What the Future of Virtual Reality Implies
Strap on a rectangular-shaped black headset, and you can climb to the top of a mountain covered with snow, or you can experience a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. That is the promise of the VR headsets such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, which gives us an idea what the future of virtual reality really is like.
As inspiring as the technology is today, many people believe that it is still in the initial stages of development. That’s because the recent effort in bringing the virtual reality–style have collapsed in the past such as the Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. But the newest crop of gadgets of virtual reality seem to be more solid and promising. Thanks to their much-enhanced head-tracking capabilities, graphics, and more.
Some have viewed the evolution of virtual reality as closely as the companies developing the hardware that powers it. In an interview with Nelson Gonzalez, former CEO and co-founder of the Dell-owned gaming PC manufacturer Alienware, and Frank Azor, the general manager of the same company, they talked about what they have learned about the virtual reality and where they consider that it is going. Below are the important points from our conservation.
Future of Virtual Reality: Will It Become More Physical?
Anyone who has experienced or seen the HTC Vive knows that there is some physical activity involved with virtual reality. The Vive and its two virtual controllers are equipped sensors that allow the players wield an imaginary paintbrush or swing a virtual golf ball.
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But the thing that the Vive or PlayStation are presently missing is the sense of feeling or touch. Although it may look to you that you are swinging a golf ball, but the device in your hands still gives you the feeling of video game controllers. (Currently, the Oculus Rift doesn’t support any type of motion controllers. Oculus has plans to launch such devices later in 2016.) These will be the first areas in which virtual reality will improve, according to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said, “The next evolution of VR would be where you participate physically in that VR world. And not just sitting down; if you’re a quarterback, you actually get to throw a football, and you can interface with the team. So that kind of stuff, it’s there, it’s going to happen.”
Incorporating better touch controllers will just be the beginning. Azor believes that the future of virtual reality will see VR devices refining concepts that were first introduced far in 1962 with Sensorama, which incorporated the elements such as smells and wind.
Azor said, “Headsets today are doing an excellent job at catering to your visual senses, and a little bit of audio as well. Well, that’s just two of the senses . . . Once you begin catering to the rest of the senses, like what we feel body-wise, temperature-wise, and smell, the reality factor of virtual reality [becomes] stronger and the virtual piece begins to fade.”
It is not clear exactly how the technologies like the Azor described will take shape. But some companies are definitely trying to shape these technologies. Leap Motion, a startup that developed and launched a motion-sensing camera for the computers in 2013, is now working on the technology for interacting with the virtual reality environments without the help of a controller. Thalmic Labs will also make an armband that is capable of controlling the electronic devices using the gestures that work with Oculus Rift.
Gaming and the Future of Virtual Reality
Azor said Oculus Rift will probably be remembered as the first modern virtual reality headset. But it takes more than one device to influence the virtual reality industry in a meaningful way.
Azor draws the comparisons to the method that the gaming industry advanced over the previous decade. PC became better equipped to give the high-end gaming experiences as the other companies like AMD, Intel, and Nvidia developed more powerful graphics processors and chips. Games became more accessible on the PCs as the companies such as Steam developed platforms for easy browsing and buying content.
He said, “Everyone rallied around [the PC gaming] industry and now we have what we have today. VR is the same type of thing; no one company can solve all of the problems.”
Wireless VR Headsets Won’t Happen Soon
There are the two classes of VR available to the consumers today: portable and cheaper devices such as the Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR and beefier, expensive systems that give more immersive experiences to the consumers such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The former is plugged into your smartphone to provide virtual reality experiences that are convenient and wireless, while the later should be connected to a PC to get the high-end performance. Sadly, in the future of virtual reality, we won’t see wireless VR headsets happening soon.
But when talking about the future of virtual reality, it is unfortunately unlikely that we will see the arrival of the wireless high-performance device such as Rift soon, mostly because the wireless technology is not progressing at the same speed as the virtual reality hardware.
Azor said, “By the time we solve that, as an industry we’re going to want to give you version two of the product, which is going to become the new benchmark. Wireless technology is on a different schedule, that’s where the issue comes in.. . . The latest and greatest will be wired for a fair amount of time moving forward.”