On the Vive’s first birthday, the VR conversation is getting calmer


One year ago today, HTC released the Vive virtual reality headset, marking a turning point for virtual reality. The Vive wasn’t the first commercial VR headset, or even the first commercial high-end headset. But besides the simple Google Cardboard, it was the first major headset released without help from Oculus, proving VR didn’t belong to any one company. It was also the first one to come with sophisticated motion controls, ushering in a completely new class of experiences. In some ways, the Vive’s launch was the moment that VR began feeling like a real industry, rather than a Facebook-backed passion project. A year later, that optimism has turned into something more mature, but less visible.

We’ve seen consumer VR milestones since April of 2016, including the launch of PlayStation VR, Google’s Daydream platform, and the Oculus Touch motion controllers. Microsoft announced an upcoming line of Windows Holographic VR headsets. Samsung said it had shipped 5 million Gear VR headsets at the start of 2017, and PlayStation VR exceeded expectations by selling 915,000 headsets in four months. All the major VR platforms built out their launch catalogs, and virtual reality video maintained a steady presence on YouTube and Facebook. VR arcades began opening in cities around the world. And virtual reality social spaces like BigScreen, AltspaceVR, and a number of multiplayer games have drawn modest but enthusiastic user bases.

For all that, there have been disappointments. The Oculus Rift launch was staggered by a component shortage, and as expected, desktop VR headset sales were far lower than those of PlayStation VR. Oculus shipped an estimated 243,000 Rifts in 2016, and HTC shipped an…

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