With seemingly no end to lockdown I thought I provide a little heads up on the VR front in terms what is going on, what is required, how much it might cost you and where the downsides are.Google basically abandoned the Cardboard idea, there isn't much new happening anymore, still it is a great and dirt cheap start. For under 10 bucks you get some cardboard, two lenses and some magnets. Put together and you have a head mount for your phone to enjoy 3D and VR/AR realities. And surprisingly there is actually good content available for Carboard users.For a bit more you can get stand alone headset from several vendors. Starting from as little as 300 bucks for the older, entry level models. Good enough to watch movies, play some nice games and explore the virtual world. Serious gaming is becoming more and more popular, especially online multi player games.Still considered the best option in terms of experience ad quality are tethered solutions that required you to have a powerful gaming PC at your disposal. But for the casual fun it would be overkill to invest into both PC and VR hardware.How good is it then? I tried quite a few systems and have to say they have come a long way from the early days. The wow-factor though depends on the content, some is good, some is just painfully bad unless you like catoon style graphics. The potential is huge but right now content is limited to more or less always the same in a different look. If you have problems on a moving ship or have your breakfast come up in a themepark ride you might stay away from certain VR things. They like to call them "experiences" - a way for you to be really in it, a part of it. Only problem is that no everyone can tolerate seeing all sorts of movements and motions without actually moving - seasickness in reverse so to say and not very pleasant if you suffer from it LOL What is rather surprising is that some VR things are incredibly addictive even with crappy graphics. You can lost playing some crappy game for hours on end and still want more.....What is possible in terms of social interaction, considering we are in a pandemic? Depending on what you and your friends/loved ones have available there is some... You can hang out in virtual worlds together, have a chat, play some games. With some systems you can even watch movies together in your own virtual theater. A bit like having your friends with you in a really dark movie theater and not being allowed to touch them LOL Sadly a virtual sharing experience still seems far way. You can't just pop your headset on, plug in your 3D camera and share what you do in realtime and 3d with your friends. There is development though in terms of virtual interaction. By linking certain things, like little robots, electronic board games or just your virtual assistent, you can create your own virtual, virtual home. And whoever comes to visit can use your interactive things, for example to tell the robot tomove a chess piece on the board. VR suits to allow for a more realistic virtual experience are still very far away ....The reality about content, games and apps. Google offers quite a lot on it's Youtube platform. Simply tye in whatever you like and add VR to have a good chance to get at least a 180° video out. And there is plenty of other providers specialising in VR experiences and video content. From holiday promotions, over themepark rides to doing freefall jumps out of a helicopter - there is something for everyone. If we leave the free world of the internet behind us and things that every browser can reach: What is left? That is the real problem.... It is a platform war of the worst kind. Something that you like isn't available for your friends headset. An app that works fine for you can't even installed by your friend. And not even within a company you have a chance to use it all as Facebook showed us with Oculus. They kindly allow you to use some apps and games if you upgrade to a better model but not all. And once you find out that your new model can't share stuff with your friends on older ones you feel ripped off. Does not help that if you don't own one of the older models you won't even get access to the compatible and free software - you are stuck. Every company provides their own "store", why bother with the Playstore if you can keep the money and content control. It's all VR but good luck getting real cross platform support. Some developers decided to seek alternatives and so options to sideload content were born. And yes, some there actually bother to provide their game or app for multiple platforms :) What bothers me is the "try out buy later" approach. Sounds nice, sounds fair.... Most offer you a limited time, like 2 hours, to test a paid app or game. Turned out that itis actually possible to complete some paid experiences and games within two hours. Would you really want to pay 50 bucks for 2 hours of fun?.... Some say around 50 bucks is a fair price for a good game. Others say that for non VR platforms there is plenty of free alternatives that ae equally good and that it seems impossible to play the same game with people on 2D and in VR. Why is this happening....Let's take a look on how it all started.... There was the great idea once that AR and VR applications for everyone would be a great thing. We had no usuable tech at affordable prices though. Several companies and individuals tried ways to get at least AR solutions working, often by using mobile phones or tablets. Google jumped in with Cardboard, Samsung with Gear VR and even Microsoft wanted it rather late, a bit different and calling it mixed reality. Google gave up quickly and focussed back on Andoid and real world devices, same for Samsung. HTC and others still are game players and in some way responsible for us still having at least some choices left. from being just a pain and novelty at best AR and VR quickly saw real world uses. Developers jumped onto it and although content was rather low quality the interest was there. At some stage we saw a few interesting Kickstarter campaigns. And that's when things got really bad. A new device appeared and seemed to be a real game changer - a true stand alone headset with enough power to be practical. A few more were added shortly and it was almost a run to be the first to get a solution to the market. Obvious that even developers became rather exited. Suddenly they all started to disappear, often without actually shipping any devices to the many supporters. Only one Kickstarter got snatched up by a military contractor, two offered their services to Bill gates. The remaining ones including this amasing standalone model ready for production got snatched up for cheap by Mark and his social media platform. Microsfot had a lot of titles and applications, HTC was going strong as well and even Gear and Carboard were still all time favourites back then. Facebook offered the dream of every little hardware developer. Unlimited funds and access to a whole new world. Sadly it meant handing all control to FB. The dream of a free and open source VR platform with lots of support was gone. Now we have to decide in advance which system to buy, which company offers the most to fit the needs. Usually it means if your friend or family member has one device then you will buy something compatible, if not the same. VR turned into a game of control and data hording.What do your need to get really into VR and AR? Unless you have a supported Samsung device or a cardboard AND are happy with what is available you need a lot! Every competitor requires you to provide your personal details in one way or another. Most, if not all require you to also agree to being tracked and monitored during usage. They ALL require your bank details or credit card information if you want to make a purchase - few expections for the Xbox and Playstation in terms of gift cards. The later still require you to have a valid payment account at some stage. Some might say it is ok because if you order a toaster online the seller would have your address and bank details as well. Most sellers won't have databases for their users to track them or collect all sorts of data.... Microsoft at least limits this to gaming and proffessional use and the other competitors seem to keep a low profile. FB on the other hand has a very lear appraoch: Add whatever is possible to allow for even more data horading and user tracking - at the cost of competitors as this hurts developers and users alike. If you don't like being watched, tracked and that your data is abused stay away from the virtual world ;)How the VR development came to a stop.... Facebook made it clear from the start that certain content is prefered in their VR store. Experiences are fine but for apps and games the focus on being online is pretty clear. The need for people to not just sit there with a headset alone but to actually interact with other was abused to the max. The easier it is to get users together, to actually listen to them, see what they are up to is worth gold. This is reflected in the store. Apps that work(ed) fine on the GO are not available for the Quest. Titles advertised are not available. Developers wanting to port their things to the Quest are refused with useless excuses why it can't be allowed. If you actually check and see that it seems to be fine to publicly stream pirated movies or other copyright protected material you have to wonder... Bigscreen is a huge thing right now and o problem finding someone streaming a movie that is not allowed to beused this way. But it allows many users to watch and do things together..... Same for those virtual environments where you can hang out with your friends, share pictures and play games - you are being watched, tracked and followed while doing so - you date is indeed vital.... In other cases it is a clear money approach, like with Skybox. There were wuite a few good video players available for the Go. Only Skybox made it over to the Quest, the free ones all missed out. Those who still maged to get entry seem to have no choice but to leave well deserved features out, so that Skybox remains the only alternative. If you wonder why: The others won't offer or allow servers used to collect user data and usage data.... Right now the only real option seems to be to stay away from Oculus and to prefer the alternatives out there as a lesser evil.What will the future hold for us? The market is already clearly devided and split with only Steam being sort of a middleman solution for some platforms. Facebook made sure the hardware market stays empty and even if we would get a new player in the game it is questionable if the control of the big players can be broken. If in doubt and something becomes a thread it will be bought for whatever price necessary. Facebook already hinted that closing the door for "unknown sources" is an easy option, same for alternative app launchers. Microsoft made it clear that they don't mind free development for their mixed VR systems but well, with a very low user base interest is low for developers as well. HTC and the rest still try to fill the gap and find their place but it seems they only catch only slowly. In the early days we had only a few "companies" starting our computer revolution. Only the two who split apart in the garage times and are still rivals survived. Apple VS Microsoft. Only Linux and as a part of it Android really provided any lasting alternatives. Android was soon taken over by Google. Now we have the same useless war in the virtual world, with only the user paying the price and being blamed for the failure of VR catching on. Funny once you start thinking about it and checking how it all started. It is no wonder then that OS security as well as App security is of the highest importance to FB. Allowing true homebrew on these otherwise just modded Andriod systems would mean the end of tracking users and milking the money out of them.Is homebrew the solution or the real threat to VR? A very few of you will now say hold on a minute! Wasn't there a few court cases against Google and FB in regars to user data and privacy breaches?? Yes, and that is part of the problem. Both companies, more or less reluctantly, agreed access to their databses to government agencies. With basically everything in VR being (intentionally) kept unencrypted it is a real treasure hunt..... Homebrew would allow apps similar to Whatsapp entry and with that added level of end to end encryption open pandora's box. Imagine loading a custom OS onto a VR system that allows you boot whatever you like. You could create secure chat rooms for people with the need to show their latest tech, their latest innovations in a way that everyone can interact. Problems with your latest order of assault rifles - just check out our VR experience showing all you need to know. Need a map to find your way through this facility you shouldn't be in? No worries, just load the interactive 3D map on your headset and turn on the pass through from the cameras - follow the red line.... Fair enough then most will say now, make a bit of sense to be careful... But what is used as the worst case scenario to keep the doors locked also keeps all the good stuff out. And a result the devlopment and amount of titles and apps is kept low.What about families or group setups? Unlike other platforms there is no such thing as family accounts, not even individual user accounts on most devices. FB even removed this option from the native android setting with "updates". Means, if you own a bunch of VR headset you most likely will have buy the apps and games for every single device. The family fun of competing in virtual games then can set you back 200 to 250 bucks with easy - per title....Summary: VR is a novelty at best right now. Good for hardcore gamers with enough money mostly or to be precise totally useless for cross platform interaction - not even watching a movie from your own collection together in VR. You are tracked whenever possible, you are profiled and coached into buying more and more. Without real competition, without real open source solutions this will not change anytime soon.