In the rapidly expanding field of virtual and augmented (or mixed) reality, there are a handful of companies who have not only pushed the technology further and spearheaded innovation but have been responsible for major waves of public adoption of the technology and its seemingly endless range of applications.
One of the most visible VR companies – and one of the most controversial – Facebook and its Oculus VR subsidiary arguably makes for the strongest arm of VR tech in 2021. After the huge success of the Oculus Quest 2 hardware, a booming online game and app market, and a truly massive semi-inbuilt online userbase in Facebook’s 2.89 billion active monthly users. Aggressive as Facebook may be in tying Oculus use to Facebook profiles and accounts, and ambitious as it may be in declaring itself a “metaverse company,” such market dominance – Oculus Quest 2 outsold all previous Oculus devices combined in just five months – is hard to understate and impossible to ignore.
Since the release of its Playstation VR (or PS VR) virtual reality headset in October 2016, Sony captured millions of users with its ease of access, familiarity with gamers and families, and the enormous brand recognition of Playstation. Now lining up the next generation of PS VR (fittingly codenamed NG VR) and revealing tidbits to users via its official development blog, Sony’s hold on much of the VR-using public is only likely to increase during late 2021, early 2022. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the PS5 console has been difficult to obtain, supplies running short and leaving both potential purchasers and internet newshounds discussing the mega-selling ninth-gen system. This is the kind of notoriety that drove up initial sales of the Nintendo Wii in 2006/2007 and could very well push the next PS VR over its competition while bringing even more new VR users into the fold. Allegedly aiming to make “Playstation VR” mean much more than a series of VR-enabling console add-ons, Sony could be aligning its resources in other media to thrust VR to the forefront of its brand.
Everybody knows adult entertainment has propelled technological innovations both analog and digital in the past. What some may not yet recognize is the role porn has played in VR’s increased adoption. Part and parcel of an excellent adult entertainment experience is immersion into the heat of the moment – at least the one being performed by the cast – and nothing delivers on that front like virtual sex. Since its founding in 2013 VRPorn.com has delivered to its free viewers and premium subscribers a wealth of the world’s best virtual pornography. With huge viewership and the largest collection of VR porn on the ‘net – including content from the industry’s most praised studios and producers – VRPorn.com labels itself “the Netflix of Porn” and for good reason. A tube-style interface leads viewers directly to immersive 3D encounters that can be enjoyed on all major (and most minor) VR devices while robust video streams give uninterrupted experiences that leave traditional pornography for dead. Anyone seeking even more interactivity can dive into the exhaustive collection of CGI and WebXR simulators and games, including some of the most popular, original, and groundbreaking adult VR games ever created – all under one virtual roof.
Never one to set modest goals, Apple has delayed its first serious entry into virtual reality hardware, some say to the company’s detriment. This waiting period has not been spent idle, however, as leak reports almost continuously flow from Apple insiders and detail elements of the long-awaited Apple VR venture. As VR fans, the as-yet-uninitiated, and Apple devotees alike wait to see just how advanced Apple’s most-likely-AR device will be (and just how much of the market share it will seize), the tech giant acquired live virtual event startup NextVR. Now part of the Apple family and likely an indication of how committed Apple is to integrating VR/AR use with everyday life, NextVR’s live VR broadcasts of NBA, NASCAR, US Open tennis, and other sports events are forming the foundations of how VR will be broadcast through more conventional channels in the future. With music concerts and other live performances also being beamed straight to VR headset-wearing home viewers by NextVR, Apple’s plans for VR entertainment dominance appear to be edging closer to fruition.
The streaming video giant hasn’t yet unveiled its plans for delivering virtual reality content on the regular. A recent deal struck with creator Shonda Rhimes, however, points toward VR and gaming content being brought to Netflix sooner than many might’ve thought. Netflix has already made the step into VR content, though, only it did so months ago and very quietly. Anime series Eden began streaming on Netflix in May but was accompanied by a VR experience entitled Eden Unearthed, the first VR title to bear a Netflix production credit. Does this synchronous release plan pave the way for future 2D/VR hybrid releases? Will Netflix be able to parlay its enormous success with 2D media into a 3D industry that’s expanding rapidly?
As VR and AR tech becomes mainstreamed and makes its way into more and more average homes, these select few companies stand the best chance of changing how the VR wave arrives, and how many people it sweeps up in its immersive entertainment potential.