If you look at the incredible graphic detail of video games today, and you wonder what your kids could possibly be playing in the future, we guarantee you that it will be some version of this technology…
Virtual reality (VR) has a chequered history. Those of you old enough to remember the virtual reality gaming machines that sprung up in arcades in the early nineties will also remember how incredibly crap the graphics and gameplay were!
At the time, gaming giant Sega attempted to develop a VR project for home use, but poor feedback and limited processing power of the console put paid to the idea. As a result, initial excitement over ‘the future of gaming’ gave way to apathy and it just sort of faded away.
And for many years it stayed that way, with development instead pouring into the 3D industry for cinemas, and then home entertainment systems. Some of these home entertainment systems even supported 3D for certain gaming platforms, as long as the game was compatible.
However, it’s not until recently, with the significant advances in processing power of the PCs available for personal use (for a cost, that is), that a VR headset like the Rift has become viable.
The units use an inertial measurement unit to detect the movement of the head, and dual displays positioned directly over the eyes to give a fully immersive experience. With most games these days offering a full interactive 3D world in which you can look all around you using the game controller, adapting that for a headset was simply the next step.
The Oculus Rift is by no means the first, or the only VR headset currently in development out there – there are similar headsets being developed by HTC, Sony and other lesser-known developers. For something truly unique, check out the Google Cardboard, a free-to-download design for a headset that you cut out of cardboard, and stick together, with two eyeholes, that works with an app to create a VR headset through your very own smartphone!
However, the Rift is most likely the only one you’ve heard of. This is because the developers have been extremely smart in their strategy, beginning the Oculus Rift project by raising funds as a Kickstarter. Anyone who donated a certain amount would get a ‘Developer Kit’, which was basically a prototype of the headset. These prototypes were upgraded as development continued, but this meant that software developers, gamers and others could get their hands on the headset and participate in the development process.
As a result, this allowed them to get a head start in the field, and combine their development and marketing strategies, successfully to make the Oculus Rift the device that everyone was talking about. The plan paid off, and Facebook acquired Oculus VR in early 2014 in a deal worth well over $2billion!
As a result of their successful strategy, it is the Oculus Rift that is the device being talked about, tested and used by people all over the world. We came across it recently ourselves at a Fiat event in London, where we viewed a specially developed visual presentation for the car through the Oculus Rift, and it was mind-blowing! More recently, the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi had an Oculus Rift experience at its launch event for the 2015 Abu Dhabi F1 GP.
We’re now also seeing more and more videos online of game hackers who are adapting the Rift to work with titles such as the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto V, with impressive results. It’s not perfect yet, but as new major gaming titles are released, you’ll see more and more that are compatible with the Rift, especially on PC. There is already a significant list.
The uptake of people willing to develop software that is compatible with the Rift, and the apparent ease of adapting it to existing software, is what will firmly establish it as the go-to choice for VR headsets, much as the iPhone did for smartphones all those years ago.
We promise you that this hardware heralds the arrival of Virtual Reality in a big way – it’s affordable, it’s adaptable, and it’s playable.
It’s the future!