Sony, Google, Facebook and others announce Global Virtual Reality Association

Facebook's Oculus recently released its new Touch VR controllers. Image: Oculus

Sony, Google, Facebook and other top tech companies announced the formation of the new Global Virtual Reality Association (GVRA) in order to promote VR technology around the world.

The effort is noteworthy in that it could bring some cohesion to the rapidly growing but still fractured VR space. Already, a wide range of companies are developing VR hardware and content, but to date there has been little effort to harmonize, unify and jointly promote those offerings.

However, the GVRA offered little in the way of specifics as to what the group might actually do, and when. “The organization will foster dialogue between public and private stakeholders in VR around the world and make education and training material available to the public. Working groups will be organized around important topics for the industry, enabling us to produce relevant research and guidance,” the GVRA said on its website. “We will also host and participate in international discussions on important topics in VR to shape the public discussion on the technology. Ultimately, the group will develop best practices and share them openly.”

The association added that it will “commission international research, create educational materials, and host and participate in discussions on issues important to the future of VR worldwide. The group will also create and share best practices for industry around the world.”

GVRA members currently include Acer Starbreeze, Google, HTC Vive, Facebook’s Oculus, Samsung and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Those six companies though represent the bulk of the industry’s VR hardware makers: Indeed, Facebook’s Oculus recently unveiled its well-received Touch motion-sensing controllers that will go for $200.

Absent from the GVRA’s membership listing are many of the companies that hope to make and distribute VR content, like Discovery, AT&T and Comcast. Those companies continue to invest in tests of VR content in the hopes that virtual reality will take off in the mass market. (For example, just today HTC said it would launch its own VR game and app studio.)

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However, according to some reports, demand for VR equipment this year is well below expectations. Indeed, research firm SuperData initially predicted sales of Sony’s PlayStation VR would reach 2.6 million units by the end of this year, but recently the firm downgraded that figure to just 750,000. It’s unclear whether the newer VR products, like the Oculus Touch controllers, will spur more sales as the holidays approach.

Overall though, analysts remain positive on the VR space. SuperData, for example, still predicts VR software sales will grow from $407 million in revenue this year to $14 billion by 2020.