Virtual reality has made the headlines numerous times over the last few decades, but every time the latest advancement has failed to live up to expectations. That is, until now. Over to Hayden, one of our developers to explain more. Laggy graphics and blocky shapes are a thing of the past. There is a new technology on the scene, and it's called the Oculus Rift. A product of the hugely popular Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs and inventors pitch their idea to thousands of micro-investors, each chucking in a few quid for an early version of the product or some other goodies, the Oculus Rift has grabbed headlines worldwide as the next big thing in computer gaming and immersive virtual experiences.
I was fortunate enough to become the proud owner of a brand spanking new Rift dev kit, which is essentially an early development release of the head-mounted device. After a couple of weeks of playing with the device, I am under no illusion that this will be the future of video gaming.
I took my new gadget into Blueleaf HQ and the team shared my enthusiasm for riding virtual rollercoasters and space flight. Despite being a very personal experience, the Rift certainly seems to get people crowding round having fun together.
It is early days for the Rift. The final consumer product doesn't even have a planned launch date yet, but it is expected to hit the shelves towards the end of next year. The dev kit versions are selling now predominantly to aid game developers and techies curious to get a glimpse into what the future of gaming looks like.
Despite the dev kit having fairly low resolution graphics, it is still a totally immersive experience. Riding the rollercoaster simulator and reaching the top of a huge drop really has you clinging to your seat, your stomach in your mouth. Whizzing round the solar system in one of the numerous space demos really has you sat in awe of the scale of planets.
I was fortunate enough to have a brief play with a nearly finished version of the Rift at the Play gaming expo in Manchester earlier this month. This version now has a sharp HD display and a smaller, sleek polished product design. And the sharper display only makes you feel more like you are actually stood inside the game.
To complement the Oculus Rift, other technologies are being developed such as fully positioned tracked wireless controller called the STEM system. This is another product of Kickstarter and promises to have you waving swords and lightsabres around your living room in your 3d virtual world within a matter of months. And the already-available and affordable Omni Virtuix is a compact walking platform which allows you to walk and jog round your virtual environment.
I find myself amazed at the speed of advancement of technology these days. Just a year ago, virtual reality was a ‘not-quite-there’ dream, but already it looks like the next few months will truly bring full 3d virtual reality gaming into many thousands of households around the world.