So what is virtual reality (VR)?
First things first, you’re going to need to know what VR actually is. Yes, as the name suggests, It’s an experience of a world that doesn’t actually exist. This virtual reality is created by a computer that allows you to view and interact with a 3D world through a display (mounted on your head) and some form of input tracking (head movement, eye tracking etc).
The display is split between your eyes, creating a stereoscopic 3D effect with a similar effect for audio, and these all come together to create a believable experience, allowing you to explore the virtual world being generated by the computer. VR will make you feel like you are there mentally and physically. You turn your head and the world turns with you so the illusion created by whatever world you are in is never lost.
VR as we know it today has been kicking around for decades. To give you an idea, the first head-mounted display wasn’t Oculus, even though this is the device that arguably drove the VR renaissance, it was a device called Headsight that was created in the 1960s. But there were non-digital predecessors. The technology has been used for all sorts of things over its 200 years from science and medicine to training pilots and helping architects present their latest skyscraper, allowing people to experience walking through it before a brick has been laid.
So this is not a new concept at all but it has been popping up that 2016 is the year of VR. I don’t agree, I think it’s more like just a soft introduction (to those who can afford it). VR is all about full on immersion, so you’ll get the best taste with something like the HTC Vive (R11800) or the Oculus Rift (R8900) from Facebook not forgetting the incredible looking Hololens from Microsoft (R44000), nope that’s not a typo. It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll need a pretty high spec PC to connect the headset to, so add another R10-15K to your VR bill. There’s also the PlayStation VR which at R5900 is pretty reasonable compared to it’s competition, provided you own a PS4 already.
Sure there are cheaper alternatives most notably Google Cardboard (R200) or the Samsung Gear VR (R1500) which are both amazing for anyone who hasn’t experienced Virtual Reality before, I was pretty entertained for the first few weeks using it but then you long for something better.
A lot of companies are embracing low cost VR and pushing cardboard to their customers to engage consumers on a new level.
All these devices are essentially first generation, remember the PlayStation 1 or DVDs? Technology evolves at a rapid rate, so the VR we’ll be getting in the next 5-10 years will be the stuff of dreams. Hap-tic suits (which react to your body’s every movement), sensors and tracking software that will be sure to trick many people into believing the impossible.
Imagine your very own hologram (or avatar) able to interact with a virtual environment, shopping for clothes, attending a class or visiting a photo realistic version of your favorite movie. Then throw in a social network like Facebook and you’ll be able to connect with people in a way you’ve never imagined. Sitting in front of a screen would feel like like using a Nokia 3310 (a mobile phone that you could send texts and make calls on). We a have a generation of toddlers that can operate tablets and smartphones already, surely they’ll grow up with a hunger for tech and fully embrace VR.
Confined to a single room, unplugging from “The Matrix” every now and then to sleep and eat, sure they’ll be connected but they’ll be even more isolated than our batch, (stuck to our smartphones and laptops). Will family and friends have to speak to each other in a virtual scenario?. You already have continuous access to the people you want to speak to at this very second. Most people enjoy staring at a 5″ screen for the majority of their time anyway. VR will be no different.
Ready Player One is an awesome book portraying the not so far future. I strongly recommend reading it if you’re interested in this stuff or you can wait for Hollywood and Spielberg’s version in 2018. VR is here and here to stay, the benefits and possibilities are endless, the future looks bright for people wanting to escape reality and learn more about world, lets hope we don’t like it too much.