For much of the current decade, every single year was declared to be the eve of VR's ascendency. The big breakthrough, the headsets and the software that would finally bring this technology surging into mainstream adoption was always coming next year, like a desert mirage promising water on the horizon that never really gets any closer.
It's been a while, though, since we heard that claim; bold predictions about VR have been sobered by the harsh reality that even with decent-quality headsets and some pretty good software, it turns out that VR in its current form simply isn't something most consumers are excited enough about to push them over the barriers to entry.
"Adapting to smartphones was hard; AR will be harder. Yet the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow is so tantalising, it's impossible not to chase after it"
If VR has been tested and found somewhat wanting (for now -- all bets are off when new technologies enter the space, as they inevitably will), AR remains a tantalising prospect that's eternally even further over the horizon. The same expectations that VR's boom was coming next year... next year... no, next year, for real this time -- these were almost always paired with equally confident predictions that AR glasses would hit the mainstream just three or four years later. Even as VR has settled back into something more like a holding pattern -- it's not going away, but it's not the boom many had hoped for either -- the excitement over AR continues to build apace, both in the games sector and far beyond.
It's hard not to be a little cynical about a technology that's been held out as being just over the horizon for such a long time -- but it's far harder to deny the real potential of AR. The concept itself overcomes one of the key problems with VR, whose very selling point -- total immersion -- actually turned out to be a weakness as it became clear how few consumers are willing to spend much time so completely cut off from their physical surroundings. AR builds on your experience of the world around you rather than cutting you off from it, a distinction which creates almost limitless potential for the technology -- while also creating significant additional technical challenges over and above those VR has struggled with thus far.