Last week I was walking with my wife through our local shopping mall and came across a Virtual Reality (VR) Samsung display. Without any hesitation at all we both donned headsets and headphones to experience what the latest and greatest VR was really like.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with VR it involves putting on some goggles and the images for each eye are slightly misaligned so that you get true 3D vision. The headphones are regular and are typically designed to block out any external noise. A head tracking device completes the kit so that when you move your head the images that you are viewing also move.
I first experience VR about twenty years ago at the Walt Disney Imagineering labs and it was incredible so I was looking forward to seeing what the latest and greatest was like.
The VR gear that we were testing was built by kickstarter funded Oculus Rift (later purchased by Facebook for a couple of billion) and the headset used a Samsung Galaxy phone for displaying the images. It’s incredible how far the computing power of a phone has come!
What I was really looking for was immersion. That point in time where I actually believed that I was where my eyes and ears were telling me.
The simulation that I was experiencing was an ocean dive where I could swim with fish and eventually encounter a great white shark. It really was incredible to be able to look around and see everything. The actual shark encounter was pretty good although being eventually eaten and inside the stomach was a little macabre.
I found the head tracking and the displaying of the images really good. I’d move my head and the image would instantly follow. In the past this would create a sense of motion sickness as the image would lag behind your movement. The only time I did feel a little off was when the simulation moved me up towards the boat. I was doing anything and yet I was moving….this was a little off-putting.
For a device that will sell for a few hundred dollars it was an amazing experience. It has the potential to bring a whole new level of meaning to tele-computing, gaming and education.
For instance, could you imagine your classroom teacher talking about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and the whole class was waiting for him as he stepped down the off the Lunar Module! Now, that’s a whole new level of education!
Right now Sony, Oculus and Samsung are the forerunners in VR technology. There are quite a number of smaller startups doing some interesting things as well to facilitate the integration of movement and doing things such as simulating your hand in the virtual environment. All really cool stuff!
If you get a chance, I would highly recommend trying it out. VR is almost there but I’m sure with a bit more time that it will truly be a world changing technology. BTW – Oculus is planning on releasing their commercial headset around mid-next year.
Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face.
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