Virtual reality (VR) is not a new technology, but it's quickly becoming a major focus for Facebook (META), Alphabet (GOOG 0.69%) (GOOGL 0.77%), and plenty of other tech companies.
And while VR is making its way into the mainstream tech conversation, there are still a handful of hurdles it has to overcome before we all start strapping on headsets each day.
Here are five of the biggest challenges.
Some of the biggest barriers to virtual reality right now are the cost of the headsets and the price tag of computers to run them. The pre-orders for Facebook's Oculus Rift priced at $600, which is likely more than many people want to spend on something they probably don't have much use for right now.
A study by Touchstone Research found that 60% of Internet users want to spend less than $400 for VR, and most want to keep the price tag between $200 and $400.
And VR-ready PCs aren't cheap either; a Rift headset and VR-ready PC package can cost up to to $1,500. There are, of course, cheaper alternatives. Samsung's Gear VR costs just $99 (and the company's giving them away for a limited time with the purchase of a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge), and Alphabet sells its Cardboard VR headset for just $15. But both of those headsets rely on smartphones for their computing power and don't deliver a true virtual reality experience.
PCs can't keep up
Another major obstacle is finding PCs powerful enough to run high-end headsets like the Rift.
NVIDIA claims less than 1% of PCs sold this year will be able to handle VR headsets. Dell, Alienware, and Asus have all released PCs specifically designed to meet Oculus' requirements, but there are just a handful of them, and they all cost $950 or more.
Oh, and Apple's (AAPL 0.48%) computers don't make the cut for high-end VR. Oculus' co-founder Palmer Luckey was recently asked by ShackNews if Oculus would ever work on Apple's computers Luckey responded with, "That is up to Apple. If they ever release a good computer, we will do it."
It's worth noting that Apple's computers work just fine for nearly every other task besides virtual reality. That puts them in the same boat as 99% of other PCs, so Oculus' requirements are not Apple's problem.
Slow user adoption rates
Another drawback for VR is its slow adoption. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said VR will "grow slowly." He mentioned in a recent interview that, "I honestly don't know is how long it will take to build this ecosystem. It could be 5 years, it could be 10 years, it could be 15 or 20. My guess is that it will be at least 10."
If you don't think it won't take that long for VR to go mainstream, consider that once smartphones were introduced, it took eight years for just 10% of the U.S. population to get one.
Most VR content is device-specific
Right now, if you watch film or play a game on your Rift, chances are it's not going to work on any other device. Developers and filmmakers are creating content that can only be viewed on one device, or has to be made in multiple versions so you can watch it on other devices.
This may not hurt mobile VR's growth as much, because the VR experience is an app (which developers are used to making for both Android and iOS) or a 360-degree video that can play on most mobile devices. But for the true VR experience, users have to select one high-end device and only get what's created specifically for that headset (similar to how many video games are made for a specific gaming console).
Too many cables
Admittedly, this sounds like an odd one to put on the list. But right now, high-end VR headsets have a lot of cables connecting parts of the system to each other and the computer -- and that gets in the way of the user experience. Here's what Oculus' Luckey posted on Twitter late last year, "Cables are going to be a major obstacle in the VR industry for a long time. Mobile VR will be successful long before PC VR goes wireless."
Luckey mentioned that in order to be truly immersed in the VR experience, you simply can't get tangled up in the cables. That's why, at least for now, Oculus founders suggest sitting down while using the Rift.
The number of tech companies jumping into virtual reality point to its potential, even if the hurdles above stifle some of VR's growth. Facebook clearly believes the tech will become a dominant platform in the near future -- which should be a good enough indicator of the platform's potential.