What Can Virtual Reality Do For Us?
Virtual reality (VR) has been getting a lot of hype in the gaming market ever since the Oculus Rift had its Kickstarter, raising a cool $2,437,429 (almost 10 times their $250,000 goal.) Since the success of Oculus Rift, the likes of Sony and Samsung have joined the realm that every gamer dreams of, the realm of truly entering the computer program like in The Matrix.
For those of you who don't know what Virtual Reality is (if there are any)
VR is when software and hardware assist in offering a user the illusion that they are in a different reality, this is also known as the sence of presence, of actually being there. The first mainstream venture into this technology was the Nintendo Wii, using the motion controls (the Wiimote) to give the gamer the illusion of performing the tasks in-game. Following this Microsoft released the Kinect for the Xbox 360 removing the controller from your hand and letting you "Become the Controller."
What we know is going to be available soon
At the moment there are three VR headsets that have been announced, there is the Oculus Rift which is the child of crowd funding, there is the the Samsung VR Gear which plans to integrate the Note 4 so that you can use it on the go, I wonder how many awkward glances you would get using it on the underground. And finally you have Sony's Project Morpheus, it's the direct rival to the Oculus Rift, and is also in development.
VR doesn't stop at headsets though. There is the Kickstarter project from Virtuix Omni which is an omnidirection (all directions) treadmill which while actually walking, running or sprinting, allows your legs to be turned into inputs to be directly translated into the game as movement, for example to run, or to walk. Also there is Control VR another Kickstarter project with Brandon JLA on board from the popular YouTube Channel Node, and formerly part of FreddieW (now known as RocketJump) which is designed to work alongside the Oculus Rift to input life like arm movements into games.
Purposes outside gaming
VR is very prominent in the gaming industry at the moment, although there are many great possibilities for it being put into other industries. One big area for its use would be for fighter pilots during simulations giving them a true feel for what it is like to be in an aircraft, this would cut the costs needed for large simulation 'pods'. Other uses include allowing surgeons to practice surgeries, bringing us surgeons who are even more highly skilled right out of education. Or even for theme parks, to test rollercoasters with the public before building them, thus gaining an idea of what the rollercoaster would be like and if the public enjoy it.
Although I look forward to using VR for gaming, I feel that it is set to have more use outside of gaming. This is because with professional use you are able to acquire more expensive hardware which will allow you to feel what is happening not just see e.g. a simulation chair for fighter pilots.
What I noticed from my brief experience with the Oculus Rift Development Kit 1 (known simply as DK1) was that I could not break the gaming habits, the use of the mouse, keyboards or joysticks for movement which started to make me feel ill. This was something which surprised me because I don't usually suffer from motion sickness like this. Also being someone who is long sighted, I kept focusing on the gaps between the pixels on the low resolution display which was rather disorienting. However the DK2 has a much higher resolution but of course I have not tested this.
"Don't you feel a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole?" - The Matrix
Virtual Reality in Gaming Today
So in the world of gaming today it is mainly being used in indie games, which are looking to make that 'revolutionary feature' which will get them sales. You see integration with the horror games which have a lot of jump scares, these games have plenty of videos of people screaming on facecam over on YouTube. The recent Alien: Isolation, by Creative Assembly, has Oculus Rift support and many say it makes the game just that much more real and frightening. There are some games which are still in development at the moment which have Oculus Rift support that look interesting, most of these games feature you flying as a space fighter pilot, an example of this is Elite: Dangerous, or Star Citizen. These games look like good fun, although as you would need to have a good joystick I may not be suitable. The only one I have is my Dad's which he got nearly fifteen years ago.
Node playing Alien: Isolation using the Oculus Rift
The fact that the Oculus Rift will not be out until 2015 means that there aren't very many mainstream games with support for it, excluding the aforementioned Alien: Isolation. Although Team Oculus have mentioned that they want to create an MMORPG which uses the Oculus Rift. I hope they do not try this until the Rift is built comfortable enough so that most people are able to use it for extended periods of time. In addition servers will need to fix all their latency issues, which they often suffer from in MMOs today. However, what I wouldn't mind seeing is an RPG with Rift support, allowing you to use it offline without those connection issues.
The Future of Virtual Reality
So we've already got VR which allows you to monitor some of your movements and relay them into a virtual world. But there is so much more potential in the future for VR. One thing that comes to mind is the ability to insert yourself into the consciousness of the person in a game allowing you to feel they're emotions. Pain being an optional extra, however I don't think that my back, or any part of me, could take the punishment that some game characters do, for example Isaac Clarke in Dead Space 3, or Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.
There is even the ability to allow people to have virtual relationships, from their own homes. This idea is greatly shunned in modern society as most people call it weird. Even when people are meeting and deciding to have a relationship through online games such as 'World of Warcraft'. However I don't think this is a feature I would use, but for people who struggle in social situations, it could be a way of aiding confidence. It could also be a way for bed ridden people to have that special person, even if they 'only exist on a server', or to get the feeling that they are walking again.
In which ways would you want to see Virtual reality used? Do you think it can benefit gaming or general use more? Maybe both the same? Let me know down below.