What’s missing from the new VR platforms

Today Google revealed the apps that will be available for Daydream at its launch. The PlayStation blog did the same by revealing a list of game titles that we can expect for PSVR at launch and over the next few months. They also stated that they’ll reveal a list of non-game titles later this week. The list of games is stellar, but I’m holding my breath to see the non-games list. I’m concerned that Daydream and PSVR are going to be missing something that I really enjoy in VR.

Screenshot of PlayStation.blog
Screenshot of PlayStation.blog

I bought my first Cardboard headset the day that Unofficial Cardboard put their first model on sale and I’ve owned a Gear VR for over a year now. I got in the door before “The Year of VR”. The early days of both those headsets saw some funky apps. Developers were figuring out the medium (and still are!). The doors to add apps were wide open so student projects, side projects, and the work of garage companies were all readily available. This led to a lot of unsuccessful experiences making it into public view. The Oculus library in Gear VR embraced the weird apps by creating the categories of “games”, “entertainment”, “apps”, and “concepts”. The latter two categories are full of free apps that don’t provide complete experiences or that offer experimental experiences. A lot of them aren’t ready for the big league, so they’re stuck under a category heading that may as well be printed on a red flag. Cardboard seems to have more of these apps than Gear but the Play Store hasn’t quarantined them in the same way; it’s user beware.

Screenshot of vr.google.com/daydream
Screenshot of vr.google.com/daydream

It’s clear that Daydream wants to offer a polished experience. They’ve limited their launch partners to create a curated, quality experience free of funk. While the PSVR list of non-games hasn’t been revealed yet, Sony also wants a slick presentation and will likely not allow half-baked apps into its line-up. I see this as a distinct changing of the times. Since the release of Cardboard in 2014 until the launch of PSVR next week users have been able to see the trials and errors of VR developers. With this late-2016 crop of headsets we’ll lose access to the weird stuff. I understand that these apps don’t exactly fit the image that VR wants to put forward as it tries to raise itself into the mainstream. I’m concerned that the weird stuff is going to be locked away or discouraged into hiding. I hope the approach that Oculus has taken with the different categories, or some equivalent, gets applied by Google and Sony. I’m good with some of my experiences being free and weird; I don’t need all of my apps to be high gloss.

That header image of musicians wearing Gear VR was shared by MetaVRse on Twitter (https://twitter.com/MetaVRse/status/743868139532881921) and used here without permission.