Virtual reality as we know it today is still an infant of an industry. In other words, it still has plenty of room to grow. Well get ready because in 2017 the VR scene is poised to undergo a series growth spurt. These are the seven important pieces of hardware or software that will be releasing by the end of 2017 — barring any delays, cancellations or diaper emergencies.
Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+
Most people, and more than a few journalists, forget that the most prolific virtual reality headsets are not the hulking PC-powered darlings that typically dominate headlines. Mobile VR headsets are sitting in more homes today than any of their tethered older brothers. At 5 million reported units, more Samsung Gear VRs have shipped than the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Daydream and PlayStation VR. And in just a few days the little-headset-that-could is going to be getting even better.
Gear VRs are powered by Samsung smartphones and in two weeks the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will hit store shelves. With better screens, faster processors, more powerful graphical abilities and beefier batteries, Samsung’s newest flagships are poised to make the world’s most popular VR headset the best its ever been. And that’s not the only way Samsung is stepping up its game as 2017 rolls on.
New Gear VR With Remote Control
Releasing alongside those shiny new Galaxy smartphones is a brand new model of Gear VR. The Gear line has been steadily upgraded since its inception and this newest iteration will be combining the slightly larger black model we saw last year, with something no VR headset should ever be without: hand controls.
The new Gear VR will be shipping with a single remote control that makes navigating menus, playing games and interacting socially a much more tactile experience. The controller only has three degrees of freedom (just like the Google Daydream View’s) but it also features a trigger and a surprisingly ergonomic design.
The Gear VR has always been the best way to get started as a VR consumer and this latest form makes that more apparent than ever.
Project Alloy Powered By Intel
One of the best things about 2017 when it comes to VR is how many more big-name companies are taking huge leaps into the industry. One of those exciting newcomers is Intel.
This year, Intel’s Alloy reference design will be taken to market by a still-unknown third-party manufacturer. This OEM will be shipping a brand new VR headset that is untethered and tracked using inside-out sensors powered by Intel’s RealSense technology.
The content and demand for the first Alloy headset aren’t yet clear, but it should be a significant step toward creating an untethered future for VR.
Microsoft’s VR Headsets Starting With Acer
Last year, Microsoft got more aggressive in the VR space by backing a suite of upcoming headsets from partner manufacturers. The first of these intriguing new HMDs is being made by Acer and is expected to be available this Spring when Microsoft pushes out the Windows 10 Creators Update.
What makes the Microsoft headsets so interesting is their price. The Acer model will cost just $300 while allegedly offering performance comparable to that of the Big Three HMDs. Early hands-ons with Microsoft hardware suggest there’s still work to be done, but the Acer headset may represent a new-wave that delivers on VR’s promise without making your wallet weep.
Vega From AMD
Virtual Reality has been a huge stimulant for PC hardware. Companies like NVIDIA and AMD are now seeing their high-end graphics cards go from niche products for hardcore consumers, to required purchases on a popular platform’s spec sheets. The arms race between those two companies has never been more important than it is today and this year AMD is planning to deliver a solid blow to the competition with Vega.
Vega has been in the works for AMD for a long time. AMD typically likes to focus on affordability over breaking benchmark records, but Vega is shaping up to be a satisfyingly impressive answer to Nvidia’s 1080 Ti juggernaut.
Vega will be able to hit 4K outputs at a whopping 120 frames-per-second without popping a sweat. Power like that will give the VR industry plenty of room to grow if new, higher resolution headsets really are on the horizon.
AMD has stated that Vega will be releasing by the second half of 2017 so keep your eyes out for these babies sooner rather than later.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew From Ubisoft
Tie-in games for movies and TV shows used to draw a collective groan from gamers, but in VR they are some of the most exciting titles around. Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a fantastic example of this.
Bridge Crew lets you and your friends take control of Star Trek vessels and complete various missions through teamwork and split-second communication. It’s been delayed several times already but Bridge Crew is finally coming this year.
The cooperative multiplayer, laugh-out-loud gameplay and strong source material are shaping this game into one that could motivate some serious headset purchases upon release.
Fallout 4 VR From Bethesda
At E3 2016 Bethesda surprised everyone by announcing that it was working to fully port its massive, open world, AAA tentpole Fallout 4 into VR. What could have just been a small marketing tie-in is shaping up to be the biggest and most engrossing VR title ever released. Here’s what Bethesda’s VP of marketing recalled concerning a conversation he had with Todd Howard about the project:
“I talked to Todd the other day and I was like, ‘Hey how’s Fallout 4 [VR] coming?’ and he said, ‘Pete, Fallout 4 VR is the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen in your life. You can’t even imagine what it’s like playing in VR and how realistic it looks with everywhere you turn your head. It’s gonna blow your mind. It’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen.’ … We will have it at E3.”
It is officially demoing at this year’s E3 and, as far as we know, will be releasing sometime by the end of this year. When it does expect cheers from fans, millions for Bethesda and a 10 point drop in the global economy. Heck, we may never see some people ever again.
What do you think of our list? Are we missing any major VR breakthroughs for 2017? Let us know what you’re most excited about in the comments below.