Feb 11, 2014
Virtual Reality may be here sooner than you might think. Sure, in 100 years or so we could probably insert something into our cerebrum to be placed in a virtual world, but VR devices are on the horizon. And are providing a surprisingly intuitive experience. 2014 could be the year of VR.
The industry has seen a lot of fads come and go over the past few years. Plastic instruments were only the beginning, with a lot of PS2 guitars now getting dusty. Motion controls were all the rage, with the Wii gaining a huge amount of popularity, alongside Sony adopting the Sixaxis, and PlayStation Move controller. And now it seems the “EyeToy” concept has returned bigger and better, with the Kinect and PlayStation Eye, with voice and gesture commands to revolutionise how we interact with our console. But are people convinced by this? Perhaps then, Virtual Reality could eb the next phenomenon to take over the industry.
Whether VR is a contender to rival normal gaming is debtable. Sure, there seems no downside to being truly immersed in a gaming world. Howerver, how much do people really want to wear a bulky headset whilst relaxing after work?
The Oculus Rift gained huge momentum, raising a staggering $2.4 million via Kickstarter. This at least shows that consumer demand is there, and that a number of the public would love to get to grips with VR. The Oculus Rift has already gained a lot of press and support, with titles supporting VR already announced. One such game is The Forest, which has passed Steam Greenlight, and looks set to provide an innovative approach to gaming. With news the headset is going to support Android, it could gain a number of new fans. Whether the Android market is strong enough to support additional accessories is questionable, but if micro-consoles become a success story, the Oculus Rift could find a new fan base. PC gamers are sure to embrace new technology and innovative ideas, with a colossal userbase on Steam, yet the future for VR on consoles is uncertain, with both major parties emphasising motion detection.
Recently, Sony filed patents which could hint they are working on their own VR headset. These were for a head-mounted display and an audio system, which seem very suitable for a Virtual Reality device. Unless they have some other wacky headset planned for the future. It seems then, if there is competition between the Oculus Rift and Sony, it could mean there isn’t a standard device set for the future, fracturing the market. Yet if Sony make their own device work with all, or most, of their PS4 games, it could prove very lucrative, and add to the PS4 experience. Yet could these patents relate to their current personal 3D viewers? Their headset is purely speculation at this point, but it does seem like a viable opportunity for Sony to jump on the VR bandwagon as they already have experience with similar devices. But with high pricetags, it seems unlikely their current devices will catch on. For gamers to get on board, the price will have to be quite low; as the Oculus Rift’s aim is to become an affordable gaming accessory.
Is VR a gimmick? A passing fad? Or will it come out to provide a revolutionary way to play your video games? It’s purely speculation, but there’s no doubt this has to be the endgame for gaming in the distant future.There are of course, examples which fell flat. The Virtual Boy is still regarded as one of the biggest mistakes in gaming, made by Nintendo. How much of a “reality” can you call the world of the Virtual Boy when everything is black and red?Of course, a lot of the popularity relies on the developers who support them. If Oculus Rift can get developers on their side, they could cause a shift in the industry. But these ideas are being developed and implemented presently, as technology has finally caught up with the vision; something that the Virtual Boy lacked.
The Virtuix Omni is also in development at the moment, which looks to alleviate the problems we have with true immersion; in that in-game movement is hard to replicate. The Virtuix Omni is described as ” allowing anyone to stand up and traverse virtual worlds with the natural use of their own feet.” The platform, with a supporting ring for the players weight, doubled with special friction-less shoes, manages replicate the feeling of walking or running through whichever environment you choose.
Despite the potential here, there are other versions that haven’t broke into the mainstream, such as the WizDish. There are other features holding back such products, including storage and price. But it does look promising for the future. This could be the first step into something very special, and at least there is potential for new experiences, with many players excited by the Steam controller, and disappointed by the innovation shown by Sony and Microsoft’s controllers. Although they may be concentrated on gesture-based interaction, there could be scope for change in the future. Teh Virtuix Omni does also support Kinect devices, alongside detecting basic arm movements itself. But for now, the TV is the most widely accepted output device, and asking consumers to shell out hundreds of pounds on top of a new console is quite something.
If these devices can all be combined, it could create something so close to reality, you may never want to leave video games behind. The price-tag is probably the only thing inhibiting these from hitting living rooms across the land. But this could be reduced in a few years time, perhaps as a joint package venture from these companies, if the demand was there.
Once the Oculus Rift has established itself, the company behind it have said they would like to make it compatible with things other than games. This could include movies or a desktop-like experience.
And then there’s the question of where Google Glass comes into all this. The same way smartphones have stolen a portion of the gaming community, could Google Glass do the same? The possibility for gaming seems limited; yet no one would have predicted smartphones would be such a popular platform for gaming now, and no one would have even known what you meant by a tablet. No doubt Apple will make some form of glasses device in the future, perhaps this will catch on as a major trend. Even if not for gaming, it could be used for other forms of entertainment, stepping on the feet of the Oculus Rift, and possibly providing more functionality for the user. So these could be indirect competition, and may well be the choice for many, who cherish functionality and various uses.
The fact is, that if this technology were to gain momentum, it could change the way we play games. Merely moving your head is far more intuitive and natural than an analog stick, and the potential is mind boggling. Imagine being in Metroid Prime, helmet HUD and all. Imagine exploring the realms of Skyrim on foot, looking up at the nights sky as you initiate combat with a giant. Imagine driving at 200mph in real time, looking down to change gears swiftly. Well, soon you won’t have to only imagine.