Sony’s launch of its PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset could mark an inflection point in virtual reality’s steady march toward mainstream adoption. The headset is compatible with the wildly popular PS4 platform; at $500, it’s being offered at a reasonable price point (and one that’s less expensive than the $600 Oculus Rift and $800 HTC Vive); and it comes from a brand that is already a household name. Moreover, the PSVR is riding a rising tide of general interest in VR and VR gaming, following the public’s love affair with Pokémon Go, which sparked a mass interaction with augmented reality. Not a bad way to be entering the holiday shopping season.
On the morning of the PS4 Pro launch, VentureBeat editor in chief Blaise Zerega sat down with Shawn Layden, chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Studios; Ambarish Mitra, CEO of Blippar; and Holly Liu, cofounder and chief development officer of Kabam, for a panel at Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal. Addressing the topic “Visualizing a Gaming Future,” the speakers weighed in on the need for a killer app and the arrival of a tipping point, one that might spur developers and consumers away from traditional mobile and consoles. (Watch a video of the conversation above.)
“We’re definitely looking for new platforms, and we’re going to see how VR does for Sony,” said Liu. “I think there’s an interesting play for AR as a step to VR,” Liu added, citing the accessibility of Pokémon Go from a device and brand perspective. One of the biggest challenges in the mobile gaming space is attracting new users, she said, and that’s where the familiarity of the Pokémon name was a boon.
As a content developer, Liu says Kabam is looking for critical mass and proof of a market. For mobile VR, there’s the need for a bridge between AR and VR: “I mean are you going to be sitting on the subway, and you’re going to pop on your [headset]? You wouldn’t know where to get off.”
Ambarish Mitra suggested that AR and VR exist on a continuum. “The word ‘reality’ is very important to note here,” he said. “It’s just ‘R’. The physical world is very important, and augmented reality as an industry will find a lot more use cases.”
“Eventually, we’ll reach a point of blending between AR and VR, where you’ll need AR to trigger something in VR and take you, transport you, to another environment,” Mitra added.
Early in the discussion, Layden explains that the PS4 release came on the heels of PSVR. “Playstation VR has been live in the marketplace for a month now. It’s been extremely successful. Our problem right now is that you probably can’t find it in the store nearest you.”
If AR is indeed a gateway to VR, well, it looks like the gates are opening.