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Sony: Virtual reality won't be the flash in the pan 3D TV was

As much as I enjoyed spending a healthy amount of last week's E3 in either an augmented or virtual reality, I still think the current state of the technology is destined to be a commercial failure.

The technology remains, as I've written before, inherently inconvenient and likely prohibitively expensive. Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime felt the same way when I spoke to him last week, but for different reasons. He said for virtual reality to succeed it needs to be fun and overcome its isolating nature. Of course, Nintendo also isn't currently making a VR headset. (I haven't been able to find out if he changed his mind after he spent some time with the latest Oculus Rift build.)

I can't help but remember Sony's big push for 3D televisions back when that technology stormed CES, somehow convincing everyone that it was the next big thing. For about a year, PlayStation spent a lot of time talking about 3D-enabled games and why it was the next big thing.

When I met with PlayStation head of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida, I asked him if virtual reality could be the next 3D. His answer came almost before I stopped speaking:

"This is not the next 3D," he said. "This is totally different.

"The difference is very easy to see if you try the Morpheus experience and compare it to the 3D TV gaming experience. The 3D TV gaming experience is basically the same as the 2D TV gaming experience. You just add the depth in the world, but you're pretty much seeing the same game. And that's all that we could do. It's not like we are able to go behind the TV to view a different scene or something like that."

But not so with the virtual reality of the PlayStation 4's Project Morpheus, he said.

"You are totally inside the game," he said. "You are in a virtual environment. That level of, quality of experience will convince people. You cannot get that experience in any other way. So that's a clear difference."

Fortunately, we don't have too long to wait to find out if this new form of gaming is going to be commercially viable in its current form factor. Project Morpheus is due out in the first half of 2016. The Oculus Rift consumer headset is coming in the first quarter of 2016. And Microsoft's augmented reality headset, the HoloLens, is coming out within the Windows 10 timeframe. Windows 10 hits on July 29.

And 3D televisions? That bit of tech seemed to see its latest peak in 2013, followed by a sudden drop in interest. The big problem? Having to wear a pair of 3D glasses which are either annoying, need to be recharged, or won't allow you to use your smartphone or tablet at the same time.

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