LAS VEGAS: Standalone VR devices are set to be the focus of manufacturers in the coming year, as evidenced by the offerings of Facebook, Google and Lenovo at CES, but mainstream acceptance of the technology may still be several years off.

The Consumer Technology Association expects that VR will generate $1.2bn in US revenues in 2018, rather less than other new technologies that are gaining traction with consumers, such as smart speakers.

But the fact that Facebook’s Oculus Go, for example, does not have to be plugged in to a high-powered PC or smartphone, coupled with a $199 price tag, may persuade more people to experiment.

Hugo Barra, Facebook’s head of VR, suggested that the Oculus Go could create a “new category of VR products” that marry accessibility with affordability.

“You want a product to be easy to use, easy to set up, easy to go back to, easy to come in and out of,” he said in remarks reported by the Financial Times.

Rival offerings from Lenovo and Google are expected to be priced at around double that of Oculus Go, in part because they incorporate tracking technology that allows users to move their head and feet inside their virtual world.

“Positional tracking makes a huge difference in immersion,” said Clay Bavor, Google’s vice-president of virtual and augmented reality. “Exactly translating your position into a virtual world is really important.”

For all the technical advances being made, challenges remain around things like battery life and heat dissipation, and suitable content remains a barrier to wider acceptance, according to TrendForce, a Taipei-based market intelligence business.

It recently forecast that global shipments of VR devices would grow from 2.7m units in 2017 to reach 5m units this year and suggested that there will not be significant growth in the market until 2020.

The advertising world, meanwhile, has dipped its toe into these waters but has yet to take the plunge.

“Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and machine intelligence are areas we’re looking at intently,” WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell told Ad Exchanger. “We made one or two investments in VR, but I’d like to do more.”

Sourced from Financial Times, TrendForce, Ad Exchanger; additional content by WARC staff