29 February 2016

The VR Landscape Map

In trying to explain VR to people it has been interesting to see how certain notions get fixed in people minds. In particular there seems to be a prevailing view that Cardboard type solutions are for simple VR, such as 2D photospheres and that Oculus is for complex VR, such as 3D interactive games. One such example is a recent CBC blog post "Virtual reality: The difference between a $20 and $1,100 VR headset" which said that "Google Cardboard is passive VR" and then talking of the Samsung Gear VR said "you can look around, but you can't move around in the virtual space." Now it may have been that he was talking about lateral tracking (but even that could be done by those headsets), but the lay reader is bound to come away with the sense that Cardboard and its ilk are all about static experiences and photospheres, and Oculus and co are the "real" VR.

To help better explain the VR landscape to people we've come up with a simple 2x2 grid. It featured in our recent white paper, but we've had such a good response to it we thought it was worth giving it its own blog post.


The grid is based on two key features of a VR solution:

  • Is the content natively 2D (such as a photospheres), or is it natively 3D (3D CGI)
  • Is the device being used to experience the content based around a smartphone+holder solution, or an integrated headset.

Of course there are blurred edges between the 2D and 3D content categories (stereoscopic imagery, 3D objects against photosphere backgrounds), and even in devices the categories may not be quite so clear cut as different headsets emerge, but it hopefully gets people thinking about the important distinctions, and the saliency of each option against their needs.

The grid then shows where some typical VR use cases may best sit on the grid. But the important point is that in theory almost any of them could be implemented in any quadrant of the grid, but some approaches will be far more cost efficient and offer better capability and affordances than approaches from other quadrants.

As with all 2x2 matrices I'm sure we could make it more complex to deal with all sorts of special cases, but for now we think its at the right level to get the important message across.

And the next challenge is to work out a nice diagram to explain the difference between 2D screen based 3D, VR and Augmented Reality!

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