That thing which everyone has bought into recently. With so many devices flying out from developers and games coming that will support them, it’s not wonder that they are in the public eye more than they may have ever been. Why is it so popular and why is it everywhere all of a sudden? VR provides users with an immersive experience, an experience which otherwise would not be felt. It allows users to not only play a game, but be the game. It allows them to be the controller and interact with a 3D object. Sounds awesome right?
Yes, and it sounded awesome almost 100 years ago too. Don’t get me wrong, VR is cool and it has so many useful applications, however I find it all to be just a huge gimmick which will blow over once everyone gets fed up with it, and it will resurface in 5 more years, better than the previous iteration.
Way back in 1935 Stanley G. Weinbaum wrote a short story “Pygmalion’s Spectacles”. This detailed of goggle-based virtual reality system with holographic recordings of fictional experiences that including smell and touch. Let’s just appreciate that we are nearing a century since it was imagined and depicted on paper. Virtual Reality is by no means a new idea. The very concept inspired stories and science fiction and as with most inventions, this idea has become a reality. This idea has been attempted several times over the century, each becoming less cumbersome and more accessible.
1962 This was made possible through the Sensorama (that name though!) It engaged all 5 senses and allowed input and output through digital screens. Five films were created for the Sensorama and it can still be seen and used today.
In 1968 Ivan Sutherland, with the help of his student Bob Sproull, created what is widely considered to be the first virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) head-mounted display (HMD) system. The HMD was so heavy that it had to be suspended from the ceiling. The graphics comprising the virtual environment were simple wire-frame model rooms. The formidable appearance of the device inspired its name, The Sword of Damocles.
In 1978 MIT were creating Virtual reality maps. Users could explore Aspen, Colorado with 1 of 3 settings. Summer, Winter and Polygons. Pictures were taken of everything possible and this was used to create the virtual Aspen… Sound familiar? (Psst, It’s Google Maps!)
1980 – Battlezone, considered the first VR Game saw users plunge their faces into a periscope and control a tank. This arcade game is actually being brought back by Rebellion on Playstation VR and Oculus Rift.
1989 I shared my birthyear with the Nintendo Power Glove. An object to be placed over the hand, worn as a glove and buttons inputs could change what you wielded in-game and motions would be your input into the game. It lasted 1 year…
As you can see from pre-1980 there are some VERY familiar sounding ideas and devices. Over the following 20 years we would see gaming pick up for the arcade scene and eventually in the late 2000’s we would finally see an affordable and successful VR be brought to the home. A quick overview below.
- 1990 Virtuality machines deliver real time gaming via a stereoscopic visor, joysticks, and networked units for multi-player gaming.
- 1991 Sega VR Headset for Arcade
- 1991 The first cubic interactive room (CAVE – Cave Automatic Virtual Enviournemnt)
- 1994 Sega VR1 created for arcade
- 1995 Virtual Boy released by Nintendo
- 1999 The software/hardware which would later be used for Second Life was created by Linden Lab.
- 2006 Nintendo Wii released
- 2010 Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move released
- 2016 Oculus Rift and HTC Vive released
A recent discussion I was involved in resulted in me being viewed as narrow minded to the idea of Virtual Reality. “It’s the future!” This discussion was sparked over the AR game Pokemon Go, which I so “happily downloaded” As I stated then, I did it because it’s a Pokemon game and I’m far more interested in Sun/Moon than Go. I’ve seen the VR discussion surface many times, and after much research I found myself uninterested. When I come home from a day of work and spend the evening entertaining a child, I want to sit down and just play a game, spam some buttons and feel impressive. I don’t want to put on a headset, move around the room to take out my shins on the real world I now cannot see.
For me, it’s Sword Art Online or I’m not sold. I fully appreciate that to get to this point, we have seen so much progress. This progress cannot be made without trial and error. This progress will eventually lead to what I desire. On the Wii, I needed to do a full swing for a sword, that was awesome for all of an hour. I could flick my wrist for the same result and thats what happened. If it could be done with a traditional control, even better… I will buy into VR when my brain is the controller and being fully engaged by the game.
The real world application of VR and AR far more interest me than the gaming applications. I can more see myself going to a gaming arcade full of VR than I am sitting at home playing a VR game. The idea of a social interaction at an arcade for a fantasy/sci-fi/action game sounds interesting.
Am I being narrow minded, a luddite and have no factual basis for my view on Virtual Reality? Let me know, more than happy to discuss in an approachable manner via the comments.
Do you agree with Dean? Is Virtual Reality just a fad that’s going to go away?