Virtual reality as a concept has existed for many, many years. But outside of science fiction, the possibilities of VR have been somewhat underwhelming. In recent years, VR has experienced the early stages of a renaissance, due in no small part to the Oculus Rift. However, the Rift is not the only player on the scene, and now that gaming is “professional” there are a number of forces at play that will shape this industry in the years to come. Here is a look at some of the topics that are currently making a big impact in the world of virtual reality.
1. Oculus Rift Crescent Bay Features
No discussion of modern VR would be complete without mentioning Oculus Rift, and the latest prototype from Oculus has brought even more features to the market. Though not a new hands-on developer kit, the Crescent Bay prototype has been getting great reviews from the tech media for its improved build quality, and the head tracking technology that serves to increase the all-important notion of “presence,” or immersion in the VR experience. With each new version, the Rift is now showing the effects of its major financial backing from Facebook and is looking increasingly like a polished consumer product.
2. Google Cardboard
At the other end of the financial spectrum, Google has demonstrated that big money is not required for a VR experience, perhaps in slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion. At a recent Google I/O conference, attendees were surprised to find a piece of cardboard under their seats. As it happens, the piece of cardboard was a ready made housing for the user’s smartphone, transforming it into a VR device. As surprised as many were with the move from Google, it was even more surprising that the makeshift cardboard solution offered a quite capable VR experience. Google Cardboard has spawned commercial offerings of the solution from companies like DodoCase. However, the idea looks far less farfetched in the light of Samsung’s collaboration with Oculus called GearVR, which is essentially the same principle as cardboard using a Galaxy Note 4 and a housing with better comfort and build quality.
3. Valve Virtual Reality
Another company that has gained some attention in the VR space is gaming giant Valve. Some thought that Valve was creating a competing product to Oculus Rift, and some reports from users of the Valve device stated its performance was even better than that of the Rift. The reality is that the Valve device is proof of the robust and wide ranging research activities that go on at Valve, and that the company has been working in partnership with Oculus and sharing information.
4. Apps for Oculus Rift
While many have been impressed with the capable hardware of the Oculus Rift, the long term success of the platform will ultimately be reliant on software. Fortunately, the success, attention, and money that has gravitated to the rift has created a robust community of developers and companies betting big on VR. Some are surprised to hear that not all of the software being created for the Rift is focused on gaming. From art, to design to real estate and architecture, new applications of VR are emerging that point to a far more ubiquitous future for the technology than merely gaming.
5. The Proto Awards
The immersion and presence of VR have placed it into a genre all its own. Taking elements from gaming as well as other media like television and movies, VR will undoubtedly stretch the boundaries of what’s possible in a technology experience. Though the modern resurgence of VR is still in a very early stage, there are titles that are already offering a glimpse of the possibilities. One way to take an early look at these titles is through the Proto Awards, an inaugural event that was held in Los Angeles in September 2014. Many of the honorees of the awards offer a taste of the possibilities in VR experiences that will be available to consumers in the coming years.