Virtual reality has become a major tech phenomenon largely on the backs of high-powered computing and gaming systems that already existed. That is to say, while devices like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR are all still relatively new, you still need a high-end gaming console or in some cases even a powerful PC to run them. They are merely headsets, as highly capable as they may be; they need a little help from more robust systems.
While this may be true, however, it’s also true that the VR market – particularly for games – is expanding to include far more than just those experiences you might download on a PC or game system. Smartphones are certainly getting in on the action, such that mobile developers are now creating their own VR experiences on a regular basis. We’ve also learned that some online game developers are creating VR versions of long-established slot games, with NetEnt leading the way. These two developments actually cover quite a bit of the gaming industry. Mobile apps and online casino games can bring enormous numbers of users into the VR fold.
Meanwhile, we’ve also already seen examples of VR-type devices that work primarily by way of HDMI ports and connection to any and all other devices. The primary example would be the Avegant Glyph, which emerged early in 2016. While it hasn’t caused quite the stir of, say, the Oculus or the Vive, it did generate some pretty good attention as its own version of close-up, headgear-based entertainment. The Glyph is not a full-fledged virtual reality set, but rather a set of futuristic goggles that can connect to your phone, PC, etc. and basically port its screen to you in an enlarged, close-up sense. It’s like an immersive, portable big screen available whenever you want it, and compatible with anything you might want to do or watch.
What’s interesting as we look to the future of VR is combining these two ideas we’ve just outlined: those of smaller, more readily available VR games, and of using an HDMI input to bring different experiences to the same device. In fact, it’s not even a new concept for virtual reality, but rather one of the quieter features that the devices already possess. Consider for instance that you can view external media via the USB port on the Samsung Gear VR – one of the most popular headsets on the market (not to mention one of the most accessible). This is in effect the same capability as that offered by the Avegat Glyph.
People just aren’t paying much attention to the potential versatility that these kinds of features afford virtual reality. With smaller games like those on apps and online gaming sites emerging and becoming popular, however, and with USBs already useful in VR headsets, we may begin to see the use of small USB drives or stick computers to hold collections of games that can easily be enjoyed by VR users. This in turn could only further the desire of developers to create more compact games for this medium, such that USB use could actually drive the industry to some extent.