Virtual Reality has become an important part of the personal kit of our military as thy load out their personal possessions prior to forward deployment in conflict zones.
As a veteran who deployed to a combat zone a long time ago, it’s hard not to imagine the written or memorized matrix of personal items that go overseas with ground troops:
Extra tooth brushes and rags for cleaning your assigned weapon? Check.
Nonstandard gun lube and rifle cleaning supplies? Check
Laptop computer loaded with Skype? Check.
Ear buds? Check.
Extra cans of your favorite dip or snuff (just in case the nearest PX doesn’t have it)? Check
Large screen GSM cell phone? Check.
32 GB micro SD cards loaded with entertainment content? Check.
Google cardboard head set dissembled into its flat components? Check.
VR shooter games? Check?
Leather Goddesses of Phobos on an extra SD card? Check.
Extra $10, $20 or $5 dollar bills (poker money) hidden securely in your ditty bag? Check.
All of this is to make the point that basic VR doesn’t need to be costly. And for the first time ever, enlisted war fighters are among the first group of users to adopt new computer technology. The force that’s driving adoption is Google $25 Cardboard headset and free or inexpensive VR software that can be down loaded from Google’s PlayStore.
The example above is being overlooked by most VR hardware suppliers and touts who think people will stampede to buy multi-hundred dollar VR headsets. For VR to take off it has to be inexpensive enough to conform to a wide scale, mass market model. Once a consumer becomes a true believer, they're more likely to become a buyer of multi hundred headsets, or computers configured for VR.
there are other, equally important infrastructure plays that need to appear in VR. Most importantly is software that lets any studio building VR titles, to adapt existing content for VR, has to appear.
It’s not Sandhill venture capitalists looking for a niche that will drive this. It’s Hollywood movie, music and animation studios who will make it happen. You don’t need to be an Oscar winner to understand that the studios can lock up competitive technologies now by investing in startups that play to the VR content development market.
There is a VR example of being too early to market. That demographic market is Japan, where Sony launched its VR headset more than two years ago. To date, the headset has not been widely adopted, although it is beloved by up-market gaming enthusiasts.
In VR there are some critical questions that still need to be answered:
Who is the target market for these systems?
How sensitive is the target market to pricing, and what software needs to be bundled with VR headsets to push them into the mainstream?
And finally what kind of baseline performance will be required in hardware that powers VR headsets?
If basic questions such as these are not answered, in a collapsing bubble investment environment, some players in the VR space risk suffering the fate of Momenta Inc in the earliest days of pen computing, or any of the legions of digital photo frame and USB radio startups.
I’m hopeful VR does take off. You can bet that the next smartphone I buy will be a model that’s positioned for VR. The promised technology was important enough today that it was a factor in my buying a top of the product line new Microsoft Surface Book two months ago.
And so, Mike Edelhart and Chris Shipley, we're once again on he barricades of another revolution.
But for now, Google is in the driver’s seats and some of it strongest supporters are young enlisted guys with Google cardboard headsets on their noggins, playing games and VR content in tents in and neart conflict zones. This post is for technically savvy terminal lance corporals preparing kits prior to deployment. I was once a /x\ too.—jim forbes, east of Camp Pendleton, CA on February 2,2016.