What Happened to Virtual Reality?

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It’s 2015. Shouldn’t we all be walking around with virtual reality goggles strapped to our faces?

We are living in the future. We haven’t invented the flying car yet, but sneak a peek at your smartphone  and tell me if that isn’t a palm full of space age. Technology serves a greater role in everyday life, in small and powerful devices.

Virtual reality refers to accessing a computer-generated simulation of an environment. Users wear helmets or goggles and often navigate with sensor-fitted gloves. Virtual reality should have taken us by now to battlefields and other places yet unseen.

Yet, has the allure of virtual reality gone the way of the desktop PC?

The technology hasn’t suffered. The Oculus Rift allows users to step into an immersive movie or spend time with friends a world away. The heavy-duty goggle device straps to a user’s head with earphones. It creates a “sensation of presence,” according to oculus.com.

Why has the concept remained on the fringe of this technological boom?

VR is everywhere – just look for it

InStyle is a sister publication for popular celebrity news magazine People. It’s in on the VR act.

The virtual magazine grants access to a cover shoot with model Drew Barrymore. The 3D experience gives visual access to the set, the clothes, the staff, and to Drew. You can experience it with cardboard viewers or by purchasing Google Cardboard.

Unaware that stuff happened? Join the club.

At least one prominent figure in tech hasn’t given up the dream of VR.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told a conference in San Francisco his thoughts on VR. He said he’d love to witness an event, such as his yet-unborn daughter’s first steps, in virtual reality. Zuckerberg envisions 360 video, and recognizes the hype of a technology with unfulfilled potential.

“There’s a lot of hype,” Zuckerberg told the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit. “People are very excited. People say there are going to be millions of units.”

What keeps VR from the mainstream?

Even if Zuck loves it … show of hands: Who here has VR gear at the house?

That’s what I thought.

The lack of a consumer model stops the show before it gets started. Jessica Kantor directed the VR short film The Archer. She told Indie Wire her friends can’t watch her movie, though. “I have to bring them over to my house just to show it to them,” she said.

For gaming, movies or virtual chat, hardcore users populate much of the VR landscape.

Lower-cost, casual-interest offerings could usher the VR age to the masses. Oculus Rift, the standard for VR equipment, can cost $1,500. That’s a prohibitive price for casual users. Samsung created an alternative for around $200, though. And the next generation, due out in Q4 2015, will cost 50% less.

Classic video games can help pave the way. Oculus Arcade, also set for Q4 2015 release, will include Pacman and Sonic the Hedgehog. Following its release of a Netflix app, Oculus will unveil other key partnerships. Expect Hulu, video-game streaming company Twitch and TiVo to be among them.

Zuckerberg appeared at another tech conference, in Hollywood, in September. There, he took VR to an even higher plane.

“There is always a richer and more immersive medium,” he said at Oculus’ developer conference. “The next logical step is fully immersive VR.”


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About Author

Eli

Eli studied English and Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte. A former sportswriter, he writes a blog about coaching his daughters in soccer and once was mistaken for racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He writes on the Internet and other technology. He’s a native of Greeley, Colo., an avid NPR listener and average disc golfer.

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