This year I finally made it out to the Consumer Electronics Show. Besides every high-end massage chair station I walked past (oh, those massage chairs were life changing…), I primarily hit up VR-related booths for obvious reasons. There were a lot of them too so I know I didn’t get to all of them, but here were some of the things I am excited about after the fact:
Insta360 Pro Camera
This single body 360-degree camera is the most promising I’ve seen so far. Up to 8K resolution at 30fps or 4K resolution at up to 100fps, it has stereoscopic, live-stitching and live-streaming capabilities, a timelapse mode, and the test footage I saw looked amazing. Of course, the test footage was shot in daylight but the night footage on their website looks a little better than the GoPros and the lenses are f2.4. And hell, I’ll take similar quality for the vastly improved workflow. And the camera is only a cool $3K, unlike Nokia’s preposterous $60K Ozo camera. And that's even cheaper than the GoPro Omni. The stitching was pretty flawless until people got close to the camera, as is always a problem. I would like to know what the closest distance people can get without parallax is though.
Pimax 4K-per-eye VR headset
(photo credit: Road to VR)
It was exceptionally ridiculous-looking on your face but the picture quality really was fantastic and the field of view was much wider than other headsets. In other headsets, the pixel density isn't great and the lenses make it so you can see the physical outline of the screen pixels, but in this I wasn’t. It was only animation that they had to sample - I would love to see video in this, but that would require high enough resolution video, which I'm not sure there is a camera on the market now that could reach this resolution in each eye (there are 8K cameras, but that's 8K for the whole image, wrapped around the sphere, whereas this is 8K just for your field of view). It's unclear when this will be available for purchase - the people in the booth at CES didn't have an answer for the very enthusiastic guy there asking to buy it, and I see nothing on their website.
I will say though that I was a little disappointed in the lack of really amazing/groundbreaking VR technology that was there. The two things I listed above were the only things getting much attention on the VR front, and they really were the only things worth any attention. I know it’s early days, but it just feels like things should be moving faster than they are. Perhaps that’s just my own impatience. There were some cameras there that were literally terrible, to the point that I was shocked they had a booth at CES, and there was a lot of "the same" - similar headsets, similar controllers, etc.
I will also say that it was made painfully aware to me that the US is falling behind in the technology game. There were so many Chinese companies there, and it just felt like they are really doing more in the VR space - there’s more options for headsets, controllers, haptics, cameras, etc. In fact, Insta360 and Pimax are both owned by Chinese companies. The US needs to step up it's game.