SAN FRANCISCO — Derek Chen (pictured below) claims he has as many as 20 virtual reality platforms in the lab at his Vancouver office. He co-founded a company now writing applications for many of them because he thinks they represent the next big thing in computer gaming.
Chen’s demo with clip on glasses (second picture below) was just one of a handful of the headsets and goggles on display at the Game Developer Conference here. The latest prototypes from Facebook’s Oculus were by far the most widely shown.
This next big thing is getting out ahead of even of the market watchers most focused on graphics and gaming. “We are developing a model for the segment, but we are not ready to release data yet,” said Jon Peddie, principal of Jon Peddie Research.
“The models currently swing from shipments of 100,000 to six million units a year, so it needs a little work,” Peddie said in a GDC talk about the past and present of computer gaming. “Big headsets like Oculus and Sony’s Project Morpheus give you one number, but with devices such as Samsung’s GearVR the numbers go up astronomically because Samsung’s dream is to get one of these in every cellphone shop,” he said.
In the following pages, Peddie gives his update on today’s mainstream computer graphics hardware, and we take a look at a few of the next-gen VR prototypes including models from Oculus, Google and an open source alternative.
Next page: Android drives growth in mature game hardware
At $67 billion, today’s game hardware market is bigger than the GDP of 75 countries, Peddie said. But most slices of it are only growing at single digit rates, including the biggest slices – the $22 billion PC gaming market expanding at 5%.
As is often the case, the tiniest slices have the fastest growth rates. New kinds of handhelds, many of them Android based, represent a tiny $33 million market today but one growing at a 50% rate (below). Peddie was especially bullish on emerging Android-based consoles, including the Nvidia Shield Console announced at GDC that today make up just 0.07% of the computer gaming market.
Next page: Fast path from 1955 to today
Computer graphics got their start in 1955 with the Sage terminal (above), an Air Force early warning system that tracked the Arctic Circle for signs of Russian nuclear bombers, Peddie said. Its crude light pen pointing a screen also gave birth to today’s air traffic control system.
Today’s PC systems are rendering 100 million polygons/second at 60 to 120 Hz. The capability will come to the smartphone in a few years, he said, noting performance increases for consoles, PCs and embedded systems (below).
Peddie praised the new APIs such as the Vulkan interface announced at GDC by the Khronos Group as well as AMD’s Mantel, Apple’s Metal and Microsoft’s DirectX 12. The improved interfaces are expected to accelerate the market.
“Were predicting aggressive growth fueled by faster APIs,” he said.
Next page: Oculus raises eyebrows at GDC
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