The Virtual Reality Revolution Just Got Real
I often wonder where my love technology originates from but it doesn’t take too much armchair psychology or self-analysis until I arrive at an obvious conclusion. Whether it be getting my hands on the Atari 2600 that fused cutting-edge technology with a classic wooden veneer finish and wondering if one day people from all over the world will be able to play against each other or staring at 3D images though the humble View-Master.
My first introduction into the future possibilities of virtual reality can be traced back to 1982 and the Tomytronic 3D Sky Attack game. However, I did not expect to wait nearly 30 years before a virtual reality solution would be available.
Cynics will quickly point out that despite heavy promotion 3D Television never took off, and that involved convincing consumers that are wearing a cheap pair of 3D glasses was the future and who in the right mind would invest in the expensive purchase of a virtual reality headset?
However, a quick look at both the companies and money involved should be enough to make you sit up and take notice of the influx of virtual reality products coming your way over the next six months.
Samsung Gear VR-powered by Oculus will arrive first on the scene on November 20th for only $99 but it’s designed to transform your existing Samsung phone into a VR headset. The concept simply upgrades the Google cardboard experience but if you don’t have a compatible Samsung smartphone, then this option won’t be for you.
Many will remember that Oculus Rift was acquired by Facebook for a colossal $2billion and news of an ongoing resurgence from Second Life reveals that it has a higher GDP than some countries. You don’t need to take a huge leap of faith to realise that this could be an early indication of plans for the social media behemoth to bring a virtual Facebook 2.0 in the near future.
The first quarter of 2016 is where things will begin to get interesting when Oculus Rift arrives for what is expected to be over $350. With the backing of Facebook and their bottomless pit of money, I would hope that they will spend whatever it takes to make the product a resounding success. It’s Achilles heel is that it will require a beefed up PC to explore VR which is fine for PC gamers but not so attractive to anyone else.
The HTC Vive VR headset is promising to arrive during the holiday season but could cost more than most people will be willing to pay. Although the device has a fiercely loyal set of fans, who will quick to point out that technically it’s crisper, and clearer images combined with real-time 360 movements makes it the best pick of the bunch.
However, those who already own a PS4 who want an out the box solution will find Sony’s PlayStation VR incredibly tempting for gamers wanting to experience 21st century VR gaming.
While these options all involve strapping on a headset and transporting yourself to a mother VR world, Microsoft is offering something a little different with their HoloLens product that concentrates on mixed reality rather than virtual reality.
With Microsoft HoloLens you’ll see the Minecraft world, and gaming, in a whole new way. Untethered and in mixed reality, nearly any surface can become a portal.
Rather than all the action taking place inside the headset, Microsoft brings an element of augmented reality (AR) that has the power to fill your living room with gaming characters.
It’s not all about gaming and think that we need to closely monitor the developments on companies such as NextVR, who are looking at transforming live events by using headsets to get much closer to the action.
The idea of navigating the traffic, parking, crowds and expensive food and beverage prices is enough to fill even the most hardcore of fans with dread. It is not beyond the realms of possibility for sports fans or music lovers to attend that event on the other side of the world in the comfort of our home in an immersive experience that lets you soak up the atmosphere like you were actually there.
This is no longer future technology but happening right now and anyone who was lucky enough to have watched the Porto v Benfica in 360-degree virtual reality will testify how this is a real game changer.
Although, everything seems to be geared towards gaming, it’s easy to see how this will evolve to offer 360-degree cinema experiences for Hollywood blockbusters, front row seats to a concert or even be used to make exercise fun on the dreaded visit to the Gym.
Users can already experience what it’s like to climb Mount Everest, but the most striking aspect of this future vision is that the likes of Google, Microsoft, Sony, HTC and Samsung are investing billions of dollars into this innovative vision for the future. However, once again Apple are nowhere to be seen and seem to have an adopted more cautious approach of waiting to see where technology is heading rather than leading the way.
Virtual reality gaming is only the beginning of this journey, but where it actually takes us will be the most exciting
Let me know your thoughts from a user and business point of view of how VR can be a game changer by commenting below.