Virtual Reality 101
The future of simulating different types of reality is coming. With the use of virtual reality (VR), we can trick our brains into thinking we are in a different world. 43 million people in America and 171 million people globally are using VR at least once per month. The demand for the standalone VR devices is predicted to grow 16 times between 2018 and 2022. VR has arrived and it is set to take the world by storm.
VR is a simulated environment created by the use of computer technology. Unlike other user interfaces we have experienced, VR allows users to have an experience in the simulated 3D world by using as many senses as possible. However, the simulation has its limits due to the computing power that is available at the moment.
VR technology can be used if you have a component called a head-mounting-display (HMD). These are manufactured by brands such as Samsung, HTC and Google. However, some companies are using a cave automatic virtual environment (CAVE), which is a room made up of monitors and sensors that lets the user get a better experience in the simulated reality.
Since VR is set to explode in coming years, let's go over all you will need to know to get in on the trend.
The Difference Between Traditional Games and Virtual Reality
Every year companies in the video game industry evolve by improving their interface, graphics and user experience. VR allows gamers to have more feel for the game they are playing. It also allows gamers to be more engaged because VR tricks the brain by showing a different version of what is in front of them.
This is different from traditional video games, where a gamer would only look at a screen while playing. With VR, players can easily change perspective, and the sense of exploration is much more potent. VR will allow gamers to experience vibrant new worlds up close, and the experience will be lifelike.
As VR technology gets more advanced, it will also be possible to simulate movement much more accurately. It will be a complete paradigm shift and a much more physical experience. VR will be able to combine all of your senses to provide a more compelling experience.
The first-person nature of virtual reality makes it more reactive and interactive. To provide a good user experience, VR has to be detail-oriented. Everything that looks like it could be interacted with, has to be interactive — otherwise, there is no immersion. The result is an experience that is far more subjective and personal in comparison to traditional gaming.
VR also cancels out many immersion-hindering aspects of gaming, simply by its design. In VR, alt-tabbing, pausing, or simply looking away are not an issue. There is nothing to break the natural flow of the experience. There are no safety nets. The last barriers between what is happening in the game and what is happening to you are removed.
Immersion will be the deciding factor. As of right now, VR is still a recent development, so it can be a bit rough around the edges. But the idea has a lot of potential and a bright future ahead of it.
The ground-level differences between traditional games and virtual reality are vast. There are many hurdles to overcome. VR does not work well with traditional refresh rates, and locomotion is handled completely differently.
But these differences also hold much promise. As this is uncharted territory, there is no telling how much innovation and originality lies in store. The rules of VR game design are not set in stone. It’s impossible to predict how this new type of experience might evolve and diverge from traditional gaming.
Why is VR Becoming Popular?
We can see the rise of VR over the last three years. Why is it getting more popular? When we were kids, we used to imagine ourselves in a different world, drawing bubbles out of thin air or even becoming a Jedi. 10 years ago, that was not possible; it was just a dream. But now we can make our dreams a reality.
VR gives us this opportunity. It also gives us a chance to experience the creativity that game developers put into their games. For example, if you want to be a ninja, you can play a VR game and experience life as a ninja, thanks to the game developers who brought the game to life.
The safety aspects of VR is also why it has gained popularity. More theme parks are using it as an attraction. Instead of putting someone on a real-life roller coaster, they just use VR headsets to give the same experience. With this method, it is cheaper and helps ensure safety.
VR will breach the last remaining barrier in digital interactions. No matter what you do online or on a computer, you are always aware that you are staring at a screen. VR will put us in the middle of the action, and there will be no going back from that type of immersion.
One of the reasons that VR is becoming popular is the sheer scope of uses for this technology. We’ll expand on that later in more detail, but VR has the potential to radically alter many areas of life.
A surge in popularity has also been noticed due to prices dropping. VR is still a relatively new invention and a young industry. As time goes on, headsets will only become cheaper, while the VR experience will keep becoming better and more complex.
VR in Education
VR has also begun to alter the way we learn. VR in education has enormous potential, and it will no doubt revolutionize the way we approach education. As virtual reality slowly makes its way into classrooms worldwide, this process of change will only get faster.
For starters, VR can break down geographical boundaries. Virtual space can be accessed and shared from anywhere in the world. It may seem far-fetched right now, but it is entirely possible that in the future, showing up to school in person will be a relic of a bygone age. This quality of VR can also help bring education to millions worldwide who currently lack it. VR will also allow us to attend classes or lectures thousands of miles away if we so choose.
VR can also be used to transport students to real-world places that are far away or inaccessible. Google Earth VR already offers this function. VR is lifelike, and context is important for learning. Any history lesson would become a thousand times more interesting if you could visit the site of the historical event. VR will eventually become so commonplace that a virtual class trip to the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and Mount Rushmore will be standard-fare in history and geography classes.
Allowing students to visualize and directly experience what they are learning about adds real-life context. Moving within a virtual space, interacting inside that space and using all your senses will be a huge leap forward in education.
VR will also allow us to practice without fear of failure. Industries around the world are already experimenting with this idea. From rehearsing a symphony in VR, to practicing public speaking, to job training, VR will allow us to freely explore our interests without the usual self-doubt. Job training will also change forever, and some high-risk jobs, such as surgery or bomb disposal, are already being taught this way to novices.
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Future VR Technologies
The most common assumption is that VR gaming will continue to dominate the wider VR industry. It’s easy to see why one might think that, because this segment is the largest at the moment, and helped popularize VR. But this is a narrow and shortsighted perspective.
VR is a technology that will be able to lay itself into the groundwork of many existing industries. One interesting concept is VR cinema. While this will not replace traditional cinema, it will allow us to experience works of art in an interesting new way. In the future, VR will also allow us to experience re-creations of historical events.
VR will be a huge step-up for journalism and documentary filmmaking. Some big news outlets are already experimenting with VR tech. The way we consume media — whether it be movies, the news, or video games — will become much more immersive.
Another industry that will change due to VR is tourism. When combined with other technologies, such as photogrammetry and 360-degree video capture, VR will allow us to experience far-away and even inaccessible, hazardous locations. It may seem like science fiction now, but in the future people may very well be able to take a quick tour of virtual re-creations of places, such as the ocean floor or the moon. The possibilities, to put it bluntly, are endless.
One of the key elements of VR’s future is the social component. VR will bring us closer together, in an entirely new medium that is much more akin to traditional communication. Skype, Facetime and Messenger are convenient but detached and impersonal. VR will allow us to have immersive, authentic social experiences online. This will revolutionize digital communications, and the possibilities of virtual reality social networks are immense.
The medium of VR will also allow us to share workspaces and collaborate on projects more conveniently. VR will also eventually make its way to shops and showrooms, allowing us to browse and peruse from the comfort of our homes.
VR has a promising medical potential. It’s still early days, but VR is being successfully used for therapy, both mental and physical, as well as treating PTSD. Along with this, VR has the potential to radically improve older patients’ quality of life.
How and Where You Can Experience VR
The easiest way to experience VR is to purchase a headset of your own. But these are still pricey devices, and buying one for yourself is a big leap. Luckily, the VR industry is heavily connected to showcases and promotions.
Your local shopping mall may very well have a demo available to the public. These usually consist of short introductory levels with the goal of familiarizing you with the interface. They can be a good sneak peek into what VR is like.
One interesting trend is the advent of VR arcades. VR arcades offer you a perfect way to dip your toes into the waters of virtual reality gaming. Another important factor is price, as VR arcades allow you to enjoy a gaming session for a relatively low cost.
VR arcades are the cutting-edge frontier of the industry. They have not been standardized yet, so each experience will be different. Some VR arcades offer single-person stations where you can enjoy a single-player experience, while others offer larger stations, sometimes with seating, for small groups.
The library of games available also varies from arcade to arcade. But there is always a common thread: visiting a VR arcade is a new and exciting experience. Some VR arcades offer a premium experience, with haptic vests that simulate impacts from damage, backpacks and laser tag-style guns.
The VR arcade industry is currently centered around China but is quickly spreading across the globe. The VR arcade industry is projected to become a $782-million business in 2021. According to those projections, by that point, VR arcades will likely make up a third of the entire industry.
The lightning-fast expansion of VR arcades may end up bringing about an arcade renaissance. This interesting concept has the potential to become the new social hub of the future. Gaming could very well shift from the privacy of peoples’ homes to this new breed of arcade.
Price of Virtual Reality
The price of VR depends greatly on the type of device. VR headsets for computers or gaming consoles typically cost somewhere in the $400 to $1,000 range. VR headsets for smartphones can range in price from $10 to $100. Standalone VR devices typically cost between $150 and $1,200.
Some of the best VR headsets for computers and consoles are:
- HTC Vive Pro: $799
- Valve Index: $999
- Pimax 8K: $800
- Sony PlayStation VR: $290
Some of the best smartphone VR headsets are:
- DESTEK V4: $60
- Samsung Gear VR: $130
- Google Daydream View: $45
- VR Box VR 3.0 PRO: $7
Some of the best standalone VR devices are:
- Oculus Go: $200
- HTC Vive Focus: $650
- Lenovo Mirage Solo: $400
- Oculus Quest: $399