The tech battle no one is discussing, because in the end, neither will win.
In 2015, Oculus Rift was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t. In 2016, Samsung Gear VR was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t. In 2017, Playstation VR was supposed to be the beginning of the VR revolution, it wasn’t.
With hundreds of VR games available, VR ready social and building platforms like Sansar and High Fidelity ready for open beta use, and billions of dollars invested in what everyone calls the next big thing, it is rather disappointing that it is not happening. Thanks to a likely big blockbuster in Ready Player One coming to theaters in March, maybe 2018 will finally be the year.
Or not! There are plenty of reasons why VR has not become mainstream. The biggest is the bulky helmets you have to wear, and that most people experience dizzyness or nausea after only about 20 minutes of use. There is a great fix for this last issue that hasn’t been implemented enough: Virtual noses.
But, the biggest challenge to VR mainstream continues to be cost. You can spend $900 for a Samsung Galaxy 8 and Samsung VR headset, or you can spend about the same amount for a Playstation 4 and a Playstation VR bundle. If you want to do VR on your PC, you need around $1400. That’s $400 for recently reduced price the Oculus Rift, and a $1000 required video card.
When did it cost $1000 for a video card?
Why are video cards so expensive? One word: “Bitcoin”. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin have skyrocketed in price over the last year, so much that it is worth building your own computer to “mine” number combinations that fit the fairly simple formula required to create a new Bitcoin (and if you find a combo, you get to keep it). Regular PC processors are not powerful enough to efficiently “mine”, but graphics cards are.
According to sources, one graphics card can “mine” around $5 to $10 worth of virtual currency a day, though the best strategy is concentrate on the small lesser known currencies, as too many other resources are being used to mine the expensive ones. This means your $1000 graphics card will pay for itself in about 4 months, assuming prices stay high enough. But before you invest, consider that you will need a 500W power supply that has to run 24 hours a day, so expect to lose on your electricity bills, too.
The recent trend is that virtual currencies are declining in value, losing half their value in the last two months. If it continues to decline, you won’t make enough to pay for the electricity. Maybe then video cards will come down in price.
My prediction: Both will fail
Despite being friends with both VR pioneers and crypto currency advocates, I have to take the rational position that they are both doomed to fail. VR is the next Kinect, WiiU, 3D TV, or many other trendy “cool” techs that ultimately failed. Crypto-currencies are riding a bubble like “Tulip Mania”.
Advocates of both will insist that they have heard these criticisms before, and my answer is “because they are valid”.
I might invest in VR gear if the price comes down to a decent level. In the mean time, I’m using my graphics card for gaming and 3D rendering.