I remember a time when a Virtual Reality business setup shop in my hometown of Victoria, BC, inside Hillside mall. Run like a futuristic arcade, you stepped into booth and put a clunky headset on, you were given some kind of joystick and told you would experience virtual reality for a couple dollars a minute.
I loaded up Duke Nukem 3d (must have been around 1999) and was very aware of how much this VR experience was like pressing my face up against a large curved monitor, to make matters worse, the head tracking was laggy and the game experience was disjointed and awkward.
The VR shop closed down within a month or two, I walked away disappointed, wondering when or if we would see VR in our lifetime.
It seemed like so many movies that had represented VR in the past(Lawnmower Man, Johnny Mnemonic, and even newer ones like the Matrix) were way off the mark and the dream of true virtual reality would never be realized until the Oculus Rift appeared.
The founder of the Rift, a young man named Lucky Palmer didn’t want to live in a world that couldn’t conceive of proper VR headset. He saw that graphics and processing power of modern computers were simulating more realistic environments, that the pixel density of smart phone screens were increasing. Meanwhile sensors were getting cheaper and the advent of 3d printing converged to make it feasible to prototype a commercial device that could change the way people game, learn and even interact.
The Oculus is revolutionary in that it simulates a field of view akin to what you are used to seeing out of your own eyes with lag-free head tracking that essentially tricks your mind into thinking you are having a valid experience. I haven’t yet experienced it for myself , but there is a litany of videos of people trying it that all seem genuinely blown away
From urban youth to grandmothers and the all-important game development community, everyone is hailing it as the next big thing in interactive entertainment.
There is a case to be made for simulation and training of professionals as well as therapeutic uses and a place for it in a clinicians setting as well. This is a technology to keep your eyes on.