Life sure can be a bummer at times, many individuals who utilize technology as an escape from boredom often find themselves turned off by the electronic devices that once helped them pass the hours. If you were fortunate enough to have owned a Tamagotchi when you were younger, then you are well aware that technological gadgets can only keep you occupied for a certain amount of time until you find yourself craving for something else. We all, at one time or another, just want to escape the reality to live in a dream world.
If you do not have the slightest idea of what I am referring to, then I would highly recommend that you take some time out and watch a movie titled Ready Player One directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie itself is a decent one-time watch, which was released in 2018 and can be viewed via Spectrum on-demand. The crux of the message conveyed by Ready Player One is that one can escape from reality by using virtual reality since it allows them to embark on adventures that one can only dream of.
The movie is set in the year 2045 and the technology showcased within has not been made available as of yet but we are slowly and surely getting there. The question at hand is how far away when compared to the technology available today.
Virtual Reality Is Born
The concept of Virtual Reality (VR) has been around since the 1970s but has been reserved for use for medical and military purposes. Sega announced the Sega VR in 1992 and was actually showcased during CES in 1993 but never made it into the hands of the consumer.
A VR headset dubbed the VFX- was demonstrated during the CES event of 1994, which had a stereoscopic display and 3-axis head tracking coupled with stereo headphones. Sony just happens to be another pioneer of the VR headset since it released the Glastron in 1997, which included positional sensors that allowed the first-person view and granted the user the ability to view their surroundings leading to actual immersion. Even though all these headsets lead to paving the way for current-gen headset they all lacked visual immersion due to technological limitations.
The great thing about the current generation of Virtual Reality headsets is that they were only made possible with the assistance of the public via crowdfunding. The campaign that bought the Oculus Rift to consumers kicked off in the year 2012 and later on Facebook acquired the company. The Oculus Rifts officially launched and began shipping on March 28, 2016.
Likewise, in March 2014, Sony demonstrated a prototype headset, which at the time was codenamed Morpheus and would soon be known as the PlayStation VR 2014 also saw Valve Corporation demonstrate a prototype of their own, which would lead to a partnership with HTC and yielded the HTC Vive. The HTC Vive was released to the consumer market in April 2016 followed by the PlayStation VR in 2016. It is worth mentioning that to use VR to its full potential, you will need a high-speed internet that can power this incredible technology. So, if you are looking for fast and reliable internet, then check out Spectrum internet plans that offer a super-fast network with an unlimited data allowance.
Computing Power for VR Immersion
The main limitation that prevented the rise of truly immersive VR experience was a lack of computing power. The price point matters, especially for an item that is considered in a luxury, and the cost for purchasing both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive had a release MSRP of $800. Even if one did have, the investment to secure the then-current generation of VR headset you would need an additional $1000 to $1600 to invest in a computer that would be powerful enough to support the headset and deliver the desired immersion experience. The initial investment to enjoy VR was upwards of $2000, which is not feasible for everyone and prevented the masses from adopting the device when it was first launched.
The Sony PlayStation VR headset was a much more cost-effective option, which was launched at half the price point of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, $400. The main requirement was that one needed a PlayStation 4 to take advantage of the service offering which was not as powerful as the counterparts were. This resulted in a poor immersion experience. A major drawback of all the initial offerings was the fact that you were tethered to the device powering your headset with wires, which were then connected to the controllers. This severely limited your range of movements adversely affecting the immersive experience. The other limiting factor was that the immersion was limited to audio and visual and failed to consider all senses.
Facebook Oculus Quest
The second generation of Virtual Reality is making its grand appearance with the recent announcement of the Facebook Oculus Quest. The Oculus Quest is the best shot for the masses to adopt VR as compared to just a handful of users. The best thing about the Oculus Quest is the fact that one does not need a high-powered computer to dive into virtual reality since it is an all in one device. The next would be that since you do not require a computer to power the device then there are no wires tethering you to a singular location to take advantage of the device. The MSRP for the device is slated at $399 and will be available to the masses come during the 1st quarter of 2019 and since there is are no other devices required such as a PlayStation 4 the price seems fair enough. Therefore, all the downsides associated with the initial generation of VR headset seemed to have been circumvented except for quality content, which will come if the masses move forward with the adaption of the next technology.
Sight, Sound, & Touch
Neuroscientists now posit that the human body has as many as 23 different senses. The upper limit is under debate by experts, but one thing is clear, we have more than five senses. For the sake of simplicity, I would like to limit the number of senses to just five, which really cannot be debated at all. The sense would be sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell which need to be replicated for truly immersive VR. At this moment, only sight and sound can be replicated via VR headsets. Taste and smell would be difficult to replicate. At this moment, nothing on the market can replicate these senses via VR but this does not mean that there will be no viable option in the future.
uSense is a VR startup that has been working on hepatic feedback to replicate the sensation of touch which has been dubbed HaptX. The current prototype looks more like an exoskeletal suit with rubber tubing connected to a regulator resembling a person’s computer tower. The device replicates touch via gloves that react to the air contracting and expanding around them. The device is still in its prototype phase with plans to further reduce the size to something that be attached to one’s waist. There is no doubt that this will lead to more realistic VR. Once the device has reached its final stages and released to the public it will cause a significant change in the world of immersive experiences. Consumers can attempt to escape reality and spend some time in a computer-generated landscape.