We’ve expressed some skepticism about virtual reality before, especially the obvious use many plan to put it to. Nvidia, though, is even more skeptical than most, and has put out some numbers to prove it.
On the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show, the company has dropped a study that only 13 million computers, worldwide, are really VR ready. Their definition, of course, is that you plug in the goggles and get a smooth framerate at a high resolution. They have graphics cards to sell, after all, and wouldn’t you know it, Nvidia claims their GameWorks VR tools will nearly double that number to 25 million.
Yeah, it’s marketing hype, but it has a point. One of the little discussed problems for the computer industry is that people have largely stopped buying computers until they absolutely have to upgrade. Shockingly, when all you do is watch YouTube videos and answer your email, tasks a toaster could handle at this point, spending hundreds to upgrade doesn’t have much appeal. The premise, of course, is that VR is so amazing and people love it so much that they’ll spend a fortune to experience it every day.
The fundamental struggle of virtual reality is simply that it’s not clear why consumers should be interested. If the fall and return of Google Glass taught us anything, it’s that people want to be paid to put things on their faces. The technology is undeniably impressive, but we’re going to see a lot of headsets at CES this year, and there might not be a lot of room for them.