Logitech CEO: 'VR is going to be good but limited'

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
Logitech CEO Bracken Darrel; contends augmented reality has broader market potential than virtual reality.

Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell has mixed feelings on virtual reality.

“I’d say VR is going to be good but limited,” Darrell told Yahoo Finance at the annual Web Summit tech conference, held in Lisbon, Portugal.

Part of the reason the 53-year-old chief executive has reservations with VR simply has to do with its bulky nature. Companies such as Facebook (FB), Sony (SNE) and HTC are releasing newer VR headsets that are smaller and lighter than they have been in years past. At this year’s Oculus Connect 4 conference, for instance, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed a new goal of getting 1 billion people in VR before announcing a $199 standalone headset arriving in early 2018 aimed squarely at taking VR more mainstream. Yet even that device, the Oculus Go, is still not quite as compact as smartphones, which easily slip into a pocket.

“I think there’s going to be a big group of people who are just not going to use VR until it gets to the point where it’s really light,” Darrell explained.

And while VR headsets can serve up immersive experiences, Logitech’s CEO contends their utility just won’t be as broad as devices that convincingly use augmented reality, or AR.

“It’s very easy to imagine AR working in a world where you put on a pair of glasses, and you no longer have a screen on your desk,” he contended. “But you see screens, and you can interact with those screens, using voice, using keyboard, using whatever you want. And then you can imagine walking down the street, and then being able to converse with you and see you as I’m walking. It’s very easy to imagine that world applying to most people. It’s harder to imagine putting on a [VR] headset and doing very many different things.”

Darrell’s views line up with predictions from Forrester Research, which estimates that by 2021, AR will be “commonplace,” while VR remains “niche.”

Logitech, for its part, is hedging its bets by developing devices that play nice with both VR and AR devices. Earlier this month, the company announced the Logitech Bridge, which works with HTC’s Vive headset and basically lets people see the company’s keyboards inside the VR worlds — handy, for virtual experiences that require more typing.

“I think it’s very difficult to predict the future,” Darrell offered. “I think you’ve got to prepare for alternatives, and then be ready to hit the accelerator when they’re there. So that’s what we’re doing.”

JP Mangalindan is Chief Tech Correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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