If you’ve been watching Techvibes for the past few months, you’ll have noticed a trend in the coverage of events, and how there is an astoundingly large amount of gatherings around the industry of Virtual Reality. If you’ve been watching the world, in any capacity, you’ll have noticed the fever-pitched obsession tech companies have with developing VR for consumers.
A lot of people are putting big time and effort into VR with the assumption that it is the next evolution in human entertainment. A lot of people are right.
On the heels of an E3 that saw nearly every single press conference include the mention, or flat-out demoing of Virtual Reality games, it’s evident the video game industry is leading a lot of the charge on this one.
After the successful launch of both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, full-blown room-scale VR is evolving into a viable household option. Other avenues like mobile VR, and Artificial Reality (AR) are quickly gaining ground and provide much needed entry-level experiences to fans around the world.
Now – as it was just announced officially – gaming companies like Playstation are putting a heap of eggs in this basket. The PSVR will be launching this fall, and will run on the console that a lot of gaming consumer already own. This ease-of-access – that I spoke of being one of the biggest hurdles in the adoption of VR in my previous article The Future of VR as Told by Those Who Define It – sets precedent for the price tag of just $499, making it the cheapest in motion-tracking headsets. If the seemingly more affordable cost doesn’t catch your attention, the powerfully popular developers that are currently working on PSVR games courtesy their essential relationship with Playstation will likely push you over the edge. Currently, names like Rocksteady (Batman), Capcom (Resident Evil 7), Square Enix (Final Fantasy XV), and many others have announced titles/compatibility for the VR system, making console VR a very enticing situation.
The application to other screen-based entertainment is obvious as well. Plenty of opportunities even exist in screen replacement. The fine folks in Vancouver’s Finger Food Studios (or FFS for short, although they promise this was just a fluky acronym, and not a planned joke) are working with Microsoft’s AR machines, the “Hololens”. Using this, you can overlay nearly anything on-top of the living world around you, meaning you could ditch your flat-screen and place an AR video player in that blank space on your wall.
Video/Audio entertainment is also where Mobile VR really shines. Using headsets like Merge VR, or Samsung Gear, your mobile phone can become a virtual theatre, anywhere you please.
Eric Hine, Executive Producer at Archiact Interactive, spoke to me about his favorite VR experience being that of travel entertainment. “I can be sitting in my tiny seat, on the plane, and put my Gear on. Once I do that, I’m nowhere near that plane. I’m in a private theatre.”
Wow. What a thought. This form of on-the-go entertainment will continue to grow, and has the potential to completely dominate our commute – once we get over the stigma of slapping on a big, bulky VR headset in public.
But that’s not where the idea of Virtual Reality, and the application of it to the real world ends. Yes, entertainment industry often calls the shots and is the catalyst towards global adoption, but there is so much more here.
Virtual Reality Everywhere
“I think VR will massively change any screen-based occupation,” said Roadhouse CEO Tarrnie Williams at last month’s VEF VR roundtable. Which is a tantalizing idea.
There is this realm in which we use to deliver information; the screen. It is extremely difficult to find a career today that has a lack of screen-time. Most of the common monitors used in 2016 don’t exceed the width of 26 to 30 inches. Which is rather restricting don’t you think? It is most of the reason why a lot of computer-based professionals have desktop set-ups that utilize more than a single monitor. More real estate to work with, to work on.
Imagine, now, that you don’t have any monitors and instead your team works in a completely interactive virtual space. Just sitting at a desk like the one I’m currently at, I am stuck with a single rectangle, delivering my eyes the information that is these letters I am typing in constructed order. However, should I be sitting here with a Vive headset on, I could have a window open in front of me that contains this word document, a video player streaming Stevie Ray Vaughn live at Montreux to my left, a chat window with my colleagues on my right, and any research documents I may need behind me. All of these things would be available to me with just the turn of my head. I could literally (and yet somehow still figuratively, because it’s artificial) surround myself with information, instead of leaving it to this one, albeit rather large, BenQ display.
Applying this theory to any computer-based profession only outputs amazing results.
Take a moment. Think about it. I’ll wait.
VR is applicable to any company that is restricted by space or by location. As I’ve mentioned in prior articles, an entire studio could work from wherever in the world they please, because they could virtually be in the same room at the drop of a hat (and the donning of a headset).
Developers like Calgary’s Mammoth VR are working on VR for offices two-fold. One of their most impactful applications is the VR for Real Estate suite. Imaging staring at condo ads, tentatively falling in love with each listing as it flashes past, a bundle of nerves in an increasingly tense situation. There’s a new development in town and the sales pitch at the show room is impressive. The floor plans conceptualize everything you’ve been looking for, but the current home of your desired abode is a giant hole in the ground where construction has just begun. With Mammoth’s Tours, you can use Virtual Reality to walk around your new apartment before a single sip of cement is laid on the foundation of your future.
Mammoth’s second major application is their Corporate Training Tool, where by placing people into a virtual space opens up the possibilities of education by an innumerable amount. Humans naturally learn better when being a part of something, and that’s what VR does. No longer are you an observer of a scene, but you can be placed with inside of it; you can control it, affect it, create it.
Currently, only a few companies and their accompanied products serve the entire market, which won’t be the case for much longer.
HTC has recently launched the VIVE to major success, and this device is seeing what people are calling the first wave of absolute serious development on a large scale. Oculus Rift had a very successful crowd-funding campaign, before being purchased by Facebook for $2 Billion dollars in 2015, but has been heavily criticized for being slow on it’s delivery of application. Playstation VR, as previously mentioned, will be out this fall and looks to change console home entertainment as a whole. Meanwhile, other companies like Google and Samsung continue to forge and lead the development of mobile VR.
At this junction, it’s awfully hard to grasp exactly where the technology is going, but there’s one thing for certain; it will only go up.
For the past few decades, technology designers have been toying with Virtual Reality. I think back to the first time my brother and I set up our brand new Nintendo Virtual Boy. Granted, it wasn’t pure virtual reality, but we were no longer enjoying the games of our generation on a flat, 2D plane. This was the future, so many years ago.
The Current Reality
There is an abundance of things that need refinement before the average consumer will adopt the technology as their main tool for entertainment. That is a world that we’re still a little ways from. That said, the simpler pertinence, such as those described above regarding general workplace evolvement, isn’t far from becoming the go-to option.
Like a lot of technology, the average price-tag will continue to be a hurdle until such a time where mass-quantity headsets won’t burn up the entire capital raised by any start-up.
The other barrier is us, the technological world. A lot of what happens next sits on our shoulders. It is up to us, and the developers, to push the boundaries of what can be done in Virtual Reality – which I can assure you everyone within the industry is doing with nearly every exhale. More importantly though is building bridges with our actions, with our evangelism, our persuasion and education of the general public. This, I believe, will decide where the Virtual Reality industry ends up.
One thing you can count on however, is that these VR conversations are going to be sticking around. Our world is ever-defining the edge of technology and the impact it can have on not just the entertainment industry, but industries the world-over.
Today, VR is changing entertainment, healthcare, training, and architecture. Tomorrow, it could keep humans out of harms way, yet still hands-on, dealing with harmful chemicals. It could allow upper Manhattan residents to visit the Eifel Tower without leaving their living rooms. It could take racecar drivers out of the seats of a fast-moving motor vehicle and into the safety of an artificial world. It could change crime-scene investigation, environment study, galactic observation, and even mechanical construction.
Given the amazing opportunities awaiting VR, it’s hard to judge where it will go for sure, but it’s obvious that it can go virtually anywhere.