The future of virtual reality

Virtual reality has been a kind of persistent benchmark for the so-called “future”. Initially nothing more than science fiction fantasy, virtual reality is slowly becoming, well, reality.

virtual reality
Six Flags Magic Mountain’s The New Revolution coaster lets thrill seekers feel like they are piloting a futuristic fighter jet thanks to VR headsets

Right now, VR is in an exciting arms race between Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Google’s Cardboard to see who can develop the best VR technology, and find the best application for it. While the progress hasn’t quite reached the level old sci-fi novels envisioned just yet, the impact, reach, and potential (both positive and negative) for VR is becoming very real.

Potential uses

Seemingly every industry has been scrambling to try and figure out what kind of ground-breaking impact VR can have on their fields. Much research in particular has been done to show what kind of impact VR’s immersive qualities can have on education. Long used in the military (in flight simulators, for instance), more recently the technology has been applied to training for firemen, truck drivers, and even surgeons.

VR is also being used by therapists to treat a number of disorders and phobias via immersion therapy, including those with PTSD. And just about any entertainment medium you can think of–from live concerts to sporting events to amusement parks to movies to of course, porn–are consistently trying to figure out how the latest VR developments can help provide a more immersive experience for their fans. But right now one of the most successful and widespread applications for VR is in gaming.

VR for gaming

The next big thing on the VR calendar is the launch of PlayStation VR in October 2016. While its $400 price tag might seem expensive for what is essentially a controller add-on to the PS4, it’s still over half the price of what Rift or Vive would run you. Early tests of PSVR have been mixed–the controller technology is five years old and thus somewhat dated–but like with any gaming console, it could take just one “must-have” game to be the catalyst for a whole new generation of gaming.

 

However, VR does look destined for sure success in a different realm of gaming. Live dealer online casino gaming (where instead of just computer animations you see a real-live person dealing out the cards or spinning the roulette wheel) has been such a huge hit, it was only a matter of time before it made the jump to VR.

Right now the front runners for the best VR casino gaming experience seem to be SlotsMillion VR and Casino VR. The former allows you to wander through a virtual casino and up to any number of real slot machine titles. Casino VR offers a similar experience but is more Texas Hold ‘Em centric, and both allow you to play for real money from the comfort of your Gear VR or Oculus Rift.

Complications and dilemmas

Like with any new technology, VR has its fair share of complications and issues that need to be solved. A long-standing problem since the technology’s early days is its penchant for making people feel the need to hurl: a large number of players that tried the PSVR’s Resident Evil title at the 2016 E3 Expo reported having to remove their headset to avoid vomiting all over developer Capcom’s demo booth.

Even once the motion sickness gets under control, a number of more moral implications will need to be sorted out, such as the effect of video game violence on our brains in such immersive environments (and if it will even be legal). In an age where video game addiction is an incredibly real-thing and most of us already spend 8+ hours staring at a screen, what happens when we create virtual environments so comfortable there’s no need for us to take our eyes back to the real world for even longer stretches of time. And moreover, with the lines being increasingly blurred, where do we decide where VR begins and the real world ends?

When?

It feels like VR has been proclaimed to be ‘the future’ for some time now and it’s impossible to say when it has officially “arrived”. Unless you are a regular tech news reader it’s possible to go weeks if not months at a time without hearing any sort of news about VR. But that certainly doesn’t mean that steady progress isn’t being made all the time.

If it’s any indication by the number of brilliant minds and organizations getting their hands on the technology, it’s only a matter of time before virtual reality makes a significant impact on our real world.