Virtual reality may finally be heading to the gaming world after decades of failed attempts and lackluster consumer adoption thanks to the Rift project by Oculus. The virtual reality headset has the backing of industry-leading names like Valve and Unity at a weight and price point that may be well within reach of many average gamers.
That said, is the world ready for virtual reality? Having just gotten used to movement-based control technologies like Kinect and the Wiimote, could a visual immersion technology like the Rift be that final piece to the technological puzzle that gamers of tomorrow will be using?
What is Holding VR Technology Back?
We’re just getting used to not having to have a controller in our hands to interact with 3D worlds. Being able to wave or move your hands to control your character is a natural and fluid method of control. Adding a device will be a hard pill to swallow for some users while others still may lack the stereoscopic vision necessary to make use of 3D technologies that require both eyes to cooperate together.
Until recently, the idea of a VR headset that didn’t weigh a ton (or cost a small fortune) would appear to be far-fetched if not for modern screens being thinner, lighter, and significantly cheaper than previous models. Pixel density is also a concern, especially when the screens are so close to the user’s eyes. All of these issues have been holding the technology back, which has its roots in the earliest days of personal computing.
What Would Make It Work?
For VR to really take off in the consumer market, a number of factors need to be taken into close consideration. First, the price of the unit would have to be within grasp of the average user. If the market isn’t large enough, the game companies won’t develop software for it and the platform itself will die. Accessibility is key, and money is a huge barrier to making a product viable for consumers.
Another big hurdle that the technology has to bound is perception. It’s difficult for any technology to get a second lease on life after so many conceived failures have come about. Do you think that Second Life would suddenly become a breakthrough success because a new viewer came out? It would take an incredible (and obvious) breakthrough to make the average person reconsider what is currently an obsolete and perceptibly failed technology. You have to convince users that the genre wasn’t ready yet, but it’s redefined and ready for action.
Think about the tablet PC from the early 2000s and how miserably the product line failed to achieve saturation in the consumer market. It took a very different approach and a lot of clever marketing to create the buzz around tablet computers that exists today. A new world of operating environments and interface methods had to be developed in the public eye to make it work, and it did.
Is VR as we know it today a tough sell? Yes. Will something like the Oculus Rift potentially revive and turn around the public’s perception of virtual reality as we know it? Quite possibly.
What do you think? Is the world ready for virtual reality, or do we need to rethink the entire platform over again?
Photo by Chris Desmond via Navy.mil