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The Joys of Virtual Reality

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Virtual reality (VR) is here… kind of. In recent weeks, we’ve been inundated with news about the Oculus Rift, the Samsung VR, and just about every other tech company hoping to cash in on this latest trend. Steam, one of the world’s biggest gaming platforms, even put up a page specifically for the promotion of the HTC Vive – one the most advanced virtual reality platforms available today.

It’s a strategic move. While the virtues of buying current-gen VR products is still debatable, there is no doubt that the technology is exciting. And even though the product can be prohibitively expensive ($800 or so), every day, more content is being generated specifically for VR tech.

So if you’re wondering if you should jump in now and buy a VR device, you could check out our reasons why we like virtual reality:

Off The Coucha

One of the most exciting things about VR is that you have to get off your seat and move around. The HTC Vive, for example, has a 3.5m x 3.5m ‘recommended space’ for its room-scale setup. You can walk around, jump, and crouch for that full-body experience. Maintaining your cover in a first-person shooter, suddenly, is a much more active endeavor.

And then there are the games where a specific motion is needed – like where you have to draw a ‘bow’ to hit targets with an arrow, or cross a ‘ledge’ on top of a skyscraper. Now you can (must?) crawl, shimmy, and bend over to succeed. Whoever said that games are for couch potatoes would need to revise their opinion.

360o of Funa1

Traditional perspectives are so passé.  While technically, games with a 3600 field-of-view have been around for a long time, the act of physically turning your head adds realism to the experience. Turning your head is slower than a quick swipe of a mouse, that’s for sure – but shouldn’t that be the standard anyway?

3600 videos are also becoming all the rage. Whether it’s a 3600 view of the skies of Azeroth from Warcraft, or a simple music video from YouTube personalities like Kurt Schneider and Kina Grannis, there’s an increasing amount of content featuring 3600 perspectives. In the future, we hope to find content that will utilize 3600 in a more natural way – to make use of the technology because it makes sense, and not just because it’s novel.

Also, 3600 tours of places would be a boon for those who can’t afford to travel. Imagine having a virtual tour of The Louvre – where you could see the world’s finest art as if you’re there yourself, minus the long lines and annoying tourists who only went there for the selfies.

Gaming Upgradeda2

Due to the immersive nature of the technology, VR pushes gaming into a whole new level. Something as simple (in games) as riding a roller coaster suddenly becomes intense.

And then, there are the games that you’d never think would work because it’s too mundane suddenly becomes charming due to VR technology. A game about petting a dog, for example, would be too simple – unless you have to run to catch the dog and stroke him in the right way to tame him. Or an educational game about electrons in an atom – add an electron in a specific way (by jumping to reach a specific spot) becomes much more engrossing than clicking your mouse.

It’s an exciting time to be a game developer with a new technology platform to play with. It would be interesting to see VR games coming from the big game studios. Imagine an Assassin’s Creed game using VR tech, for example, or a Street Fighter game where you’d actually have to dodge and throw punches and kicks. As my sporty friends would say, “It’s a whole new ballgame.”

Fantastic Environmentsa3

Witness the birth of a star from the far reaches of the cosmos. Search for underwater treasure in sunken galleons. Battle in feudal japan along with a thousand other samurais. Watch the sunrise atop Mount Everest. Slide across a person’s capillaries, hunting for viruses. ‘A whole new world’ doesn’t even begin to describe the fantastic environments that virtual reality can bring.

VR technology offers a new kind of reality – something different, something that pushes what we’re familiar with. It’s the next big platform for content – whether it’s videos, games, animation, photography, tours, even education. While the technology is far from perfect (resolution, lag times, ease-of-use, and affordability are a few of the key issues that still need to be worked out), it is undeniable that VR heralds the next wave in technology.