The pace of innovation is astounding and it might shock you to learn that your phone is more powerful then a mid range computer from five years ago. At today’s rate of mobile technology innovation, that performance gap will be three years or less by 2025. In just a few consumer cycles we went from the brick phone to sleek modern handsets with PS3 performance. In a few more we will go from Farmville on a 4 inch screen to 4k Farmville GTA5 style in VR.
The more serious PC gamers are probably screaming blasphemy at the title… but let me explain.
Most next generation phones will have integrated systems to allow for a solid VR experience. Some will have VR dedicated PC interfaces, like the Huawei P9 and Mate8. Some will be dedicated mobile VR HMDs, like the Pico Neo with its Snapdragon 820 driven headset. In 5 years top-end phones will likely rival the minimum PC specs required today by Oculus or Vive, and have 4k or 8 k screens, eye tracking, some AR capability and come with dedicated VR SoCs to reduce the PC interface latency to near zero.
Mobile VR will be the future of VR. That is to say that mobile VR will be both desktop and mobile, blurring the lines between PC WOW crack addicts and mobile Farmville crack addicts via the medium of VR. Just plug the phone into the PC to get the full 8k 240 fps experience. Mobile will run the same games you run on PC, but the graphics will be relatively watered down. While the phones of the future will be relatively under-powered compared to the future PC, they will still far superior then anything we have right now. Some in the industry are predicting that in as few as five years the PC will be little more than a glorified phone charger that can also render to your phone in 8k, something a like turbo-charged Amazon Echo.
This will lead to a dramatic change to PC gaming, with very few games released in the future that are ‘PC exclusive’. You will be able to seamlessly go from the mobile version of a game to the whole enchilada that is PC. Just plug the phone/HMD in, and it starts seamlessly loading ultra high res textures and everything becomes more vivid and smooth. If they haven’t figured out inside out positional tracking by then (I would be amazed if they don’t), then you get that and body tracking to enhance the mobile game.
I think it’s a stretch to assume we will see wireless 4k mobile streaming at the frame rate required for VR any time soon, but If we do get that magic technology, then the home PC will go the way of the dodo. So we need desktop rigs… for now.
Dedicated PC HMDs will be super high end, top of the line experiences and offer things that a phone can’t. Even if mobile VR is on par with any dedicated headsets in rendering fidelity, there are other ways PC will have an advantage. We can potentially do full body tracking, hydraulic 5 axis driving rigs, omni-directional treadmills, sex robots, and anything else that wouldn’t easily fit into a phone case.
There is no doubt that in the long run the VR home PC market will disappear, but it’s not going anywhere soon. By 2025 phones should have more then enough juice to push 16k screens with ease, and when that day arrives there wont be much use for a PC. The phone of the near future will run experiences that we cannot even imagine – it will be indistinguishable from magic and it will be amazing.
If you are reading this, you’re probably an early adopter VR fanatic like me and could care less about the form factor, but the rest of mankind will not walk around in public with bulky nerd goggles attached to their forehead. Any day now Apple, or one of its many competitors, will leak some grainy pics of futuristic sunglasses superimposed on Steve Jobs head. Apple fanbois will line up for months to get the first set and the world will see the future of slim profile HMDs.
When this day happens, VR will be mainstream.