Saturday, January 7, 2017

News You Can't Use: VR Really Disappoints at CES this Year

Like many people I yearn for the world depicted in The Lawnmower Man. By that, of course, I mean the day when landscaping companies will contain elements drawn from Greek mythology because I read books and don't watch movies and did I mention I don't even own a teevee? If you saw the movie, you were probably amazed by the possibility of a so-called virtual world. In addition to the one you get from the bottle or those special stickers, naturally. Computer technology should be allowing us to soon experience the safe alternative to taking The Ticket and having bum trips, cool cats. Or perhaps not, because this final frontier of useless lotus-eating onanism is not progressing for some reason.

Call it a virtual disappointment. Or virtually unsurprising. I'll just say I was virtually underwhelmed.

I'm a professional author! I'm writing!!!!

Whatever pun you choose, the virtual reality industry has some explaining to do after this year's Consumer Electronics Show, during which the biggest product announcements can largely be categorized as "more of the same."

First point: that was the same pun over and over so there really isn't any choice. Second point: that was a horrible segue into the main article, and I would know, using Stephen King short stories as jumping off points and all. Finally: more of the same is what you get from every technology sector, usually with minor improvements that gradually add up over the years. Big leaps forward and "man, this fast moving tech" is one of the most enduring and lamest myths about geek boxes.

Consider computer maker Lenovo, which showed off a VR headset whose primary selling point is that it's cheaper than competitors like the $599 Oculus Rift from Facebook or the $799 HTC Vive -- though Lenovo isn't discussing prices yet and the prototype on display doesn't actually work.

It doesn't work yet, but it will be cheaper. I'm not sure how much cheaper yet. The Future!

There's also Osterhout Design Group, which showed a new pair of smart glasses, powered by Google's Android phone software and using the newest chips from Qualcomm.

Yes, the newest chips, not those stale ones from a bag that was opened a week ago.

The glasses were supposed to be the latest entrant in the world of AR, or augmented reality, layering computer images on the real world you're looking at. (Think Pokemon Go.)

Can't wait to try driving with those on!

Even Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, which is developing its own VR headset, gave a presentation using nearly year-old devices from Facebook's Oculus.

We want lots of new navel-gazing miracle devices and we want them NOW.

If you relied on CES to show you the latest in technology, VR was pretty much a no-show.

If you were just there to see adult film "actresses" and play the new Madden roster update or shooter on a giant screen you probably had a decent time.

Ian Paul, chief information officer for adult entertainment company Naughty America, said he's concerned that there doesn't seem to be a serious effort from content creators, aside from his competitors and the video game industry.

The "teacher seduces bad student" genre is stagnating and it doesn't auger well for the future of computerized self-pollution.

"You don't have a rabbit hole experience in VR," he said.

I'm not going to make the obvious joke. Hey, I already said no. Get out of here.

Me want innovation!

Blau echoed that sentiment, adding that investment in hardware will likely happen over time. "There may not be an iPhone-like aha moment for VR," he said.

Try to carry on anyway, I guess.

"Average users, they want the perfect glasses now," she said. "That's not how technology advances."

I'm just sick of everything being blurry, you know?

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.    

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