Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: CES 2016: The Business Gear

​Virtual reality faces five hurdles to justify the CES buzz

Virtual reality is supposed to become a mainstream technology in 2016, but there are a bevy of reasons to maintain some healthy skepticism. Here's a look at the hurdles.

Welcome to the year of virtual reality, the technology that is likely to dominate CES 2016 and fail to live up to the buzz.

Virtual reality and its augmented reality cousin will garner a ton of attention at CES, which kicks off this week. But it's unclear whether virtual reality will be more like 3D televisions (remember them?) or technology that sticks.

As you filter through the barrage of virtual reality CES headlines this week, it's worth pondering this handful of hurdles as a reality check.

Chicken meet egg. Virtual reality and augmented reality has a chicken and egg issue. The hardware needs applications, but developers need to see some traction first. Microsoft's HoloLens highlights how PowerPoint and collaboration could be killer enterprise apps for augmented reality, but you'll need entice employees. Kevin Rose on Medium noted that virtual reality is going to need a lot of eggs.

Also: Microsoft HoloLens: What tech, business decision makers need to know

Hands, hands, hands. One thing that was clear from my HoloLens demo last month is that the game worked best because it used the Xbox controller. Every virtual reality player realizes that hands are critical to an immersive experience. In fact, HTC appears to have the best controllers for virtual reality so far. TechRepublic's Erin Carson noted that hand hardware may ultimately determine the virtual reality winners. Oculus said that it will delay its Touch hand hardware. Oculus said in a post: "We've made significant advances in ergonomics, and we're implementing many changes that make Touch even more comfortable, reliable, and natural. We're also implementing changes that improve hand pose recognition."

touchcontrollers1.jpg

Oculus Touch controllers.

Without proper hand hardware it's unclear that the VR experience will fly.

The headsets are huge. Yes, an immersive experience requires a serious headset. But the virtual reality hardware today is bulky, cumbersome and is likely to give you neck issues with a lot of use. Great technological advances should slip into the background and blend into your life. These massive headsets aren't going to blend into the background with their current iterations.

There will be questions about side effects. It's unclear how side effects will be an issue for virtual reality. The Wall Street Journal recapped how there are concerns about psychological and physiological effects with virtual reality. How many breaks are necessary? Will eye strain and headaches be an issue? These issues will loom large for mass adoption.

Your computer isn't ready. Nvidia estimates that only about 13 million PCs are powerful enough to work with virtual reality applications. That reality means there will need to be an elusive PC upgrade cycle to go along with those other aforementioned issues.

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