It's probably fair to label 2016 the year of VR. We could call it a lot of other things, but that would be impolite, what with it being the season of good will and all.
With the launch of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and Google's Daydream, there has never been such an important year for putting a large plastic thing on your head and swiping at imaginary entities.
Where next? Suffice to say, 2017 probably won't pack as many VR surprises, but that's not to say that there isn't some exciting stuff in the pipeline.Microsoft HoloLens
There's one major VR player that's yet to hit the shops. Indeed, given its history, bank balance and all-round lingering influence, you could justifiably call Microsoft the biggest (potential) VR player in the business.
Its HoloLens system looks extremely exciting, too. Announced in January 2015, HoloLens takes a different approach to the other VR players. It's an AR headsets, beaming graphics over a clear visor so that they appear to be sat in the real world.
We still haven't seen a commercial launch of the HoloLens, but we're expecting to see a revised, public-ready headset over the next 12 months. Back in October, Nomura analyst Donnie Teng wrote that a new version of HoloLens expected for sale in the second half of 2017.
"We believe the stock will not see any major catalysts until the second half of CY17 when the second major AR device is expected to be delivered," Teng wrote.Non-Microsoft HoloLens
HoloLens isn't a single, one-off device. It's a platform and a template for other manufacturers to follow.
Besides Microsoft, a number of other PC manufacturers are expected to deliver their own AR headsets based on the HoloLens template in the second half of 2017. Acer, Dell, HP, and Lenovo have all confirmed as much.Oculus Rift 2
Oculus Rift has been the leading driver of VR in 2016, and we could well see the next phase in 2017.
When asked in a Reddit AMA earlier in January 2016 how long he saw the first generation of Oculus Rift being, creator Luckey Palmer had this to say:
"Somewhere between a console and a mobile phone, much closer to a mobile phone."
As we all know by now, a mobile phone's generational lifespan is just a year, while a console generation tends to last between six and eight years. So what does 'somewhere in between but much nearer a mobile phone' translate to? We'd guess around two years which, given the original launched in March 2016, means we might well see something on the second Oculus Rift device by the end of 2017.HTC Vive 2
HTC's first VR device was put in the shade by the Oculus Rift somewhat in 2016. The Oculus got much of the press and many of the VR exclusives.
Still, HTC's joint effort with Valve was actually the most capable VR device on the market, so we're intrigued to see what's next.
What's next, according to reliable reports, is a new VR headset code-named Oasis. It might even be wireless.
Whatever it is, expect to see the next HTC Vive taking a bow in 2017.