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CES 2016 Trade Show: Day 3

by Cliff Raskind | Jan 08, 2016

Analysts from our Wireless Smartphone Strategies (WSS) and Wearable Device Ecosystem (WDE) services are at the Consumer Electronics Show (CEStrade show this week in Las Vegas. Our earlier CES 2016, Day 1 and Day 2 blog posts can be viewed online.

By January 7th - the third full day of CES - most of the major product splashes of the show have been made and the major themes of the show (foreseen or eye-opening) have also bubbled up.

As predicted in our pre-show blogWearable Tech, and Virtual Reality in particular, are among this year’s most attention grabbing standouts at CES. 

Oculus Rift:

Pre-orders for the Oculus Rift CV1 version started this week in 20 countries. Despite a US$599 purchase price, initial demand from legions of eager gamers strained the Facebook-owned firm's servers. Estimated delivery dates quickly went from March out to June. The package includes a tracking sensor, cables, a media remote, an XBox One controller and 2 video games ("Eve: Valkyrie" and "Lucky's Tale"). 

Rift cv1

The true price of scoring an Oculus Rift may be a bit harder to swallow, however, if a new PC is required. At least Oculus is keeping it's promise as bundles including a compatible PC and a Rift will be available for pre-order in February starting at $US1499.  Nvidia estimates that only 1% of the installed based of PCs globally have the processing power for a good experience, based on the stated requirements shown below.

  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater
  • CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
  • Memory: 8GB+ RAM
  • Video Output Compatible: HDMI 1.3 video output
  • USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer 

Oculus is currently leading with respect to the completeness of a PC based VR ecosystem. Over the long term Oculus will benefit greatly from the broader Facebook ecosystem--a platform that is very much about sharing experiences.

HTC/Steam Vive:

HTC and Steam showcased the Vive VR headset at CES, which arguably offers the most realistic and immersive VR experience to date. It's entirely premature to call winners in this nascent space, but In the short time since HTC and Steam announced they were joining forces in March, they have made some very impressive progress. By using two wall mounted laser trackers complemented by over 70 other sensors and two upgraded controllers, Vive is definitely optimized for upright use and walking compared to Oculus. The "Chaperone" feature leverages a front facing camera enabling the user to view real-world objects while in the VR experience. While primarily for safety and practicality, we believe Chaperone will also be part of the SDK, Audio support is lacking relative to Oculus Rift.  

Vive

Pricing is unconfirmed, though availability in Q2 is expected. Launch partners and content is also a mystery at present. 

 

While gaming has long been considered the low hanging fruit for VR, it is clear at CES that the full promise of VR is coming more clearly into focus across many industries and sectors. VR will span experiential transfer of sporting and entertainment events, immersively produced movies and TV, education and training as well as rich retail applications or live telepresence for business. Even reliving and/or sharing user experiences (UGC) is envisioned. While revenue models are still sketchy, many large content powerhouses are ready to jump inVR has the potential to ignite a new wave of CE tech specs and innovation— ranging from processors (CPU, GPU) to pixel density, to tomorrow’s cameras. 

Strategy Analytics forecasts that while sales of VR Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) will remain fairly niche for the next few years, sales by 2020 will approach 30 million units globally. 

Smartwatches: Bling Continues to Outpace Practical Convenience

The style/fashion bar for wrist-worn wearables continued to be raised at CES 2016. Huawei unveiled the "Elegant" & "Jewel" versions of the Huawei Watch (the latter , shown below, is studded with no less than 68 1.5mm Swarovski crystals). The Samsung Gear S2 was introduced in platinum and rose gold (plated) versions, Even Fitbit aimed for jewelry status with the upscale Blaze

Huawei-Watch-Jewel_1


Along with style, attributes of practical convenience like size, weight, comfort, durability and especially battery life are among a class of hugely important human acceptance factors that have nothing to do with the user's digital life--and they have proven to be very stubborn blockers to wearables. Indeed, they present far more of a challenge to wearables than they ever did for handheld devices like smartphones. 

It is clear to SA that rapid progress continues to be made on style. The industry by and large is doing an excellent job bringing fashion to wearables. Unfortunately, advances in other human acceptance factors (size and battery life) are very slow to come and will continue to present stiff headwinds for user adoption.


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