I’ll admit up front that I’m mostly a non-gamer. If you’re a non-gamer too, you’ll want to take a look at what’s been happening while you’ve been off non-gaming. What we’re seeing from the world of virtual reality (VR) gaming is coming fast and about to make a big dent in the entertainment world. And it is awesome!
VR gaming has had a long and rocky history, with gaming companies trying since the 80′s (and possibly earlier) to create 3D/virtual reality games for the consumer market. But adoption never took off. The biggest problems seemed to be graphics and realism (not to mention price). But that seems to be changing.
Oculus Rift VR is basically the golden child of virtual reality gaming headgear right now. Started as a Kickstarter project, it raised nearly $2.5 million! Some of the major selling points to Oculus, from my perspective, include its 110 degree field of view for full immersion and complete responsiveness so if you tilt your head, your view is going to change with it. Graphics are improving and major gaming companies are getting on-board, developing games to be compatible for Oculus, like EVE-VR.
Granted, the head gear does look a bit clunky, but the company is already working on consumer-ready version with a potentially better design, due out in 2014. Feature improvements are said to include better resolution, better head tracking, weapon tracking, and wireless support. The Oculus Rift price is expected to be in the $300 range.
A related virtual reality gaming product is the Omni Treadmill by Virtuix, currently in the middle of its own very successful Kickstarter round. The Omni addresses a longstanding question of how to integrate physical movement into virtual gameplay in an efficient way. Unlike previously prototyped multidirectional treadmills, the Omni has no moving parts. The base includes sloped sizes with grooves that a special shoe is designed to fit and transmit data to. So essentially you feel more like you’re walking or running even though you’re not actually going anywhere thanks to the base and gamer harness. You can change direction with ease and the system is designed to take up a very reasonable amount of space, given the components.
The solution Omni is a very elegant one and is what makes me think that this is going to be more than just another gaming accessory. If Oculus takes off, I expect Omni to have a product career path that follows the same trajectory, at least initially.
And if it doesn’t work out… we’ll always have the $35K Virtusphere!