31.7% compared to 2019.". By 2025, it is expected to reach 6.9 billion. According to the report, this growth has been driven by the arrival on the market of 2nd generation VR headsets, in particular the Oculus Quest 2. Smaller, lighter and more affordable for consumers, it is also a fully autonomous headset. A small revolution on the market.  

The evolution of VR headsetsThe Oculus Quest 2 

According to the counterpoint researchdeliveries of helmets have almost tripled in the first quarter of 2021. Facebook alone would have delivered a total of 4.6 million Quest 2 headsets, a market share of 75%. Impressive, isn't it? That's a real record for a single model. Oculus should therefore not be heckled for the rest of the year. However, the company needs to step up its game if it wants to maintain its top spot. Indeed, Sony develops a helmet PlayStation VR for the PS5, whileApple and Microsoft prepare mixed reality technologies affordable for years to come. Virtual reality should therefore continue to develop. The autonomous headset revolution is underway.

The evolution of virtual reality headsets: Apple Glass and standalone headsets 

Stand-alone headsets 

With the arrival of stand-alone helmets such as the Oculus Quest and the HTC Vive Focus, access to virtual reality has really become easier. Much more malleable, they are above all totally independent. No more cables connected to the computer that prevent us from having a truly disconnected experience. As the article in virtual-reality.com : Equipped with their own processors, graphics cards, storage chips and batteries, they do not need to be connected to a third-party device. Thus, these The devices not only have the advantage of being wireless, but can even be carried in a backpack and used outdoors, a real technological breakthrough. In addition to autonomous virtual reality headsets, other technologies are also expected to emerge in the coming years.

The apple glass

"Apple excels at turning promising competitor technologies into successful innovations"The article in Phonandroid. These new glasses could profoundly change the way we communicate. We could capture video and sound and maybe even play games at the same time! As the project is still far from being finalised, these are just guesses. However, thanks to the youtuber John Prosserwho claims to have been able to test the prototype, some technical aspects are revealed: Between the autonomous headsets and the upcoming virtual reality goggles, there are many innovations that pave the way for a strong democratisation of these technologies.

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