Saturday, April 21, 2012

Towards substantial price/performance improvements in head trackers

The market for professional virtual reality goggles is not very large. $100M annually? $200M? It's certainly not $1B. Thus, substantial price/performance advancements often come not from advancements in the VR goggles market but rather from large adjacent markets that use similar technology components.

That wasn't too clear, right? Let me give a few examples:
1. One of the reasons that high-performance Android processors are starting to show up inside advanced goggles is that both the operating system and the computing hardware is driven by the much-larger smartphone and tablet market. As a result, the VR market can ride on the coattails of these advancements.
2. One reason that high-resolution micro-displays are so expensive at the moment is that key applications for those outside of VR are military viewfinders, viewfinders for high-end cameras (low-end cameras have low-res displays), and thus a large market that can dramatically improve performance and drive cost down does not currently exist.

The time has come for dramatic price/performance in head tracking sensors used in virtual reality. This is driven by a few trends, but essentially from the fact that these sensors are becoming important to large, adjacent markets:

  • Cell phones and tablets have increasingly sophisticated orientation sensors that are used for navigation and gaming
  • Sensors are making their way into higher-end remote controls (for instance, Roku motion control)
  • Motion trackers are becoming part of Smart TVs
  • Sensors are become cheaper and better.
  • Sensors are being noticed on Wall Street (see Invensense)
  • Sensors are being used in cameras to stabilize images
  • Software is being developed to make low-cost sensors perform better, whether by data smoothing, higher-level gesture recognition or more
Expect to see this trickle down into goggles and get more performance for less money.

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