Virtual reality basically means a fully 3-dimensional simulated world that people are able to interact with physically, like a film that you can step into and influence the action within.
For a long time, the technology needed to allow people to experience virtual reality was extremely costly and this restricted it to ultra high-end games and movies, but this is no longer the case – as virtual reality is now going mainstream and is set to become an everyday part of life.
Virtual reality is making its first real inroads in the sphere of gaming and at the moment you can either play these games on a VR specific device or via downloadable VR mobile games.
The big devices in the case of the former are the likes of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and Gear VR, with these all now available to buy. Essentially they are headsets for the eyes and ears, allowing immersion in the simulated worlds of the games while still leaving you free to manoeuvre around the actual physical space you are inhabiting.
The headsets themselves have been well-received and making them comfortable to wear for long periods of time appears to have been a major focus of the companies that developed them – although some issues with latency, leading to motion sickness, have been identified.
Actual games remain relatively limited in number at the moment, but there has been praise for ones such as HTC Hive’s Pool Nation VR and Alien Isolation, for Oculus Rift. There are also some multiplatform games that you can play whichever of these headsets you have.
VR mobile gaming is currently dominated by the Google Cardboard headset, which plugs into a smartphone in the same way the Vive, Rift etc go into a PC.
It is a great deal cheaper than VR specific consoles and from a gaming point of view, the fact that it goes into a phone and thus gives you greater options for movement definitely enhances the virtual reality experience.
Alongside things like puzzle game BAMF VR, it also has multi-media app options such as Within – which features immersive concert videos and short movies. This could be key to the spread of virtual reality to other entertainment areas and it certainly seems ideal for things like poker, which are improved by a more ‘real’ environment.
However, despite all this, 2016 has not seen VR lift off in the expected way – which is being attributed to both continuing flaws with the major headsets and the prohibitive cost of most of them. These are problems that can be addressed however and that makes it likely that the explosion of VR has simply been delayed.
The flaws are little more than glitches and price levels will gradually drop the further VR moves into the mainstream, as has happened with tech devices in the past.
VR may not have set the world alight yet in terms of sales or popularity, but there is little doubt that it will be a major part of all our futures.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.