CES 2019 Predictions: VR’s Next Generation Is Still Developing

by Ian Hamilton • January 4th, 2019

We are just four days into 2019 and preparing to head to Las Vegas to see all the companies revealing products and components at the largest consumer electronics show of the year, CES.

We’ll also be stopping by The Void’s Vegas location to see Wreck It Ralph VR and we are planning to check out attractions at other Vegas VR locations while we’re there.

At CES the world’s global technology industry gauges interest and sets expectations for the coming year. We expect HTC to be out in front, as they were in 2016 with the original Vive headset, with the release of an image of the cosmos inside the Vive logo, and text blurred out on bags nearby.

See, there’s the Vive Cosmos right there inside the logo in the left corner:

This year, though, we expect CES to be overshadowed by what isn’t at the conference, because we believe some of the companies making the biggest plays for VR or AR products in the next few years have little reason to make major appearances at CES 2019.

Facebook’s VR teams, for instance, are currently dedicated to making a success of its $400 Oculus Quest headset, and there’s not much in Las Vegas to help them accomplish that feat with its launch likely in the next few months.

Developers are hard at work at home on 50+ games — many of them ports of existing work — for the launch of the low cost standalone headset with Touch controllers, while Facebook’s teams polish the operating system and services which runs on the system. PC headset owners and PC gamers who sat the first generation of VR out are hungry for information about the Rift S or whatever the Rift follow up might be called, but Facebook’s given no indication its teams will talk about that before CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees how Quest is received.

And while I was joking earlier about the “Vive Cosmos”, we really don’t know what to expect from HTC’s VR announcements.

We saw SteamVR 2.0 base stations for the first time at CES 2018.

Valve and Microsoft are also invested in the future of the PC VR market but we’re not sure if they’ll be showing major updates related to the conference. From 2015-2018, each company used its tracking technology to secure partnerships allowing them to market test VR while building out meaningful platforms for VR centered around the openness of PC. This also allowed these companies to minimize risk in VR technology’s first consumer generation. Google and Facebook did something similar based around Android on cell phones.

In 2019, though, there’s more at stake.

VR exercise machines shown with HTC Vive at CES 2017.

U.S.-based companies like Microsoft, Valve, Google and Facebook are under pressure to take VR hardware performance further, increase immersion to new levels, lower overall cost and deliver hand-controlled games like Beat Saber, Job Simulator and Superhot that people proved they’ll pay for in VR.

Overall, this means at the same time researchers and engineers at those companies are developing and patenting the next generation of VR technology, other teams are also working to secure supply chains and global manufacturing partners to ensure there are fewer hiccups, hidden costs or future threats once products arrive at a form factor and minimum feature set capable of driving a higher rate of adoption.

One of the first VR accessories announced around CES allows Oculus Rift buyers to connect their headset to the USB-C port on newer VR-ready graphics cards.

This means we expect to see renewed support for standards like OpenXR and VirtualLink at events like CES, but we also expect to see plenty of Chinese-based versions of familiar AR and VR headset designs after U.S.-based AR companies like ODG and Meta struggled in 2018.

China-based Pico is also out early with the announcement of a new version of its standalone VR headset.

4K VR headset G2 Pico

In addition to the above, we expect to see a smattering component updates from component manufacturers — especially eye-tracking companies — trying to convince larger companies they are ready for a a mass market future.

We’ll bring you eyes-on reports throughout the week starting Monday, Jan. 7, and you can expect the latest on UploadVR.com throughout the week. Check our CES landing page for all the details.

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