Cheap transience instead of expensive durability


It may seem that the title is a banal attempt to breed a holivar, but in fact it is one of

methods for resolving conflictsinvention. There are quite a few examples. Disposable tableware, paper towels, ballpoints instead of gold feathers, engine oil instead of super-materials that do not require lubrication, screen protectors instead of quartz glasses, etc. There are many pros and cons to such a concept, but it will be difficult to find a large number of examples in the high-tech industry, since manufacturers all as one try to make their equipment reliable and justify the trust of the buyer. If we take smartphones, then, perhaps, the mentioned protective glasses and cases will be the only example that corresponds to this inventive principle. To some extent, this includes removable batteries. However, I would like to recall another example:

Image from the PLAYGROUND website

In the picture above you can see the helmet kit.virtual reality Valve Index. Those who own such devices, or at least have encountered them, are now probably raising their eyebrows in amazement. How can you save money here? On the contrary, the most stringent requirements are imposed on the device. And both to the technical side and to ergonomics. And not just like that. Somehow I had experience with such a thing. And although the device looked great live and I understood with my mind that this was the future, nevertheless, a couple of minutes after my eyes stopped seeing the world around me, the food in my stomach began to pump right and staged such a protest that the helmet had to be removed. In the reaction of the body to virtual reality, I was not alone. Many are sick of such devices. However, do not think that these are the shortcomings of the company. Valve has received many patents for this technology.

The design of the fastening is thought out in the devicehelmet on the head and the location of the headphones, controllers are provided for interacting with the virtual world, there is even air blowing the lenses so that the latter do not fog up. In short, the development was carried out taking into account many details and very scrupulously. So physiological discomfort is more of a given technology (like a wrinkle on a flexible display).

Valve is far from the only company that makes virtual reality helmets. At the moment, we are interested in this developer:


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This is an Oculus Rift helmet.The very one for which they collected money by all the "kickstarters". The one that brought Palmer Lucky to mass production. The one from which, in fact, the whole mainstream of virtual reality began. Today it does not look as impressive as its counterparts from other companies, but there is one zest in it. The fact is that at the stage of pre-production of the second version of the device, when the company sent software developers kits for this gadget to software manufacturers, one of these kits, by a lucky chance, ended up in the hands of iFixit masters. They took it apart and discoveredthat it uses a single panel from the Samsung Galaxy Note III as screens for the eyes.

Image from Droider.ru

Actually, why not?Serial production is on the way, the characteristics of the screen of this smartphone fully meet the requirements. For developers, you can put a couple of dozen Note III under the knife, and for buyers, the office will definitely order a batch of brand new screens. But the thought has already settled in my head. But what if not only the screen of a smartphone is suitable for a virtual reality helmet? And exactly. It turned out that some manufacturers quite seriously produced simply holders for a smartphone, which were fixed on the head in such a way that the smartphone screen was located exactly in front of the eyes, and the lenses of the holder itself adjusted to the user's eyes (manually) and turned it into a virtual reality helmet:

Image from M.Video website

Of course, there were limitations.The variant above from Samsung, for example, only worked with Samsung smartphones. And it only came with one controller. And yes, the optimized games were so-so. But the concept is certainly interesting. I generally like the idea of ​​​​modular technology. Whether it's a removable battery or just a magnetizable decorative cover, like on the Nvidia Shield Portable. The idea of ​​short-term cheapness instead of long-term highness is visible to the naked eye here. It is enough to compare the prices of end devices. And a bunch of smartphone + holder will be clearly cheaper than a full-fledged Valve kit. I don’t know how things are in detail with the optimization of games for specific devices, but a cursory search for the query “optimization of games for VR” gave me the following:

As a rule, the most common engines andSDKs allow the developer not to think about it. They take on this difficult task. Thanks to them, our 3D scenes are optimized for any type of device, lens position and curvature.

I'm not asking you to take my word for it. I would be grateful if you point out really unsolvable problems in this aspect.

However, there is another company that, perhaps, most successfully implemented the “cheap fragility” technique in practice and made the virtual reality device as cheap as possible. This company is Google.

Image from Wikipedia

The device you see in the picture above isGoogle Cardboard. Works the same way as the Samsung Gear VR, but not much cheaper, since it is only a cardboard scan, a pair of lenses, magnets and Velcro.

Image from Wikipedia

Moreover, even such a trifle as a cardboard box, the company was not too lazy to protect it with a patent:

And here, it seems to me, today there is a hugeroom for maneuver. In particular, thanks to the existence of cloud gaming services. After all, the requirements for virtual reality helmets that are connected to a computer usually correspond to a far from budget device. And what about the rest? Cloud services here would be most welcome. After all, if a trick with sending a stream with a full-fledged AAA title from servers to a smartphone was successful, then why can’t this happen with a VR game? I would be grateful if you could clarify.

This is me to the fact that the virtual industryreality, as well as augmented reality, is now in a coma. On the one hand, the technology is already quite well tested. On the other hand, it is accessible and interesting not to everyone. And here the reduction in the cost of the concept would be very helpful. After all, most technologies follow the path of cheapening. Let's consider an analogy. Computers used to be too expensive and available to a few, but now it's hard to imagine a person who does not use them. A similar story with LCD TVs. However, the reduction in the cost of both was due to the scaling of the business, the serial production and the reduction in the cost of the component base. New players appeared on the market, competition intensified. Conceptually, for example, the computer has changed little.

If we look at the curve of their development in the axes“growth is the time of existence” (S-shaped law of development), it can be seen that the moment of the beginning of attenuation is not far off. By the way, it is usually tracked by how large investments are directed to maintain the existing status quo. You can remember the prices of video cards. Of course, there is inflation, and a crisis, and miners, and new technical processes, but prices still rose very significantly. But back to the development curve. At its upper turn (this point usually corresponds to the maximum investment), a technology always appears that intercepts the evolutionary baton from the most hyped existing one. The evolution of "VHS - DVD - microSD", for example. Both VR and AR, logically, should have already begun to develop. However, they are developing in such a way that a quality device is not a mass product, but rather a purchase on the shelf by a person who already has everything.

Maybe I'm rushing things and devices soonwill take their rightful places, but in this case I see an undeserved neglect of the modular concept. Existing smartphones are technically stronger than yesterday's laptops. It would be logical to use them as modules for virtual reality helmets. It seems to me that the situation would be no different from the production of third-party controllers with active cooling systems, which are offered by manufacturers of gaming smartphones. Not all games are correctly controlled, but programs for remapping buttons help out a lot.

In conclusion, I would like to say thatthe situation described above with the use of a smartphone as the main module for VR devices is a special case. The basic capabilities of smartphones have been exploited by many companies for a long time. Samsung is using them as replacements for "full" computers via DeX. Xiaomi recently screwed the Leica M mount onto the 12S Ultra concept. Well, almost everyone can be blamed for experiments in the production of all kinds of gaming accessories. Take at least Razer. So, hopefully, large and expensive VR headsets for desktop computers will be replaced by budget solutions from peripheral device manufacturers. Cheap transience instead of expensive durability.

Do you think there is a future for this concept? Or are there objective reasons why manufacturers abandoned this direction? You are welcome in the comments. We will discuss, invent and patent.

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