Virtual Reality is Coming
In the early 90s, there was a concept that peaked the fascination of millions of people around the world. For the first time, Virtual Reality wasn’t just for science fiction novels – it was a reality. Conventions showcased the impressive technology that promised an escape from the everyday. Just by donning a headset, players could be transported into a new world that was completely their own.
Companies like Virtuality lined arcades with their VR equipment and charged a hefty price to catch a glimpse of the future. It didn’t take long for word to spread that the future promised by VR was nothing more than a failed experiment. The software was riddled with bugs, expensive, and bulky. As quick as it appeared, it was gone.
Close to 25 years later and the world is yet again on the cusp of Virtual Reality. With companies like Google, Sony, Samsung, and Apple getting into the race, will VR finally take off, or is history bound to repeat itself?
The rapid rise of VR over the past couple of years began with the Kickstarter campaign for Oculus Rift. Even though the technology needed work, many saw the potential in it. Facebook ended up acquiring Oculus Rift for $2 Billion. The surge in VR isn’t due to Oculus Rift alone; the gaming market is considered to be the main reason VR is gaining momentum. Studies show that four out of five households in the US own a gaming console. As companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are constantly trying to beat out their rivals, it’s imperative to be the first ones to deliver a fully functioning VR headset to the consumer. With games producing some of the most detailed graphics ever seen, the technology that once hindered VR seems to be propelling it with crisp imagery, easy to use hardware, and affordable pricing.
Though there are over 1.2 billion gamers worldwide, VR must solidify itself in other markets if it wants to become essential. For instance, the TV was created to advertise to people while they sat at home, relaxing. Although TVs are still being used for advertising, people can do much more than watching their favorite show. They can play a game, Skype with family and friends, search the internet, listen to music, and even make purchases.
Virtual Reality companies must market their product to more than gamers. In the novel Ready Player One, the entire world uses VR headsets to operate their everyday lives. They work, go to school, travel, and sustain their way of life all from behind a headset. Products like the Oculus Rift and Samsung’s VR Gear must tailor to everyone. The possibilities are endless. People could test drive a car before buying it, tour a house for sale, walk through a store, purchase items, or even go to the movies without ever dealing with traffic, lines, or irate customers again. Many companies are already designing programs that will allow the consumer to view their product by simply using a VR headset. Accessibility, convenience, versatility, and pricing will be the deciding factor to just how big VR will become.
While virtual reality is still in its primitive years, the future seems to be much brighter than it was in the 90s. As designers continue to integrate VR into the mainstream, it seems only time will tell if we are witnessing the dawn of a new virtual age or just another fad that will eventually fade like the once 3D TV.
Article by Chris Piner