Virtual reality has long been a technological dream. Moreover, the concept of creating an entire personal space has always intrigued me. However, the technology necessary to make the virtual dream come to fruition has long been unattainable for digital consumers like myself – that is, until now.
Recently, companies like Oculus and HTC have released consumer models of VR devices, such as the Rift and Vive. In addition, Google has put their own dog into the virtual fight with Cardboard, and more recently the Daydream View. In this brief blog post, I will delve into the efforts of these companies, their products, as well as the future of VR applications from my perspective.
Let us start with the most notable name on this list: Oculus. First, let me get into some history on what many would consider to be a pioneer in the world of VR. Oculus can be considered to be the first company who really stepped into the VR limelight. An article on Wired even goes so far as to say Oculus single-handedly made, “virtual reality a reality.” Though the Oculus Rift was in development for many years (and even had a rather successful Kickstarter campaign), it was not until 2013 when Facebook purchased the company that its VR application made a real splash among consumers. Though the initial models did suffer from some hiccups (like giving some customers severe motion sickness), the Oculus Rift has come a long way. The same Wired article referenced above remarks that the announcement of the consumer-level Rift pushed Sony to announce their own virtual reality device just a few months later.
Now, you might have noticed me saying the word “consumer-level” quite a bit in the paragraph above. What do I really mean by “consumer-level?” Well, up until Oculus and Facebook teamed up to release the current model of the Rift, barely anyone could actually get their hands on one of the headsets. Today, anyone can order a Rift off of Oculus’s official website and beyond. Now, the headset is far from cheap – even today. The $599 asking price for the headset is far from reasonable for the everyday individual, not including the cost of the PC rig required to run the software via Steam. That is where the next competitor comes in…
Google Cardboard / Daydream View
For individuals who simply wish to try out the experience of VR without blowing their kid’s college fund, Google offers a dirt cheap alternative. Google announced their VR offering a few years ago, but I did not take the product seriously upon its release. As the name implies, the Cardboard is literally a piece of cardboard with two lenses inside. All of these not-so-high-end materials are slapped together with velcro and rubber bands… I am not kidding. Yet, the Google Cardboard offers an experience like nothing before. For the price of a dinner out ($14+ to be exact), you can buy a Cardboard and experience true VR using everyday technology.
What do I mean by everyday technology? I mean your cell phone. Google created the Cardboard with a slot in the front that perfectly fits virtually any smartphone. By just downloading a few apps by Google (namely YouTube and the official Google Cardboard app), anyone can pop their phone into a cardboard and experience VR. I have a soft spot in my heart for the Cardboard, as this product gave me my first experience with VR. Like most people, $599 is a far cry from what I am willing to spend for VR at this time. Moreover, I perform my daily computing tasks on a Macbook Pro – and a rather high-end one at that. Nonetheless, my Mac is incapable of generating the power necessary to run a Rift. I had always wanted to try VR, but it was not until I got my hands on a Cardboard that I finally got the chance.
Recently, Google announced their official, open-source VR platform called “Daydream,” which will be able to be built into any future phones and run within their Cardboards. In addition, Google announced a new fabric headset with much nicer materials than the Cardboard. The company aptly named their new offering the “Daydream View,” which I will be picking up as soon as I save up $79.
For the sake of this post, I am only covering two VR headsets. However, I encourage readers to investigate the HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR, and Sony’s VR offerings as well. I am thoroughly excited to see these different company’s take on VR with their own twists.
So where will VR go from here? Here are my thoughts summed up…
1. VR will get cheaper. Like I said, $600-$800 is a tough buy for most consumers. Unfortunately, these prices are just for reasonably entry-level VR headsets. However, I look to see the technology necessary for building these applications become cheaper, and as such, the headsets themselves drop in price.
2. VR will get better. As of right now, I still see VR as somewhat of a gimmick. Do not get me wrong, I will be the first one in line to pick up a Daydream View – but I still feel VR is far from perfect. I anticipate developers will step up their game when it comes to VR once more people have headsets in their possession.
3. VR development will become a high-demand career field. Like I said, developers are bound to step up their game when it comes to VR once people begin purchasing more of the technology. As such, demand for programmers in this field will skyrocket. As someone who is interested in coding and game development, I will have my eye on this job market.
That is all for this post. Did I miss something important? If so, feel free to mention it in the comments below. Until then, I am going to go watch some YouTube on my Cardboard.