BBC slows down its VR production arm after its last project

Not so long ago virtual reality was going to be the next big thing. But it seems that hasn’t happened. The BBC is now following Google’s lead and will be winding down its VR Hub.
A girl wearing a virtual reality VR headset
Virtual reality Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What was the BBC’s VR Hub?

The BBC set up its VR Hub in 2017. According to a BBC statement it was set up as part of the BBC’s charter commitment “to promote technological innovation and maintain a leading role in research and development which benefits the whole industry.”

Over the past two years the VR Hub has created virtual reality content in the news, documentary and entertainment segments. But it has become clear that virtual reality has not gone mainsteam, so the funding has been withdrawn and the BBC has started disbanding the unit.

Google also scales back

Google was also an enthusiastic supporter of virtual reality in the early days. The search giant believed that smartphone-based virtual reality would be popular and even launched Google Cardboard, a low-cost – or potentially even free – way to use your smartphone to access virtual reality content.

Google Cardboard VR headset shown isolated
Google Cardboard Photo: Wikimedia Commons

But Daydream View, Google’s virtual reality headsets, have not performed as well as Google had hoped and the project is now being abandoned. Daydream View headsets are no longer being sold and support for them hasn’t been included in Google’s new Pixel 4 smartphones. Google says that the app and content will still be available at Google’s Play Store[link to store] for the time being, though.

Samsung is also reducing its commitment to virtual reality. Its Galaxy Note 10 smartphones won’t support Samsung’s Gear VR platform.

Where does virtual reality go from here?

Well, although the BBC, Google and Samsung have decided to scale back their involvement in virtual reality, Facebook is still very much into it.

The social network, which bought virtual reality company Oculus for $2.3 billion in 2104 will be rolling out Horizon next year which will replace its current virtual reality offerings, Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms.

Sony is also convinced that virtual reality has a future and offers it via PlayStation VR games consoles.

Where is Microsoft in all of this?

Microsoft has yet to get involved in the consumer virtual reality space. Instead, it is concentrating on its Hololens product which the company describes as a mixed reality product. Hololens is aimed at the business market.

Microsoft's VR HoloLens Demo at Penn Museum
HoloLens Demo at Penn Museum Photo: Flickr

Is augmented reality the future?

One of the problems with virtual reality is the fact that people don’t like wearing the headsets. They can be heavy and some people have complained about experiencing motion sickness when using them.

Smartphone-based headsets like Google’s Daydream View of Samsung’s Gear VR mean that you cannot use your smartphone’s other functions when you are using it to use virtual reality content, which is another problem with the technology.

This may be the reason that augmented reality has gained greater adoption. Augmented reality technology doesn’t require a headset. It uses your smartphone screen and combines additional information with the information captured via your smartphone’s camera.

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