Will Virtual Reality Last?

by , Dec 8, 2016 | 12:00 am

Virtual reality is an industry that is currently experiencing a renaissance and it seems that the whole world is talking about it. The latest range of VR technology released onto the market is far superior, more engaging, and vastly advanced compared to the gadgets that last boasted the technology. The big question on many lips now is whether this is the real deal or not?

Back to Virtual Reality

The concept of virtual reality first became popular in author Stanley G. Weinbaum’s short story called “Pygmalion’s Spectacles” in 1935. Readers were taken to a world where the characters could use goggles to explore an artificially intelligent world that tapped into all the senses of the human body.

It was not until 1962 when inventor Morton Heilig built the first ever virtual reality prototype machine called The Sensorama. This was a bulky mechanism that consisted of attributes that would impact on a user’s sense of smell, touch, sight, and sound. Just six years later, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland, with the help of his student Bob Sproull, created what is credited with being the first ever virtual reality headset. They called it The Sword of Damocles.

Unfortunately, the practicality of such a device meant that the technology never captivated the mass market. The idea of virtual reality was then shelved until the 1990s when computer console developer SEGA released the SEGA VR for use on arcade games and its Mega-Drive console. The same year, Virtuality Group launched their own VR headset onto the market. These devices became the first VR headsets to be released to the mass market.

Sadly, it was once again the practical side of the technology that caused problems. The devices were criticised for being too heavy, displaying unrealistic graphics, and giving users headaches. Understandably, this resulted in the sales of the devices stuttering and virtual reality was once again placed at the back of the development queue.

After two decades of no progress on the virtual reality platform, something changed. In 2010, designer Palmer Luckey invented the first prototype of what would later become the Oculus Rift. Four years later, social network site Facebook purchased Luckey’s firm Oculus VR for $2 billion. A new era for virtual reality had arrived.

The following months saw developers launch a number of headsets onto the market. The Oculus Rift officially launched, HTC and Valve Corporation partnered up to release the HTC Vive, Sony developed their Playstation VR headset, the Google Cardboard hit the market, and Samsung’s Gear VR was released. It felt like a revolution.

Oculus Rift headset image

The Oculus Rift is part of a new wave of VR headsets revolutionizing the industry

A Watershed Moment

The past year has been a truly momentous time for virtual reality. The level of confidence and investment in the technology has suddenly increased to heights beyond expectation. The most clear indication of this has been within the gaming industry.

Headsets released over the past 12 months boast the ability to be able to offer more to users than just games and experiences. Virtual reality over the years has been a technology that can be used to help surgeons practice surgery, engineers discover faults in machinery, architects to plot a new building’s design, pilots to practice flying aircraft, military personnel to train for combat, and even as a channel for watching pornography.

Casino gaming has experienced one of the starkest impacts from virtual reality. Live casino gaming opened the door of possibility for casinos when it came to virtual reality. Using computer camera technology, casinos linked up live casino tables to the players’ computers so they could enjoy the authentic casino experience from the comfort of their own living room. This transferred to the ever-growing mobile casino industry.

According to industry specialist Sophie Bearns from OnlineCasino.ca ‘There is now potential for virtual reality technology to come in and take the casino gaming experience to the next level. Soon, players might not only be able to hear and see the casino but they will also be able to smell and touch the casino.’

The fact Canada’s online gambling laws remain a “grey area” means VR casinos may take some time to arrive but the casino world in general is watching VR closely.

Live casino image

Live casino gaming has made the possibility of VR casinos a realistic aspiration for developers

What Does The Future Hold?

Initial reviews and feedback relating to the new generation of virtual reality technology has been very positive. However, it is widely considered that the technology is very much still in its infancy. This is not necessarily VR riding the crest of a wave but merely the wave only just starting to form.

Fox Sports announced their Fox Sports VR broadcasts in September 2016 that is a series of telecasts showing Fox College Football on smartphones and VR headsets using 180 degree rotations so viewers can soak up the whole atmosphere of the game. This is something that almost certainly seems destined to move into the ranks of the NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA over the coming seasons.

Start-up venture Jaunt have recorded footage for their product that will put users in a position where they can experience live music gigs and festivals using VR technology. The company used footage from a Paul McCartney concert to give viewers the opportunity to experience such an event first hand. The prospect of expanding on this to more artists and events is a mouth-watering possibility for music fans.

Virtual reality is also destined to become more physical. Right now, motion controllers are not available for all VR devices. The HTC Vive and Playstation VR lack that sense of touch that takes VR to the next level. That is certain to be a priority for improvement for developers with products going wireless a likely next step. Currently, VR mainly caters for the senses of sight and sound. Creating technology that equally impacts on touch and smell will be the next evolutionary step for VR. If you are looking for the best PlayStation accessories, you may visit the SCUF Gaming homepage and see the latest gaming accessories.

In the long term, developers have spoken about nanotechnology where miniature computers can be inserted into the human body to get the body’s chemicals to produce feelings and sensations that relate to a certain experience. It is a future that is just as exciting as it is frightening.

The VR renaissance is very much here. It is a technology that still holds some drawbacks but the interest and determination to push VR to a new level is stronger than ever before. There are some hurdles that the technology needs to overcome in the short term but if it can deal with those and maintain its momentum then this could be the start of something very special.

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