The saying “Everything old is new again” always holds a grain of truth and that truth is more evident than ever in the virtual reality realm. In the 1980s and 1990s, virtual reality was positioned as THE way we will all be interacting by 2010. Many tech writers and industry insiders started planning for (and looking forward to) the upcoming virtual reality revolution. Ultimately, expensive hardware, lackluster computer processing speeds and more efficient ways to communicate effectively killed the 1990s version of virtual reality.
Fast-forward to 2013 and things look a little different. The iPad is more capable than1985’s fastest supercomputer. The processing power of your desktop is about two THOUSAND times more powerful than the desktop of the 1990s (computer capabilities have tended to grow on a logarithmic scale). Present-day computers are capable of creating and displaying interactive three-dimensional world. The only thing keeping us from bringing virtual reality to the masses is cheap hardware to take advantage of today’s computers processing power.
Welcome the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift is a (relatively geeky) head-mounted immersive display. This allows the user to experience a responsive interactive three-dimensional world in beautiful 1080p. The lag and rough polygons of 1990s VR have been replaced with beautifully shaded textures and real-time head tracking at a cost of under $300.
What makes the Oculus Rift even more exciting is the pricing and availability of accessories. Paired with an Omni 360 degree treadmill, motion sensing Kinect and surround sound, you have a fully interactive 3d environment for just over $1000 (not inclusive of any software costs to actually build the world).
Use cases and tech demos are still being created but the future looks bright for this technology. It isn’t too hard to imagine a not-too-distant world where those who have an Xbox or PlayStation 3 also have an Oculus Rift. Nearly 150,000,000 Xbox360s and PS3s have been sold worldwide since their launch. This means you could have millions of people ready and armed to interact with your brand or message in an immersive gaming atmosphere.
Until the consumer market is saturated, events featuring this technology may be a great way to offer a unique experience that consumers will remember.