Reality Bytes: Was 2023 a good year for VR?

Reality Bytes: Was 2023 a good year for VR?

technology By Dec 22, 2023 No Comments

Back Print Video By Sagar Meghani – Associated Press – Friday, December 22, 2023

As children around the world eagerly await Santa’s arrival on Christmas, the military is ready to track him and see if he’s using any new technology.

Armed with radars, sensors and aircraft, the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado keeps a close watch on Santa and his sleigh from the moment he leaves the North Pole.

And it once again will share all those details so everyone can follow along as Santa travels the globe beginning Christmas Eve.

NORAD, the military command that is responsible for protecting North American airspace, has launched its noradsanta.org website, social media sites and mobile app, loaded with games, movies, books and music.

And there’s a countdown clock showing when the official tracking of the sleigh will start.

The military will track Santa with, “the same technology we use every single day to keep North America safe,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Elizabeth Mathias, NORAD’s chief spokesperson.

“We’re able to follow the light from Rudolph’s red nose.”

Mathias says while NORAD has a good intelligence assessment of his sleigh’s capabilities, Santa does not file a flight plan and may have some high-tech secrets up his red sleeve this year to help guide his travels – maybe even artificial intelligence.

“I don’t know yet if he’s using AI,” said Mathias.

“I’ll be curious to see if our assessment of his flight this year shows us some advanced capabilities.”

PHOTOS: Military command ready to track Santa, and everyone can follow along The tracking Santa tradition began in 1955, when Air Force Col. Harry Shoup – the commander on duty at the NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command – fielded a call from a child who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a newspaper department store ad, thinking she was calling Santa.

A fast-thinking Shoup quickly assured his caller he was Santa, and as more calls came in, he assigned a duty officer to keep answering.

And the tradition began.

NORAD expects some 1,100 volunteers to help answer calls this year in a dedicated operations center at Peterson Space Force Base, in Colorado Springs, ranging from command staff to people from around the world.

“It’s a bit of a bucket list item for some folks,” says Mathias, calling the operations center “definitely the most festive place to be on December 24th.”

The operations center starts up at 4 a.m., MTS, on Christmas Eve and is open until midnight .

Anyone can call 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to talk directly to NORAD staff members who will provide updates on Santa’s exact location.

Copyright © 2023

The Washington Times, LLC.

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The holiday season is one of the best times to shop for a new TV.

While you can generally find great TV deals throughout the year, the prices we’re seeing right now will likely not resurface until 2024’s first major retail holiday in February.

So if you’ve been eyeing a new TV as a gift or for yourself, now’s the time to shop.

When it comes to pricing, it’s hard to beat Best Buy.

The retailer currently has smart TVs on sale from $64.99 .

The retailer also has 4K 50-inch+ TVs on sale from $199.

Below I’ve rounded up seven of the best TV deals you can get with expedited holiday shipping.

Note that delivery may vary based on your location.

However, many of these TVs can also be purchased online and picked up in-store.

Not sure which TV is right for you?

Make sure to check out our guide to the best TVs of 2023.

Alternatively, you can browse our guide to the five best OLED TV deals this holiday .

TV sale: deals from $64 @

Best Buy Best Buy has smart TVs on sale for as low as $64.

Keep in mind, the cheap TVs tend to be smaller, 1080p models (which are more suitable for a children’s room or guest room).

However, the sale also includes larger sets.

These are among the cheapest TVs we’ve seen from Best Buy.

By comparison, Amazon is offering a similar sale with prices from $64.

Price check: from $64 @ Amazon | from $88 @

Walmart TCL 55″ S4 S-Class 4K TV: was $299 now $269 @

Best Buy The S4 S-Class is one of TCL’s new budget TVs.

Yet despite its budget friendly price, it packs Dolby Vision/HDR10/HLG support, DTS Virtual:X audio, built-in Chromecast, and Google TV Smart OS.

You also get three HDMI ports, including one with eARC support.

Price check: sold out @

Amazon Roku 55″ Select Series 4K TV: was $349 now $299 @

Best Buy The Roku Select is part of Roku’s new line of TVs made in-house.

It features HDR 10 Plus/HLG support, Apple HomeKit/Alexa/Google Assistant compatibility, and four HDMI ports.

It also comes with Roku’s platform for all your streaming needs.

Sold exclusively at Best Buy, it’s on sale at its lowest price ever.

TCL 55″ Q6 4K QLED TV: was $499 now $348 @

Amazon

The new TCL Q6 4K QLED TV is a budget TV with plenty of great features.

It offers Dolby Vision/HDR10+/HDR10/HLG support, DTS Virtual: X audio, built-in Chromecast, and Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant compatibility.

Although the display is just 60Hz natively, Game Accelerator 120 allows for 120Hz VRR at a lower resolution.

You also get Dolby Atmos and eARC support.

Price check: $348 @ Walmart | $349 @

Best Buy Hisense 65″ U6 Mini-LED ULED 4K TV: was $799 now $549 @

Amazon Hisense’s proprietary ULED technology is a step up from normal LED-based LCD TVs and offers enhanced color and overall better picture quality.

This Mini-LED QLED TV also features Dolby Vision/HDR10+/HDR10/HLG support, and built-in Google Assistant.

This is the cheapest price we’ve ever seen for this particular model.

Price check: $549 @ Best Buy | $548 @ Walmart Sony Bravia 55″ X80K 4K TV: was $699 now $578 @

Amazon The Sony Bravia X80K TV was already an excellent entry-level model, and at this discounted price, it’s now an even better value for money.

It packs solid picture quality with low input lag and an excellent Google TV interface.

It’s not an audio powerhouse, but it’s an excellent pick if you’re looking for a large TV at a relatively modest price.

In fact, we named it one of the best budget TVs you can buy right now.

Price check: $579 @ Best Buy Samsung 65″ Crystal 4K TV: was $627 now $579 @

Amazon The CU8000 is one of Samsung‘s budget 4K TVs.

However, despite its price it packs a lot of modern features, including HDR10+/HLG support and Alexa/Google Assistant/SmartThings compatibility.

It also uses Samsung‘s own Tizen operating system.

Price check: was $579 @ Best Buy

We use our smartphones for everything these days.

From texting to photography, to web browsing and online gaming, there’s really nothing an iPhone or Android can’t handle.

That is, until your phone’s internal storage is depleted.

When we refer to smartphone storage, we’re talking about the onboard gigabytes a phone uses to run applications, store photos, videos, music, and documents, install firmware and OS upgrades, and more.

If you’ve ever purchased a new phone, you’ve probably seen numbers like 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB featured alongside the model of the device you’re looking at.

These figures represent the amount of data storage that the phone’s manufacturer has included on the phone itself.

So when it comes time to buy a new iPhone or Galaxy smartphone, exactly how much storage space does the average person need?

And are there ways to add additional storage when and if you run out?

We’ve put together this helpful explainer to answer these questions and more.

When we think of the chart-topping amounts of RAM and internal storage that modern smartphones are known for, it may surprise you to learn that some of the earliest web-connected phones only contained a single gigabyte or less of storage space.

But as technology has evolved over the years, companies like Apple and Samsung have had to increase the amount of RAM and storage space available on smartphones.

Believe it or not, our smartphones actually utilize a portion of whatever internal storage is advertised to users.

This is because it takes more than just a solid processor and plenty of RAM to run mobile operating systems like iOS and Android .

These pre-installed platforms need a place to store and access crucial data for running your phone’s OS and whatever apps and software your device is running.

If you’ve ever seen a breakdown of your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device’s internal storage, you’ve probably seen that a decent chunk of storage (usually somewhere between 5GB up to 10GB) is allocated to the phone’s OS.

And no matter how good you are at freeing up storage space on your phone (we’ll cover this more in a bit), you’ll never be able to reclaim the internal data your phone takes for itself.

Now that we’ve cemented the hard truth that iOS and Android are always going to utilize some of our phone’s advertised bytes, the data that’s left is taken up by whatever we, the users, decide to use our smartphones for.

For the average user, one major source of storage space usage is how many apps you have downloaded on your device, and what types of apps these are.

Considering there’s an app for just about everything these days, these mobile-friendly bundles of software are meant to support every kind of want or need.

If you’re a music fanatic, you may have a number of music-streaming platforms and music publication apps installed on your phone.

If you prefer using your smartphone to balance your budget, you’ll probably have a number of banking and credit card apps downloaded.

Then there’s all the social media apps and messaging platforms that we use to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues.

Some apps take up very little storage space, while others consume a whole bunch of your bytes, especially when you start getting into mobile games (which are also considered apps), editing workflow tools (think Adobe Creative Suite), and weather monitoring.

Yes, you’d be surprised how much data the Weather Channel app can use.

Another huge culprit when it comes to storage space harvesting is general media.

Photos, videos, and music are nice to look at and listen to, but by golly can they take up a ton of space on our smartphones!

To put things into perspective, Apple claims that a one-hour 1080p/30fps video, encoded as an h.264 file, takes up about 7.6GB on the average iPhone.

If you boost things up to 4K/30fps, you can expect to lose around 21GB.

As for Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 , Galaxy S23+ , or Galaxy S23 Ultra , Samsung claims that recording in 1080p (frame rate unspecified) for up to one minute uses around 100MB of data, and up to 300MB for 4K. That translates to about 6GB of data per hour in HD, and 18GB for 4K footage.

Fortunately, companies like Apple and Samsung know how much data your photos and videos take up.

Apple’s solution was the introduction of a new encoding called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) with iOS 11 , which consumes about half as much data as an h.264 file of the same name.

And as for Samsung, many of the brand’s Galaxy smartphones allow for up to 25GB of expandable storage via microSD (more on this in a minute).

If you’re in the market for a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you may be wondering how much storage space you should be shopping for?

That’s all going to depend on how you plan on using your smartphone.

To make things simpler, let’s look at a few different smartphone user types to better understand how much storage you should be seeking.

You’re the type of person who doesn’t let your phone run your life (good for you!).

Of course, it’s always a good idea to have your device handy in case of emergencies.

You also enjoy using your phone to search the web at the doctor’s office, and you also like snapping a few photos at the occasional family gathering.

And other than using your smartphone to set an alarm or two, that’s pretty much the extent of your device usage.

If this sounds like you, you’re probably not going to need very much storage space at all.

It’s always a good idea to go with the newest tech though, so if you’re Team iPhone, you’d probably want to check out the 128GB version of the iPhone 15 .

For Android fans, the 128GB version of the Samsung Galaxy S23 should be more than sufficient.

We expect most mid-range phones to offer 128GB as the base storage option, but it’s unacceptable for flagship caliber phones in this day and age with 128GB of starting storage.

You like being on your phone, and you like using it for everything.

You’ve always got a decent handful of apps downloaded to your smartphone, and a couple of them are usually high-performance games.

You also enjoy posting to social media on a near-daily basis, and you’ll snap a photo or video of just about anything cool you see out in the world.

We’ll call this the middle-ground between “a little” and “a lot” of needed storage space.

This type of user should look at the 256GB version of the iPhone 15, or maybe even the iPhone 15 Plus .

And over in Android Land, this user type should also invest in 256GB for the Samsung Galaxy S23, or the Samsung Galaxy S23+ .

You’re on your phone so much that you could be a phone (imagine that).

You typically download every single app you’re even mildly interested in, and you’re all about cutting-edge mobile gaming.

When it comes to social media, you’re posting every hour, to the point where your family wonders how you manage to have a life outside your screens.

You also like to take photos and videos whenever you get the chance, and you always export and save in the highest resolution possible.

This type of user needs as much storage space as possible, and a top-shelf phone to go along with the big bytes.

If you’re thinking of going with an iPhone, we’d urge you to consider the 512GB version of the iPhone 15 Plus.

For Android users, we’d recommend going with the 512GB version of the Samsung Galaxy S23+, or even the 1TB version of the Galaxy S23 Ultra .

Even if you’ve made the most data-conscientious buying decision you can for your smartphone, you may still run into situations where your storage space is nearing capacity.

Not to worry though, for there’s a number of things you can do to increase and preserve storage space on your mobile device.

First and foremost, we recommend looking into external storage options.

Traditionally, iPhones have never had built-in microSD card slots, but that’s not the case for Android powered smartphones.

If you’re running out of bytes for your go-to Android, you can always toss in a microSD card (assuming it’s offered), which should give you another 200GB or so.

You can also invest in a smartphone-friendly flash drive if you want to offload some of your existing media to free up space.

Cloud storage platforms are another excellent way to free up storage space.

While a majority of these platforms require some kind of monthly subscription, the most basic tiers of storage are generally inexpensive.

For instance, you can add up to 50GB of iCloud storage to your iPhone for as little as $1 per month.

You can also offload media and other files using tools like Google Drive and Dropbox .

Clearing app data and old downloads is another great way to free up memory.

This is usually as simple as heading into your phone’s settings and searching for a storage dropdown.

From here, you should be able to see how much data is being split between apps, media, and your phone’s OS.

If you’re using an iOS device, your iPhone will even give you the option of deleting old downloads, texts, and other content to add back some internal storage.

If you’re not overly concerned with every single photo and video looking crystal-clear, you can always choose to export media in lower-res formats.

And as for music, instead of downloading tracks and albums to your device, you can always opt for music-streaming services instead (although this will require an internet connection or cellular data).

However you choose to free up space on your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device, we can’t emphasize the following enough: make sure you have enough available storage for software updates.

Every web-connected smartphone receives routine software patches from its manufacturer.

This ensures that your phone is running as efficiently as possible, while clearing up any bugs or glitches that may have impacted previous versions of the OS.

Some software updates may even allow your smartphone to use less internal storage to run apps and store media.

Smartphones are constantly evolving, which means that internal storage on newer models should continue to increase.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see 512GB as the base offering for a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device five years down the line, especially when you factor in new resolutions, frame rates, and OS processes.

And even if you don’t think you’ll need a ton of data for your apps and media, it’s never a bad idea to invest in extra storage, especially if the difference between 128GB and 256GB is only another hundred dollars or so.

While many new smartphones are being offered with 128GB as the base storage option, some of the most hands-off users may be able to get away with 64GB or less.

It may be hard to find these minimal byte quantities on newer phones from the likes of Apple and Samsung though.

Deleting unused apps and media, offloading content to external devices and cloud platforms, and choosing lower export settings are a few ways you can free up storage space on your smartphone.

It’s also a good idea to occasionally check your phone’s storage settings, in order to get a better sense of what apps and content are using the most data.

Yes.

Your smartphone’s operating system and apps use a certain amount of non-RAM memory to download, install, run, and update.

In the event that you start to run out of storage space, certain app features may stop working.

If all your internal storage is depleted, you also won’t be able to download software updates for your phone’s OS.

As many security patches are made through software updates, not having enough data to download these updates could be damaging to your device and user data down the line.

Here’s a simple truth: where there’s a Dyson product , there’s a dupe, and none are more popular than the best Dyson Supersonic dupes.

When the brand first released the Supersonic hair dryer in 2016, it reinvented the blow dryer.

Seven years later, it remains the best hair dryer in the world, and it’s clear that Dyson’s beauty tech bet was more than a success.

While it’s an impressive product, you don’t need to pay upwards of $400 to get the home hair dry experience you desire.

The Supersonic first made waves because, in typical Dyson fashion, it gave an upgraded, futuristic design to an everyday product.

Dyson is known for this aesthetic, but the sleek look also has a function.

The ring-shaped head ditches the vented and coiled model of the traditional hair dryer and houses the tiny V9 motor in the handle.

The combination of the V9 motor and the Air Multiplier technology makes for a dryer that clocks in at only 1.8 pounds, yet still delivers a powerful airflow that’s notably quieter than the roar of a traditional dryer.

To minimize damage, the Supersonic also measures the air temp up to 20 times per second and uses a built-in ionizer to minimize static and give the hair a sleek finish, which brings us to a quick ionizer science lesson.

Ionizers are pretty common in higher-end air dryers.

Why?

Most work by blowing negative ions at wet hair to reduce static electricity by sealing the hair cuticle and taking down the power of that positive ionic charge (aka what’s causing that annoying frizz).

As negative ions make contact with hair, they’re also dispersing the positive ions of water, therefore cutting down on your drying time and reducing damage in the process.

Basically, it’s one of the reasons the Dyson Supersonic provides such quick and excellent results, and why hair dryers with ionizers will cost you more money — they do more than simply dry the hair.

Magnetic attachments designed to easily snap onto the blow dryer round out the futuristic feel of the Supersonic, with five included — a styling concentrator, a flyaway attachment, a diffuser, a gentle air attachment, and a wide tooth comb.

It’s a nice array of included nozzles even for high-end dryers, which might typically include three to four attachments at the most.

At $429, the overall package of the Supersonic is definitely an investment.

However, you’re paying for a high-end motor that’s built to last, multiple heat settings to protect hair, an innovative design, and of course, the ionic tech.

Other dryers from popular hot tool brands like T3, ghd, and Harry Josh boasting some similar features will run you anywhere from $150 to $350, but none quite capture the complete offerings of the Supersonic.

When I tested the Supersonic myself , I found that it had a luxe feel that still makes it stand out from other hair dryers.

Dyson also released an “affordable” version of the Supersonic, called the Supersonic Origin, earlier this year that retails for $399.99.

At only about $30 cheaper, I think the price-to-feature ratio is actually a much worse value than just going for the regular Supersonic, unless you can grab the Origin on sale.

At the same time, there are dupes out there that deliver similar features and elements of the performance at a much lower price.

There are a lot of options for luxury blow dryers out there and a lot of dupes that attempt to look like the Dyson but skimp out on quality.

While it’s not entirely feasible to find an exact one-to-one alternative for a fraction of the price, it is possible to find Supersonic dupes you’re more than satisfied with.

The trick is to identify what exactly draws you to the Supersonic in the first place.

For a deeper dive on how each of these blow dryers performed and info on where to buy them, read on for the best Dyson Supersonic alternatives — all tested by the Mashable team.

TL;DR: Through Dec. 25, get Pixilio The Ultimate AI Image Generator for just $19.97 — you’ll save 94%.

Everyone has that hard-to-buy-for loved one on their gifting list.

With time running out, you may be looking for a last-minute present that won’t require shipping but will still wow under the Christmas tree.

And if you happen to know someone who loves technology and/or content creation, or is simply intrigued by artificial intelligence, we have a great digital option that can be sent instantly to your inbox .

With Pixilio, you or your loved one can create images with the power of AI in seconds .

The possibilities are endless, as it can be used for work purposes or just for fun, and you can take advantage of holiday savings and gift them a lifetime subscription for only $19.97.

That’s $340 off the usual price as long as you purchase before December 25.

With this lifetime subscription to Pixilio The Ultimate AI Image Generator, your loved ones can tap into their creative side and bring anything in their imagination to life.

All they have to do is input the ideas they have, sit back, and watch what Pixilio whips up in just a few seconds.

Everything created will be considered original content that is 100% owned by them , so they can use it anywhere from marketing campaigns to social media to websites to art to hang in their home.

This lifetime subscription to Pixilio means the possibilities are endless, as they’ll have a lifetime to create stunning images generated by artificial intelligence with their exact parameters.

There’s no prior graphic design experience needed, all they have to bring to this tool is their unique ideas and concepts.

Give a unique gift with this lifetime subscription to Pixilio AI Image Generator , now just $19.97 (reg.

$360) until December 25 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

StackSocial prices subject to change.

Apple, as you may know by now, is at the heart of a health technology patents dispute with Masimo, a medical technology company—full details .

It centers on the blood oxygen monitoring capability found in the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 smartwatches.

Along with these being removed from sale, more details have now emerged—and they’re not good news.

Apple Watch Ultra 2, left, and Apple Watch Series 9.

As promised, Apple removed Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from sale on its website.

Instore sales continue until end of business Sunday, December 24.

And you can also buy these models from other retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy and Target, while stocks last.

The Apple Watch SE does not have blood oxygen measuring capabilities so is still on sale.

Apple Watch Nike and Apple Watch Hermes are marked as currently unavailable on apple.com.

The ban is limited to the U.S., so sales outside the States continue as normal.

But the new details are subtle and, frankly, annoying.

According to , “Apple’s customer service teams were informed in a memo that the company will no longer replace out-of-warranty models going back to Apple Watch Series 6.

That means if a customer has a broken screen, for instance, they won’t be able to get the issue fixed by Apple.

The company will still offer help that can be done via software, such as reinstalling the operating system.”

This is a nasty sting in the tail.

Since some hardware issues routinely led to replacements rather than repairs, affected customers will now be told that, “they will be contacted when hardware replacements are allowed again,” Gurman says.

Until now, it had seemed that anyone who owned a Series 6, Series 7, Series 8, or Ultra would be blithely unaffected by the ban.

Now, only those whose Watches are still under warranty, can rest easy.

That means Series 8 and Ultra purchases made within the last 12 months, plus all Series 9 and Ultra 2 models, as these first went on sale on September 22 this year.

If your Watch is still under warranty, the replacement ban “aren’t affected by the replacement prohibition,” according to Bloomberg.

But there are still concerns, even if you’re buying the Watch instore today, for instance.

Supposing you’re gifting the Watch to someone and they would rather have a different color.

Bad luck, it seems.

Gurman explains, “After Dec. 25, Apple also won’t be able to exchange a watch purchased before the ban, say for a different color or size, during the typical return period.

Retail staff was told a product swap won’t be allowed, but Apple will replace accessories like bands.

Watches can still be returned for a refund.”

Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are stunningly good products, way ahead of the smartwatch competition.

But right now, these restrictions make them tricky to recommend, at least in the U.S.

Like a circus strongman’s barbells, 2023’s year in VR has been heavily weighted toward either end.

The last twelve months were bookended with the launch of two excellent VR headsets (although only one is truly relevant to us PC gamers) and a whole bunch of great VR titles.

The summer, however, was the quietest I’ve known for a long time, to the point where I ended up playing two VR minigolf games in the absence of anything better to do.

Fortunately, the last few months have made up for it, providing enough fantastic VR games to feed us well into next year.

So it’s an unevenly weighted set of barbells, the kind that would give our moustachioed muscleman a slipped disk.

It’s also been a year of interesting shifts.

What was proclaimed the inevitable future of VR eighteen months ago – the Metaverse – is now dead in the water.

Or at least, it’s crawling weakly toward the ocean while our hero follows slightly behind, almost pitying the poor wretch, but still intent on drowning the malignant charlatan in the shallows.

Meanwhile, the headsets that have dominated this year point to the growing platform-based nature of VR.

Where a few years ago you only needed a headset and a PC to access the full suite of VR games, now you need the right headsets (and a PC).

It’s a trend that could have significant ramifications for PCVR in the future, although we’re not there quite yet.

This was handily demonstrated at 2023’s starting line by the launch of the PSVR2, Sony’s follow-up to its previous headset that’s designed to take advantage of the power of the PS5.

Whereas the original PSVR was a bit too weedy to draw PCVR gamers away from the Rifts and the Vives (which sounds like a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll band) the PSVR2 is a cutting-edge headset, and brought some tasty exclusives to boot.

Most notable were Horizon: Call of the Mountain, and an exclusive VR version of Resident Evil: Village.

Although, the one that really sticks in the craw is the recently released VR version of Resident Evil 4 Remake .

There are now two VR versions of Resident Evil 4, and you can’t play either of them on PC.

Rotters.

Meanwhile, Meta has spent the last few years buying up VR developers and signing either outright or timed exclusives its Quest headsets, meaning PCVR gamers have had to wait for some of its biggest hitters to land.

And even then, some of them landed belly first, such as The Walking Dead: Saints And Sinners Chapter 2, a disappointing sequel to one of the best VR games around.

There were some fun highlights from smaller developers in the spring, like the VR rogue-like The Light Brigade , and the charming perspective-based adventure Another Fisherman’s Tale , but by late summer PCVR‘s cupboard was starting to look pretty bare.

It was rumoured that the reason for Meta’s purchasing spree was so that those developers could make content for its Metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.

The Metaverse dominated headlines last year and was destined to be the future of VR, if you believed Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to mimic the human emotion “enthusiasm”.

But the prospects for Horizon seemed flimsy from the start, and while Horizon Worlds is still theoretically in development, with Meta still pouring billions of dollars into it, the Metaverse has had its lunch thoroughly eaten by this year’s technological fad, AI.

As noted by the Verge , at this year’s Meta Connect, Horizon Worlds received significantly less attention than Meta’s AI initiatives, like a virtual assistant that can be integrated into chats across the company’s messaging platforms.

Oh well, at least everyone in Horizon Worlds has legs now .

Yet while Meta’s vision for the Metaverse remains more watery than American tea, the company’s still right at the forefront of VR headset design.

In October, Meta launched the Meta Quest 3, which offers a substantial hardware upgrade from the Quest, alongside improved passthrough and mixed reality capabilities.

The higher price and the lack of decent launch titles put me on the fence about whether it was worth the upgrade, but now it has a slew of games like Assassin’s Creed Nexus , Samba Di Amigo: Party Central, Lego Bricktales, and Asgard’s Wrath 2, it’s a much more viable proposition.

Indeed, VR gaming has saved all the good stuff for the last three months.

Alongside the Quest 3’s slightly-after-launch titles, we’ve seen PCVR releases for Arizona Sunshine 2, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted 2 (which, like it or not, is a massive VR game), and the wonderful remake of ye-olde spooky puzzler the 7th Guest.

If you own a Quest 2 or 3, you’ll have access to nearly all of this because of Quest Link, making it one hell of a Christmas list for VR fans.

In short, 2023 has gone from being a pretty dry affair in VR land, to a bit of a bumper year right at the death.

But the quality of your harvest depends heavily on which headset you’ve got, and the big question going forward is how much further the existing VR platforms are likely to drift apart.

Right now, if you own a Quest headset, then you can access both the Quest exclusive library, and anything PCVR via Quest Link and Air Link.

But will that remain the case?

Meta has been pushing to make the Quest its own platform for years now.

At what point does the Quest sever its connection with the PC entirely?

I think this may well happen eventually, but it’s unlikely in the short term.

Alongside its baseline audience, the Quest also has a huge user base on Steam.

In fact, according to Steam’s own hardware survey , it’s by far the most popular PCVR headset, accounting for 40% of VR users between June and November 2023 (the Valve Index, by comparison, is the second most popular at 19%.)

Letting the Quest access Steam gives the headset substantially more functionality, and there’s no logical reason why Meta would want to stop that provided it can still sell exclusives on its own store.

And while Valve has its own headset it wants to sell, it also seems to understand the importance of Meta’s continuing presence in the PCVR scene.

Earlier this month, Valve partnered with Meta to update its Steam Link application to stream to Quest 2 and 3, a sort of reverse system to Quest Link and Air Link.

As well as providing further PCVR functionality for Quest, it points to a continuing overlap between Meta headsets and PCVR.

As for what else the future holds, the short answer is: more headsets and more games.

It’s likely we’ll see Apple‘s Vision Pro next year, possibly as early as January.

Apple‘s headset is unlikely to have much relevance in these here parts, but it’ll be interesting to see the response to it nonetheless.

More significant is Valve’s mysterious “Deckard” project, purportedly some kind of follow-up to the Valve Index.

There are no firm details about Deckard, although some cryptic word uttered to James by Valve designer Lawrence Yang hinted it might take inspiration from Valve’s work on the Steam Deck.

“Just like Steam Deck is learning a bunch of stuff from controllers and VR, future products will continue to learn from everything we’ve done with Steam Deck.”

My money’s on a Valve equivalent of the Quest, a standalone, inside-out tracking headset that can connect wirelessly to your PC (which, incidentally, Steam Link would be ideal for).

But let’s close out 2023 with a quick glance at what we’ll be playing next year.

Titles on the cards for 2024 include Bulletstorm VR , the cyberpunk detective sim Low-Fi , and the giant-smashing adventure Behemoth , from the creators of Saints And Sinners.

But by far the most exciting VR prospect for next year is Taskmaster VR .

Getting chewed out by a virtual Greg Davies for playing VR Jenga badly?

That alone is worth spend £500+ on some fancy goggles for your face.

Source: rockpapershotgun

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