The 7 Biggest Things Coming to Virtual Reality This Year

by Joe Durbin • April 11th, 2017

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+

galaxy 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

New Gear VR controller

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 

p alloy

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

This is Acer's kit, the first Holographic VR headset to roll out to developers.

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

vega

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

fallout 4 power armor

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.

 

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  • Rothgarr

    I’m jealous that Fallout isn’t coming to PSVR.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Has that been officially stated? I know they are focusing their efforts on the HTC Vive at the moment, but I was under the impression no one had written off the other headsets as a possibility.

      • Rothgarr

        No, I haven’t read anything like that in an official capacity. I’m still hopeful, but not holding my breath.

        • Fear Monkey

          Same here, Im hopeful. The thing PSVR has going for it is that it is the best selling VR headset, but I worry that MS might try to make it a scorpio exclusive.

  • waymon04

    I just hope we get 1 piece of content that drives hardware sales. Give me HL3 or some other triple AAA experience that will make my buddies drop 500 for a headset. DO IT

  • Zerofool

    A few more things that deserve mentioning, IMHO:
    1. Wireless modules released as consumer products (namely the TPCAST one, the rest have not committed to any retail availability dates AFAIK);
    2. Accurate consumer-level full body tracking with the Vive trackers – bringing us one step closer to the Holodeck;
    3. Valve unveiling at least one of the three VR titles they’re working on (as they promised on Steam Dev Days last year);
    4. More headsets released with integrated eye-tracking (albeit as dev kits) – I’m referring to the Qualcomm 835 VRDK, and hopefully more will follow;
    5. More R&D happening in the haptics and hand-tracking department – deserving mentioning here, I think, would be Valve’s knuckles controller, Tactical Haptics’ technology, VRgluv and Dexta Robotics’ Dexmo gloves. We may not see any of these as finished products this year, but even only watching the developments in the area is exciting enough IMO. Yes, Oculus/FB is also experimenting in this area, but I don’t think we’ll see anything from them right up until the official announcement of potential future product, which I think is still far off (not this year).

    • Eleni Ioannou

      I totally agree with all of this. I’m really excited to see things like the CaptoGlove get introduced and expanded upon in terms of hand tracking and controller – and they’ve said they have a haptic accessory in the works, too. It seems compatible and expandable enough to really drive a lot of innovation in the hand department

  • Natural Order

    Go fuck yourself VR

    • random_name

      lol. what?

    • Stephen Cuellar

      Yes, and then there is porn.

  • martiandynamite

    I’m excited about the new LG virtual reality headset…two words “higher resolution”

  • Daniel

    Uh, what? This article is soo silly. What about EVERYTHING ELSE that is happening? Eye tracking and Seurat are huuuuuuuge! Those two additions are going to finally make VR what everyone expects it to be. It will be capable of delivering narrative because of eye tracking (the ability to quantify what has been ingested) and it will pack the visual fidelity we expect from a cinematic experience because of Seurat!

    Then there are all the other things happening in the Vive space, tracking 2.0, wireless tech, better audio, better backpacks.

    What about cardboard like AR methods?

    Yes, what about gloves and such. There is soooo much more significant pieces of the puzzle coming this year than this article covers. Haha! Have fun.