In my last post, I talked about the Oculus Rift, an upcoming virtual reality head-mounted display designed for gaming. In the next few years, virtual reality will become a huge part of the consumer gaming experience. Instead of just playing games, people will be able to immerse themselves in games. Although the Oculus Rift is designed for gaming, it will have many other practical uses in the future.
The Oculus Rift features 360 degree head tracking, meaning every head movement is translated one-to-one into the game the user is playing. Looking to the left causes the game camera to look to the left, making the user feel as if he is looking around inside the world of the game. Stereoscopic 3D view gives each eye its own image, creating an extremely realistic 3D experience that feels natural and does not perceptibly alter color. A 110 degree field of view expands beyonds the user’s peripheral vision, creating an illusion of complete immersion.
Oculus Rift currently supports Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. It does not support game consoles like the PlayStation 3 or Xbox. Oculus Rift is aimed at providing an enhanced experience for computer gaming, and requires the processing power of a good computer to run. Other virtual reality devices (such as Sony’s) could allow gamers to experience VR on consoles in the near future.
With consumer-ready virtual reality approaching quickly, what sort of uses could VR have outside of the gaming realm? Since Oculus Rift is designed for gaming, it will undoubtedly provide an amazing experience for movies as well. Movies built for virtual reality will allow for a much more realistic experience, allowing the user to feel like a part of the action. The first movie made for Oculus Rift, Zero Point is an upcoming 3D 360-degree documentary about the development of modern virtual reality. The interactive trailer for Zero Point can be viewed on ReelHouse.
Virtual reality will change the world of architecture forever. Instead of being confined to 2D printouts or models, architects using virtual reality will be able to walk through their creations before they are built. Modifications can be made on the fly, so if an architect decides windows in a building might look better a foot higher, those changes can be made while he is still “inside” his creation. Lighting configurations can be tested the same way; the possibilities are nearly endless. Arch Virtual is a company that creates interactive 3D environments for architects to better visualize their creations. Recently, they have been creating environments for Oculus Rift, allowing architects and potential buyers to explore buildings before construction begins.
Are you afraid of spiders? Virtual reality may be able to help you. Exposing phobia patents to things they fear in virtual reality may help them gradually overcome their fears. For example, a patient with arachnophobia can be placed in a virtual room with a spider crawling around until he feels comfortable. One by one, spiders are added to the room until it is filled with spiders. Knowing that the experience is not real, the patient will have an easier time adjusting to the it. If at any time the patient feels uncomfortable, the program can easily be switched off. Similar methods of virtual therapy can be used to help treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Nevermind is a horror game that measures the player’s fear using a biofeedback sensor. The developers are exploring the possibility of integrating Oculus Rift support into the game.
The possibilities that virtual reality open up are nearly endless. By tricking the brain to believe that visual and audio stimuli are real, VR creates an experience that parallels real life. Anything is possible in the virtual world. While this technology will have many useful applications, some fear that it may have negative effects on our lives. What if virtual reality takes over people’s lives? What if people no longer want to go outside? What if it creates a culture of violence? These questions are valid, and it is true that virtual reality can be abused. However, the potential benefits of VR greatly outweigh the possible negative effects it could cause. Virtual reality is just beginning to blossom, and it won’t be long until this new technology is a cornerstone of many people’s lives. Although Oculus Rift may not be the only virtual reality headset available to consumers in the next couple of years, it will always be remembered as the device that began the VR revolution in the early 21st century.
Words by Martin Costa