Virtual Reality: The Next Big Thing™ (and why it’s destined to fail)!

I’m one of those weird people who actually like watching things in 3D. I have a 3DTV, and I’ll always happily put down the extra couple of quid at the cinema, to have things fly out of the screen and slap me on the face. I’ve never tried watching a film with dBox – where your chair shakes and wobbles in tune with the events being displayed on-screen – but I imagine that if I did, I’d like that too. Real life is for the most part, quite shit, and I’m a massive proponent of anything that makes my chosen forms of escapism more effective at what they do. I mean you haven’t truly experienced the brilliance of Irvine Welsh until you’ve done so in the discomfort of a Glaswegian smack den. Trust me; exhilaration isn’t the word.

The only problem I’ve ever really had with 3D, is getting other people to experience it with me. They’ll try it once, certainly… for about thirty seconds or so. They’ll even coo in amazement in all of the appropriate places. But even with the most amazing of visuals on offer and the lightest, non-existent glasses to wear, it never lasts for more than the most fleeting of moments before the novelty wears off, the glasses go back in their box and we’re back to watching or playing playing like peasants; The old-fashioned way… Which brings me to the latest Next Big Thing­™: Virtual Reality. Seems legit It’s amazing and I love it. Of course I do. I haven’t been this excited to own a piece of technology since I got my first modem. In the correct circumstances it is breathtakingly immersive! A real contender genuinely deserving of its NBT™ moniker. So it really is a shame that there’s no point in me getting one. The problem I have with VR, is that it is such a solitary experience. It takes a past time that only made its way out of the the bedroom a few decades ago and throws it straight back in there. Potentially forever. First off, you need to wear a VR headset (obviously), which blocks your entire field of view and replaces it with something only you, the current user can truly appreciate. After that (and I’m making an educated guess here because I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary), you’ll need to wear headphones, which again, block out any (or ‘most’ I should say,depending on the volume you set, noise cancelling tech et cetera…) sound you would normally hear from the world around you, and replace it with something only you, the current user can truly appreciate. And then there’s movement: http://stream1.gifsoup.com/view/275514/jamiroquai-virtual-insanity-o.gif Sony’s Project Morpheus headset works in conjunction with their previously released depth camera and motion controllers, to track the position of your head and each hand. This in turn allows the juxtaposition of your real world movements into a virtual space. Valve and  HTC’s PC based collaboration, the ReVive, uses base stations positioned around the room to essentially do the same. And if you really wanna get fancy, you could always go ahead and strap yourself into one of those 360 degree treadmills:

From what I’ve seen, all of these options appear to produce rather impressive results. And so, as long as you don’t mind standing in a fairly spacious empty room, waving your arms around with your eyes and your ears covered, you’re probably going to have a good time… Now I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to movement, I’m being more than a little bit hyperbolic: there’s no reason to assume that developers won’t continue to support the traditional suite of interface devices. Driving and flying games for example, probably won’t make much sense with you running on the spot to control braking and acceleration. And all that most first person perspective games would really be doing is supplementing your mouse or your right stick with the movement of your head and/or shoulders – the thing they were trying to imitate in the first place. But for sight and for sound there is no compromise: the only way it works is if you’re isolated. Isolated from your partner, from your kids, your parents, your phone, your doorbell, your pets and anything else that actually exists IRL. For anyone burdened with even the slightest amount of responsibility or interest in the people around them (i.e most people), this is going to be a massive deal breaker. Even if these headsets somehow ended up costing thousands of pounds a piece, it is this that would be the highest barrier to entry for anyone who otherwise wanted a piece of the action…
Then again, who am I kidding?  Real life be dammed! I’m getting two headsets! Just in case…

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2 thoughts on “Virtual Reality: The Next Big Thing™ (and why it’s destined to fail)!

  1. Vr due to its solitary nature has the potential to really bring out the worst in the human condition, people running off to worlds they can visually surround themselves in alone.

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