After scouring the internet trying to find something interesting to present to the table, I came across an article that announced that a release date for the quickly famed Oculus Rift has been rumored by a member of the development team. It quickly gave many points as to why they believed the release date provided was indeed a correct release date for the product, but then stated that it was very important the news be taken as a rumor. Either way, if what they are saying is correct, Oculus Rift will finally be released to the public on April 30th of next year. At the time of discovering this information, I had no idea what Oculus Rift was, let alone what this entailed, so I humored myself only to find myself starving after over eight hours of engrossing research.
So what is Oculus Rift? This question overall is very tough. I would come out to say that Oculus Rift is the newest Virtual Reality hardware on the market that is actually promising to be…well, something. However, before we get deeply into this, we first need to set up a working definition for Virtual Reality.
What is Virtual Reality?
Prior to yesterday, Virtual Reality was just a fantasy in my mind. It meant complete immersion of all five of your major senses, with complete and total freedom to move your virtual body the way that you see fit. This is all directly out of Science Fiction, of course, but I find thinking of Virtual Reality like that doesn’t quite do it justice. Virtual Reality is the act of tricking your brain into believing that the world you are seeing is the real one.
Up until now, companies have been coming out with machines claiming a true virtual reality experience only to have user’s run out of their seats, vomiting. On a marketing standpoint, if your product makes a large number of users vomit, it’s probably not going to sell very well. For 20 years a promise of a true Virtual Reality has been trying to surface but never quite grasping the people’s attention. It has never been truly viable up to this point.
How does it work, and what does it do?
Previous attempts at virtual reality, such as Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, all failed horribly due to the lack of technological development. We could always do it, but it had to be perfect, otherwise our brains simply would not accept what was happening to us. If there was even the slightest bit of latency while you moved your head around, you would start to feel sick rather rapidly. Same thing happens if the frame rate just isn’t quite up to par with what our brain can process in the real world.
In the modern world, Oculus Rift is trying to create a true Virtual Reality experience that doesn’t make you want to spray your breakfast all over the floor. They are developing a headset that straps directly onto your head, and with the use of magnifying glasses, extends the screen so your peripherals have something to admire as well. People who have tried it report not being able to see the sides of the screen at all. It even has two different screens to simulate what it’s like to have two eyes, creating the world in Stereoscopic-3D. People who have reported feeling sick on Virtual Reality machines in the past have reported feeling no discomfort or nausea while looking through the eyes of the new Oculus Rift.
This hardware allows you to turn your head in any direction you can think of, and actually observe the world around you. You can crane your head up and examine the ceiling, or what’s behind you. You can look around carefully, even inch just slightly up out of your seat if you need to peak over an edge. You can even crouch down to examine what the underside of desks look like. You need a controller to move yourself around the world and perform actions, for now, but we can only expect this to be greatly improved upon in the future.
Does it succeed in tricking your brain?
In other words, does the Oculus Rift succeed in bringing a true Virtual Reality experience? I can’t say that I’ve tried it for myself, but basing it off of other people’s experiences, I think we can get a pretty good idea. There have been various different sorts of demos that people have been able to play or experience with this special headset, and everything that I read only enforced the idea that Virtual Reality is about to impact our modern market in a very huge way.
One man who states early on that he’s never understood how someone could be so terrified of a horror game, sat down and played a demo of Alien Isolation of the Rift. He reported inching down corridors, constantly checking his back, where his normal behavior would have been to charge down the hallway. It wasn’t long before he even contemplated throwing the headset across the room to run out screaming.
Another demo that found its way onto the Rift was a short Game of Thrones experience, that let the user ride up the elevator cart to the top of the Wall and look off the edge. Several people reported getting vertigo and their hearts jumping up into their throats. Whatever it is, something about these new advances in Virtual Reality manages to really hook your brain in.
Without even consciously knowing it, the brain begins to accept it’s new reality and it causes you to react as you would if the events were happening in the real world. For example, with the Alien demo, a representative reported how cool it was to watch people’s entire body tense up when they see the alien, and how they physically reel back in their chairs when it directly attacks them.
What does this mean for the future?
The future of gaming is obviously going to be great with these amazing advancements in Virtual Reality technology, but that’s not the only thing that it’s going to be used for. As many people may have heard, Facebook delivered $2bn in funding to the team at Oculus so they can deliver the best experience yet. However, Mark Zuckerburg isn’t trying to take over the hardware with FarmVilleVR or making you log into every game through Facebook. He seems to understand what the original intentions for the system are and doesn’t want to take away from that, but instead add to it. He proposed social interactions within Virtual Reality as a plausible way to interact with people from far away in the future. Who needs Facebook when you can set up an Avatar and meet ‘face-to-face’ with your friends and partners online, IMVU style?
This isn’t the only thing that people have thought up, though. Movies are already being created for the Virtual Reality headset, and people have thought of ways to get all sorts of different walks of life through Virtual Reality. Say you’re looking for a new house, well that could be easily accomplished by putting on your headset and opening up a real-estate application. Imagine you find yourself in front of a giant screen of house listings. After you find one you like, you touch that house on the screen and a door opens off to the side. Walking through this door will take you to the front of the house, where you can explore it’s every detail to decide whether you liked it or not.
There is no limit to the things that people could do on Virtual Reality. There could be applications for any kind of shopping, interior redesign, learning in the ‘virtual classroom’, and there could even be new jobs inside of Virtual Reality. The possibilities are endless, and honestly, that’s actually very scary. This brings up tales of societal strife that have been told through science fiction novels and movies, and the bad things that could happen to us if Virtual Reality were ever widely accessible.
However, I have this theory with Virtual Reality that it could make the world a better place. This theory stems from an idea I learned while playing a charming game on the 3DS called Fantasy Life. One of the morals of the story in Fantasy Life is that if you find yourself trapped somewhere for long enough, you appreciate it less and less, but after you have the time to explore a completely new world, you tend to appreciate home a lot more when you return back to it.
Although with Virtual Reality you won’t actually be leaving your home, you will still feel like you were a million light years away in some other universe. The advancements in this technology could effectively save our very planet, or at the very least, the human race. Simply because it can make the people who do find themselves caught up in these virtual adventures care about the world they live on a little more.
How is Virtual Reality going to grow?
A lot of what is about to follow is speculation done from heavy research into this Virtual Reality industry. There are multiple corporations who have already picked up the VR trend thanks to Oculus, and some are even working on projecting things into Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality glasses would project images onto your retina to believe something has actually appeared within the real world. This is going to be seen popping up widely, but it has no practical use for gaming with anything bigger than what an AR mobile game would be. That being said, there’s no way that Augmented Reality could toss Virtual Reality off the shelves. Virtual Reality is the future of video games as of 2015.
Oculus has already stated that they plan to add the ability to use hand gestures for controlling your game. Whether this feature will come with the Rift or not is not known, but they already have the basic idea for it down, which includes a front facing infra-red camera to detect the position of your hands. After that, Virtual Reality will only improve it’s controls to full human movement. A lot of people are under popular opinion that VR will become like holodecks from the popular science fiction series, Star Trek. While that would be nice, it would also be expensive, and purchasing something like that would take up a lot of room in your house. With a growing world population, we just don’t have the room for that sort of technology, at least not at first.
I believe that the next big breakthrough in Virtual Reality is going to break the barriers between the physical world and the virtual world completely. VR headsets may end up having the capability for hacking into your head’s brainwaves, transmitting signals into your brain that tell you what to see, what to hear, what to smell, etc. To move, you would simply do so as you would in the real world, as this device would intercept any signals your brain tells your body to do and make your avatar move in the world simply because you will it to.
I don’t believe the question is whether or not we are going to see this technology, it’s only a matter of when. By the time they get the tech to put the new 8k resolution into Virtual Reality hardware, we will probably already be taking full dives into the virtual world. Technology is advancing at an increasingly exponential rate. Before we know it, Virtual Reality will be pervading so many aspects of our lives that the possibilities would have made out heads spin just a decade before.
The future is coming, and it’s not slowing down for anyone.
Virtual Reality is the fantasy of yesterday and the reality of tomorrow. 2015 is right around the corner, and with it comes the biggest milestone in affordable Virtual Reality technology. The Oculus Rift is rumored to be released in April, with the intention of being affordable for users to get their hands on. The exact price for the Rift is unknown as of yet, but a Development Kit currently costs $350, which is less than the price of the newest gaming consoles out on the market. Oculus has stated that they are trying to keep the cost as low as possible to make it more easily accessible, and it’s all the enthusiasts on Kickstarter, among others, to thank for their generous donations to fund this project.