We had dreamed long for the coming of virtual reality technology that we can enjoy at home, just like in many futuristic illustrations. Currently, we have seen some progresses in VR technology, and apparently, it no longer becomes a concept or prototype technology. Some big companies have taken forward steps to the realization of virtual reality technology for public consumption. Although we still have homework to do related to upgrades, and there is still the matter of high price tag, we have been closer to the future where VR technology is no longer a distant concept.
With current progress in virtual reality, including in games, there will be huge opportunities to develop VR concept in other fields, including for education, real estate, design and architecture, exploration, defense and security, and many more.
Companies That Have Realized Virtual Reality Technology
Some big companies have been responsible for current progress in VR technology. These are mostly related to games, although there is also other VR technology breakthrough in non-gaming tool. For example, Google has released Google 360, which makes users able to experience virtual reality when using Google Maps. Sony is also involved in a new gaming development project called Project Morpheus, which is aimed to take PlayStation gamers to the realm of 3D virtual reality. However, the newest and most talked VR progress that has just happened lately must be Oculus Rift.
After years of being the center of discussion in the gaming forum, Oculus Rift headset was finally released on March 28th this year. This means that virtual reality is no longer a “prototype” technology, but something that public can finally access. Oculus Rift is not the only product that public can enjoy at home; HTC Vive also plans to release its new virtual reality headset after the Rift. Not only we can get more options in enjoying virtual reality game, but we also get closer to the future based on our past imaginations; the world where virtual reality is something to access from one’s own home, with accessible technology.
Will this technology lose its charm after a while, like how the hype of smartphone finally ended? It does not seem to be the case. Virtual reality game has been repeatedly predicted as one of the newest, rising trends in online gaming. After Dublin WebSummit 2015, the future trend of virtual reality has become a hot discussion topic. Google even starts to encourage programmers and designers to create apps, games and tools that are VR-friendly. If you are an Android user, you can expect more VR-related apps to be added to Android phones anytime soon.
Virtual Reality Game: the First VR Booming Trend
There are so many possibilities we can do with virtual reality technology, but so far, the most advanced progress we see in the field of VR is virtual games (and their related VR devices). This is reasonable, considering that VR games have been featured in various game and tech conventions, although only as prototypes or concept devices. In the past, VR gadgets were deemed too clunky, awkward, and troublesome to actually attach on the body (usually head or face). However, the new release of Oculus Rift for public has made us one step closer toward virtual reality as common technology at home.
Oculus Rift device is a progress in accessible VR technology. Although the product looks a bit big and clunky, it is surprisingly convenient, light, and easy to adjust. Right after its release, the device received quite rave reviews, which commented about its surprisingly advanced and adjustable features despite some minor flaws. The Rift also came with Oculus Rift app that has clean webpage design and more than 30 game options. There are also other games that are soon to be added to the Rift app webpage.
There are various upsides that have been noticed from the new Oculus Rift, such as:
• Fewer cables and easier adjustment features to make user feels more comfortable when wearing the gadget (there are two Velcro straps on the sides and one Velcro strap on top of the head for adjustment).
• Lightweight and comfortable (the weight is only about 0.8 pounds), with soft cloth lining on the inner part of the gadget, so it does not put pressure on the face.
• Embedded earphones and microphone so users can enjoy more immersive experience when playing games, especially RPG, adventure and shooting games.
• Compatible with Xbox (HTC Vive, the current main competitor of Oculus Rift, is planned to be compatible with PS4).
• Numerous options for games in the Oculus Rift webpage.
However, the Oculus price will be quite hefty for home users. It costs around $600, not to mention powerful spec and gaming screen you need to have, especially if your computer is from the old version. You need to do serious upgrade for an old PC, which means another extra price to add if you want to enjoy the magic of virtual reality game at home. Oculus Rift competition, HTC Vive, will also be released with quite hefty price; expect to spend around $800 for this virtual reality gadget.
Games to Enjoy with Virtual Reality Technology
Imagine enjoying a space shooting game where you are surrounded by realistic spaceships and laser beams. Imagine driving a race car in hyper realistic racing game, or being surrounded by horde of zombies as you cleave or shoot your way through them. You can now enjoy this 3D virtual world by accessing games featured in Oculus Rift app webpage. Later, you can also enjoy various PS4 games with VR technology when HTC Vive is finally released.
For the first publicly accessible virtual reality device, Oculus Rift offers quite numerous game options. Currently, there are 30 games offered in the Rift app webpage, and several upcoming games that you can later enjoy. The game options to enjoy virtual reality realm are quite varied, and they offer diverse experiences, from realistic shooting games to RPGs and racing games. There are also some family-friendly games that allow everyone at home to enjoy VR games.
Several space adventure games have made way to Rift app webpage, such as EVE: Valkyrie, science fiction adventure Pollen (coming soon), space shooting game Elite: Dangerous, and Adrift, an adventure game where you will find yourself in a ruined space station with no memory of how you got there at the first place. For family-friendly game, Lucky’s Tale is a colorful adventure game that is similar to Mario Bros 64, which gives you new view in the game compared to non-VR version. You can also enjoy hyper realistic racing games like Radial G and Project CARS. For the RPG group, Chronos is the most recommended game to enjoy with VR technology right now.
Finally, you can expect some exciting VR-versions of upcoming games, such as Edge of Nowhere, World War Toons, Rockband VR, and The Witness. There will be also some indie games to be featured in the Rift app, such as Surgeon Simulator, Naissance, Vanguard V, Pixel Rift, and even the 3D version of Atari classic game, Laserface. You can expect more games to follow once virtual reality become more common, especially when Oculus Rift becomes more accessible after its price goes down.
Are There Downsides of Virtual Reality Devices?
All new breakthroughs in technology come with new concerns. Virtual reality technology and any devices that are strapped on the head and face have been the center of discussion about health impacts. The immersive visual experiences with VR devices are also thought to have serious health impacts, especially if you play for hours (and we know gamers cannot spend only mere 30 minutes or one hour in one game!). Oculus Rift virtual reality glasses, for example, have come with several health warnings, such as:
• Headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
• Motion sickness symptoms.
• Disorientation and seizures.
• Lack of sleep.
Spending hours in hyper realistic game can also cause other problems, and they are not just physical. It is easy to spend hours in such games without you realizing it, and it can cause uncontrollable gaming habits that affect your study, work or social life. Your brain can also develop impulsiveness and lack of focus, because you are so used with realistic, dynamic, colorful stimulations. If you buy any 3D virtual glasses or other virtual reality devices, you must be careful to keep your daily life and routine in check.
Parents must also be responsible if they get the VR gaming device for their children. Discipline and time management are important so children and teenagers will not get carried away with the device. Parental supervision and self discipline are two important factors in preventing any negative impacts of using virtual reality devices, especially for gaming.
The Future of Virtual Reality in Other Technology Aspects
Virtual reality device has now been accessible for public. Although this first step is only in gaming industry, it means that virtual reality has future in other technology aspects. The possibilities of virtual reality application in various technology aspects are huge. Here are some futuristic ideas that have been considered related to the use of VR:
• Realistic surgery training with better accuracy. Delicate surgery such as brain or heart surgery requires great accuracy and dexterity. Virtual reality technology can help medical students to learn how to do delicate surgery with more precision and accuracy, using hyper realistic visual aid.
• Accurate 3D mapping for historical sites or buildings. 3D mapping has been a great help for archeologists and historians to study the architectures or interior of historical buildings and sites, because they can preserve the buildings or structures better, reduce safety risk (they do not need to enter a possibly fragile or convoluted structures), and reduce physical damages on the structures. Virtual reality can create more realistic mapping for these buildings or sites.
• Virtual reality as educational tool. VR devices such as virtual glasses can be great educational tools in various subjects. For example, teachers can teach students about historical sites by exploring the structures with virtual reality. Students can also learn about the world by exploring various geographical locations, such as the arctic, desert, or tropical forest in virtual reality.
• Virtual reality for design. 3D design and app are already common, but virtual reality can make design activity more realistic and accurate. With virtual reality, designers can get more realistic illustration of their final designs before they apply the designs in real world.
• Virtual reality in emergency and rescue services. There are many benefits first responders in emergency and rescue services can get with virtual reality. For example, this technology can help them mapping dangerous locations with better accuracy before they rescue people or do emergency services. Virtual reality can also be a great technology to support training, because it gives more realistic feeling before the first responders actually rescue people or do emergency services in actual locations.
• Virtual reality in real estate. 3D model has been very beneficial for real estate industry, but virtual reality can create more realistic preview of properties, for better presentation for customers and clients. Virtual reality will also give more accurate illustrations of the inside of properties, including important features such as emergency exits, plumbing lines, and many others.
• Virtual reality for defense and security. With virtual reality, soldiers that are deployed in combat can have more accurate mapping of the battle ground, especially if they must go to difficult terrains. In security, virtual reality can pave way for more effective missions, such as hostage rescue and urban war. This technology can be great training device for cops and soldiers, thanks to its hyper realistic visual.
The final verdict: virtual reality apparently will become common technology in the short future. Although the most accessible application in VR is now still related to games, it opens numerous possibilities in various fields. While there are some concerns and risks worth considering, such as the cost, upgrades, and possible health risks, virtual reality has possibilities in the future to cover all those downsides.