Virtual reality (VR) is creating headlines. Within the games industry, VR gear is being marketed as able to promote the best immersion to date.
The Technology: VR Gear
The Oculus Rift started the trend in 2012 when the Kickstarter of the first development kit obliterated the goal of $250,000. They managed to raise nearly $2 million more than what they were hoping for. The HTC Vive then followed. Valve had teamed up with HTC to create a better version of the technology. 1080p resolution and 110 degree field of view.
Third-party developers are trying to further push the limits of immersion. Equipment designed to improve factors outside of camera views. One of these companies is Virtuix Omni. They are developing a piece of equipment that allows walking through the use of a concave surface, and a harness allowing crouching. Knuckles is the new controller from Valve being developed for the Vive. It will allow free use of all five of your fingers, not locking them to a controller. Releasing soon, Knuckles will provide a better way to interact than buttons on a controller.
Less common knowledge is that VR existed before. In the 1980s and 90s. Too far ahead of its time? It failed and the concept was forgotten by developers. Is it the technologies time to shine, or is it the second coming that is doomed to fail once the initial excitement fails and doesn’t live up to expectations.
What People Think
There are people on both sides of the fence about the concept of VR. Some say the future is bleak. Others say it is bright for the pioneers of the now possible technology.
Those with confidence see the opportunity to turn the technology into something that will be in everyone’s homes. With the technology having the potential to exist outside of gaming. Industries such as real estate and film could cash in. Within gaming, true first-person views would eliminate the immersion limit of the borders around the screen.
The crowds that believe that will fail think that there is not enough potential for it to be a viable product. There are problems that need solving. Motion sickness is a big one. The unnatural feeling of seeing movement while your body remains still. A massive obstacle that needs to be solved if the technology is to survive as a viable product and development platform.
Games within the realms of VR vary. Superhot VR is currently the top selling VR game on steam at the moment. A game that only progresses through time when moving. It is a unique game. A good one at that. Gun-running is a brilliant use of the platform, pretending to be a badass in slow motion doesn’t get any better.
Although I currently don’t own a VR headset at the time of writing, I feel the best games don’t involve movement. Elite Dangerous provides the concept. Sitting at the cockpit. Controls at your fingertips. A perfect use of the platform without the need for room-wide movement to feel authentic. Without needing significant tech that breaks the movement barrier. Having to rely on further equipment for a proper experience is wasted time and money. Especially at the cost of new technology. The inclusion of third-party technology also could help to find what’s missing. Leaving a feeling of unsatisfaction.
Google Trends shows the amount of people searching for the term “virtual reality” is increasing in popularity. This shows that there is an increasing amount of people that are taking an interest in what it has to offer. A good sign as it creates incentive for development. A larger market will attract increased budgets and therefore, more ambitious projects.
While the amount of people searching for the term doesn’t correlate with other factors involved in buying the product. Proving an interest in a concept does make investors more keen to profit off the consumer. If VR is to push forward, making the product cheaper for the masses. Convincing people to buy into the technology is the best way forward.
VR is a stepping stone in the world of tech. The limits of media for people to enjoy have been opened up to an entirely new form of delivering content. Gaming is only a factor in what the technology can do. There are talks of training medical professionals with it. Using it in construction for visualisation before a build. In gaming it will eventually provide an unparalleled experience which can be enjoyed by the masses. Unfortunately with the price point and only a few brave developers dare touch the technology.
In a few years when the price drops, VR will be advanced into the mainstream media. Until that point it isn’t justifiable for the casual consumer. If the price isn’t a barrier however, the support of the technology and developers could spell success or disaster for a real experience. When the problems have been ironed out and the wires are severed, experience will be incredible.
VR is continuing to make waves for now. But is it up to the task of embedding itself within the games industry and beyond? While the price remains high it can be difficult to tell if people will liken to the technology within the mass market. The computer was once thought to be a gimmick. Only time will decide the fate of this advancement of technology.