A quarter of a century after the original virtual reality (VR) craze swept the world, the technology looks like it’s finally going to make its way into our living rooms.
Many are claiming that 2016 will be the year of VR, seeing the launch of the Oculus Rift headset,closely followed by HTC’s Vive and Sony’s Playstation VR. Samsung’sGear VR headset arrived late last year.
Oculus Rift has had an inspiring story, a development long in the making which was literally Kickstarted into action in an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012. The VR headset soon helped ignite a renewed interest in the idea of immersing people in virtual worlds, and was snapped up by Facebook in 2014, increasing its profile further. The attention that VR is now attracting seems to show that now is very much the time for the technology to be embraced.
Many key players are now using this technology to tell their stories in new ways. Many channels and charities are looking to the technology to give a more immerse experience to their audience, and many documentary producers are realising just how powerful an immersive experience can be.
The technology is already being used for film making, with a major documentary on the famine in South Sudan having just been released on the Facebook 360 platform. The film is designed to be viewed using a Samsung Gear VR headset, but can be watched by those who are yet to buy into the technology using a mouse to adjust the point of view.
Sadly, in the first wave of releases, this technology does come with a price tag which may prohibit many from accessing it immediately – the Oculus Rift will comes with a £499 price tag and requires a computer that is sufficiently powerful to supply it with images, often at around £600. This means that a complete virtual reality system will cost just over £1,000. If using the HTC Vive, which incorporates additional sensors to track your movement around the room, the system will be even more expensive.
However, as computer technology continues to advance, these prices will inevitably drop. Until then there is likely be a surge of demand for shared virtual reality experiences in events, conferences, amusement arcades and theme parks catering to those who would like to experience VR without the price tag.
To this end, theme park operator Six Flags has teamed up with Samsung to launch a new generation of virtual reality enhanced roller coaster rides. These are traditional roller coasters where the participants wear headsets that give them the impression of flying through space or navigating a war zone
With virtual reality looking likely to become a billion dollar business, gaming and entertainment are only the start of the story, an incredible amount of other applications and arenas are sure to quickly follow.