The Race of Virtual Reality

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Since the introduction of the Internet on the 6th of August 1991, virtual reality was a concept that many of us dreamed about. Even before then, the idea of an artificially constructed reality was alive in the popular television series ‘Star Trek’. We have got many brief glimpses of what virtual reality was like in the past. Google Street View, for example debuted in 2007, allowed us to have full 360 degree vision of our surroundings. This was going in the right step, but it would never be as compelling as the Oculus Rift VR headset.

The Oculus Rift was developed by self-thought electronics expert Palmer Luckey, a pioneer of virtual reality. He had quite an interest in virtual reality from a young age. He was disappointed at what virtual reality headsets were like, mainly owing to the fact each headset was poor at being user friendly. Luckey decided to learn from these mistakes and develop his own personal headset. His biggest obstacle at the time was money. In response, he started a Kickstarter, a public funding website for projects to develop his prototype. The public were astonished at what Luckey managed to achieve. His headset even impressed a member of a video company called Id software. The company, exceptionally impressed at Luckey, decided to use the Oculus at E3, the biggest entertainment expo in the world. The public practically threw money at Luckey after that. With the money he gained he was able to create the first headset.

The first headset titled DK1, was released to the public in late 2012. The unfortunate problem of the headset was that prolonged use of it created nausea. Everyone was still pleased with it despite the side effect. While software was being developed for the first headset, the second was already in development to be improved. Last year, the people who initially funded Luckey on Kickstarter were outraged because he sold Oculus Rift to the social media giant Facebook. Facebook purchased it for a two billion dollars. They assured everyone that their vision was in line with Luckey and that there was no need to worry.

But maybe the owners of Oculus should. Entertainment companies Sony and Microsoft, video game developer Valve, and Google have created all of their own individual headsets. Sony’s Project Morpheus, a more aesthetically pleasing headset that acts identical to the Oculus Rift was developed for their console, the Playstation 4. Their rival Microsoft has the Hololens. A piece of hardware that although is a virtual reality headset, it doesn’t construct a full reality for you. It projects objects around you. Valve teamed up with phone company HTC to create the HTC Vive. This too again acts similar the Oculus and has access to Valve’s digital games service Steam and software developed by HTC. The last of the competitors is slightly different to the previous mentioned, it is Google’s Cardboard. This uses low cost materials to create a headset. Once you put your phone into it you have your own virtual reality.

There are lots of positive impacts to our lives that virtual reality shall bring. It may be used for education purposes in tremendous ways. Learning for children may be made fun when an entire separate reality, different to their own is created before their very eyes. Soldiers may learn how to use a parachute, or even diffuse a bomb. Socially it might be able to be a fantastic tool. With the presence of online multiplayer video games, players could interact in an even more deeper and rewarding way. Virtual reality has its problems though. The biggest problem present is that although the general people may use it socially, it won’t suffice as a substitute for real human interaction. If people do end up considering it to be a substitute, then it can impair their social development.

Virtual Reality will be the next thing that will grasp the imaginations of those working in the entertainment and technology sectors. How advanced it will become is not known but with the rapid progression of technology today, we won’t be too far off from having a virtual reality headset in every household.

-Edward O’Neill

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