A whole new world, today
Led by Facebook’s purchase of market-leader Oculus (for a cool two billion dollars), an entire industry is beginning to grow around your mobiles. In this world, your screen is no longer a screen, but a portal to new experiences and the future of technology.
Let’s start with the big one: It’s taken over two years for Oculus to go from a car park experiment to a market leader in future tech, but in that time they have turned the perception of VR around in a big way. Though the Rift headset is their blue-chip product, it’s the GearV2 — allowing any Samsung smartphone to stand in as the screen — that is getting tongues wagging. By slotting your phone into the custom headset (the result of years of development and research) you can play games, watch movies, or even go on a virtual vacay!
Outside of the mobile world, Virtual Reality is on the tech world’s radar as the next frontier in entertainment. PlayStations’ Project Morpheus (now just Playstation VR) headset is close to landing in market, produced in sync with developers for VR-designed game experiences. Even Microsoft are in on the action with their half-virtual, half-augmented reality ‘Hololens’ tech that uses depth of field to bring screens in the real world. Everything from product design to turning your bedroom into a home cinema can be achieved with the swipe of a finger (and a few billion dollars in R&D).
For something a little more budget-friendly, Google Cardboard are attempting to make VR accessible to all, offering a similar mobile VR adaptor for as little as $3.95USD. Literally made of cardboard, it might not be the most comfortable headset in the world, but it’s a cheap way to satisfy your curiosity about the experience. These devices use a set of lenses to amplify the way your eyes perceive your mobile display, with accelerometers and GPS tech from your phone powering your body movements, and thus interaction with the real world.
The growth of these devices will usher in a revolution of content as hardware firms lock down partnerships ahead of their competitors. Google’s Cardboard Apps are opening up experiences to showcase the potential of VR: think YouTube’s 360 Videos, the Tiltbrush Paint Application, and a Sci-Fi game Proton Pulse. Fly above cities on Google Earth, visit the Palace of Versailles or walk through the solar system. Crytek’s forthcoming virtual reality game ‘Robinson’ is proving one of the most tantalising, albeit terrifying, possibilities here.
Where is it going to go?
Two years ago the concept of Virtual Reality was still in the realm of Sci-Fi, so no one could possibly predict where this emerging field will advance to next. At present, WiRED are report virtual reality-led surgeries by the infamous ‘DaVinci Machine’; the United Nations are producing Oculus 3D films that take you inside a Syrian refugee camp. And Google’s ‘Expeditions’ concept is pushing virtual field-trips to take students from Ancient Rome to Modern Tokyo in a heartbeat. From video games, movie experiences and education, your phones are about to do a whole lot more than you could imagine.
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