Page 2 of 11

HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift at CES 2016

CES Logo

The dust has settled from CES 2016 and if you missed all the excitement as it happened….well maybe you didn’t miss all that much.

There really wasn’t anything groundbreaking this year at CES but it seems VR headsets were everywhere and heavily promoted. This year will see the start of serious VR but the price is pretty prohibitive and has upset many who were promised it would be more affordable. By serious VR I mean the full on immersive experiences like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Pre. Yes there is Google Glass and Samsung Gear VR but these don’t have the processing power and comfort to allow prolonged VR sessions.

Let’s look at the two heavyweights of VR.

HTC Vive Pre

Price:Unknown

Release Date: April 2016

HTC Vive product 1 JPEG resized

This seems to be the one that had people the most excited at CES. They did have a lot of booths about it seems which will have given the chance for more exposure to it so consider that fact. Also on the plus side is that the version shown at CES is still not the version consumers will get with more improvements to come, yet most tech journalists liked this one.

The killer aspect of this version of VR is that you are not limited to the spot. You can actually walk through a game , or walk up to something in a game, bend down to pick it up etc. You are not limited to being on a spot and looking around you like the Oculus Rift. This works by having 2 sensors that you put in the room that shoot out lasers to map the room and where the headset is in relation to everything else. It seems the software can be set to show you a digital boundary on-screen if you are getting too close to walking into your table or TV for example. It also has a front facing camera to allow you to interact with the real world without having to take off the headset. Another win over the Oculus.

A downside is the current version is said to have a slightly poorer resolution than the Oculus and then there is the cable issue. As so much data is passing too and from the headset it needs to be attached to the PC at all time. Which means walking around the room with a long cable trailing behind you. I can’t help but think people could trip over it even with the front facing camera ability.

The companies deal with Steam and Valve makes it a huge boost for gamers with titles like Half Life 1 and 2 being some of the most immersive gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Half Life related title coming exclusively to the Vive Pre.

Pre-orders for developers start at the end of February with consumer units going on sale in April. Whilst the Oculus has its cards on the table HTC remains tight-lipped about the cost.

Oh and don’t forget the cost of the PC if you don’t already own a high-end gaming rig. You’ll be needing it for this or an Oculus.

Oculus Rift

Price: £499

Release Date: April 2016

Oculus-Rift-8

Whilst the Vive Pre might have the tech press clapping their hands in glee Oculus is already out the door with its pricing and pre-order and what you’ll get for your money. Some folks in the retail industry are concerned about this £500 price point however. It’s expensive no doubt but for the money you do get the Oculus Rift headset and camera,  Oculus remote, Xbox One controller, a copy of EVE: Valkyrie and Lucky’s Tale as well as all the necessary cabling.

The partnership with Xbox may prove a good move longer term but a current advantage is that gamers will be able to stream Xbox One games to their headset and play them as if on a massive TV set. How well this works in terms of lag etc remains to be seen ( I suspect it can’t be as good as playing off a TV set ).

Unlike the Vive Pre you can’t move around with it and it looks a lot more bulky too although those who’ve had hands on have found it comfortable. As it’s designed to be used mainly stationary the cable coming from it should be less of an issue than with the Vive ( which could be a trip hazard? ).

It has the advantage of being the first out the door but the overwhelming press opinion seems to be a firm “wait” and I would echo that. If you are interested you must check out what the PC requirements are. As you would expect they are high-end. If you don’t have this already it’ll cost you upward of £800 to build one but I expect both Oculus and Vive will be bringing out packages with PCs included in time.

If you must get one as soon as possible you can pre-order the Oculus now and the site has a tool to check your PC is powerful enough.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for these to work with a mac. Oculus say it’s something they want to do but there is no timeline for it. Mac has never been a popular choice for gamers and it’s the hard-core gamers that these devices are aimed at so it makes sense they have been designed for PCs.

2016 definitely looks like the year VR really comes a thing but it looks like it’ll be version 2 and a price cut before more widespread adoption.

I can’t wait to have a try!

Asus Zenwatch Hands On

A look at the Asus Zenwatch 2. It’s a great way to experience Android Wear and will work on iOS and Android devices. At £150 it’s a good way to get into wearables.

Pebble Health First Look

I take a quick look at the newly introduced Pebble Health. If you like it please like and share the video.

Thoughts on the state of the Smartwatch industry at the end of 2015

The most interesting watch of 2015...dead in the water

The most interesting watch of 2015…dead in the water

The recent train wreck that was the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE release ( shown above ) seems a fitting close to the smartwatch story of 2015. It was a watch that had the newest version of Android Wear sporting LTE functionality so you could use it without the need for a phone nearby. I was pretty enthusiastic about its launch. Sadly it hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. In case you missed it the watch was on sale for an embarrassing 6 days before LG pulled the watch from sale and offered full refunds to everyone returning them. The reason quoted was that the screen suffered from a serious hardware issue that meant it’s picture would degrade over time. So it was recalled and LG confirmed there is no support for the device going forwards so really you’d be crazy not to return it. If you were a wealthy enthusiast you could keep it as a little footnote in tech history but otherwise you’d be returning this in a flash.

This whole incident reflects on nicely summarises the smartwatch industry in 2015.

“It was full of promise that ultimately disappointed.”

2015 did see the start of smartwatches gaining some traction but they never really took off outside of tech enthusiasts. I can only think of one person I know that has a smartwatch that isn’t a tech head but the person who bought it for her is ( and no it wasn’t me either! ).

Here are the things I feel that have stopped widespread adoption.

Software

There is no “killer app” for any wearable at this point in time. A “killer app” is a term used in tech circles that refers to an app that is so useful on that platform that it makes the user feel it’s essential and gives a unique purpose to that device. An example of this might be your maps app on your phone. You can find out where you are exactly and navigate to anywhere with turn by turn directions very easily. Think how much harder it was before we had this on our phones. If you stop for a minute and think there are lots of “killer apps” that made buying a smartphone a must. The camera app, email, Facebook, < insert your choice of instant messaging client >, Spotify and so on.

What is the killer app for the smartwatch?

There still isn’t one.

Everything so far is replicating what you can do on your phone and in some cases it’s an inferior experience. Many have speculated it’s coming but so far no developer or any of the huge tech giants have come out with a compelling reason that gives them that “must have” factor. Mobile payments may be it one day but we’re barely starting and frankly it’s turning into a mess with various companies trying to bring out their own version.

This is not the only problem with the software. Across both major platforms, Wear and WatchOS,  software is still glitchy. Also both seem confusing and take quite a bit to learn your way around. Ask anyone who owns one of these watches are they’ll have plenty of things that frustrate them.

Hardware

Let’s face it a lot of the first smartwatches were ugly utilitarian looking things. Then we got round faces which look a bit nicer but actually maybe less functional. The hardware in the first wave of Android Wear devices was a bit slow ( I certainly wouldn’t recommend going with anything from the first wave of Wear devices now ).

A picture of the Apple Watch Sport in white

Even the Apple Watch isn’t universally liked and certainly looks quite “computer on the wrist” in its shape. It is at least iconic in its look but I’m sure it’s looks will evolve a lot. The circles inside a square is weird to me and makes me wonder if they really wanted a circular model but couldn’t nail the manufacturing in time for the first generation release. I’m not the only one thinking this as well.

Still at the end of this year we are starting to see some very stylish watches in the Wear space. Fossil and Tag Heuer are both bringing out devices which look like their mechanical ancestors and really look smart. The trouble is they still run Android Wear once you get past the looks.

Word of mouth

Here is what could be really killing smartwatch growth. For anything to bloom outside of the tech enthusiasts I think three things need to be in place for the average user.

  1. Price
  2. Compelling use case
  3. Positive word of mouth

The first two still probably still aren’t right for most people but without number three being in place the average consumer isn’t even going to look into these devices.

The message from almost everyone on every platform whether it’s Wear, Pebble or WatchOS is the same:

“You really don’t need a smartwatch right now.”

They will all agree they are cool and can be useful and fun but do you need one? No. Often the conversation will drift towards the problems right now with the devices and limitations with them. Compare that to when the first wave of people got the iPhone and how vocal they were and wanting to talk about it and show you what it could do. Remember the conversations with friends  about what cool new apps or games you were using? Granted this has died down now but a lot of friends still share games that they love with me. I just don’t see that dialogue happening with wearables.

The “word of mouth” for smartwatches just isn’t there.

2016 – A New Hope?

I want to take things out on a positive note. Even though technically some platforms are actually on their second generation overall I think we are still in the “first gen” wave of smartwatches. For that reason I think we need to be a little forgiving and acknowledge that it may take more time for tech companies to work out what we really want from wearables and how they should work. I was looking forwards to seeing how watches with their own connections to data and calls might change the dynamic with our phones with the LG LTE watch. I’m sure next year we might see more of that being tried.

I’m also sure we’ll see a lot more established watch brands bringing out their own smartwatches as well. What’s most exciting of course is all the stuff we can’t anticipate watch makers will do.

Perhaps just like with the iPhone it will take Apple to create a stunning new wearable to really get the market going?

CES 2016 is just around the corner so it’s going to be great to see what’s coming next and whether it will be enough to push smartwatches mainstream.

 

Page 2 of 11

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén