Some of us are old enough to remember the failed launch of virtual reality gaming systems in the 80s and early 90s. The early forays into virtual reality gaming were somewhat of a false start. Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s failed ‘virtual reality’ headset, released in 1995, cooked players’ eyeballs with its black-and-red rendering of Game Boy graphics. Who thought that was a good idea?
Virtual reality disappeared from the world of commercial video gaming for over a decade, with the focus being on traditional video game console development. Since the Wii was released however, there has been renewed interest in the concept: now, with several new devices in development, it looks like VR could be making a comeback.
The Omni is an omnidirectional treadmill that is used as an accessory when playing virtual reality games that are currently in development by Virtuix. It can be used with pretty much any game that uses the standard WASD key movement set up. Gamers using the Omni will be able to walk, run, sidestep, jump or crouch. It made waves a couple of years ago when a BETA model was tested with Battlefield 3.
It uses a slippery platform that simulates the motion of walking. It requires special shoes that reduce friction while walking. The player is enclosed in a ring with a safety harness that absorbs the player’s weight. Of course, it’ll be best used with one of those fancy VR headsets.
The new Zeiss Cinemizer OLED is a set of virtual reality video glasses which combine stereo sound, amazing image quality and 3D movie enjoyment. With a 40” image projected into the glasses, they genuinely create a cinematic experience. The light-weight glasses offer a comfortable and immersive virtual world. They’re already released with GAME a UK distributor.
The Oculus Rift
And that leads us nicely to the Oculus Rift. Its name alone makes you want one right now. The Oculus Rift, a VR head-mounted display, is being developed through crowd funding via Kickstarter. So far, $91 million has been raised for its development. A consumer version is expected later this year or early next year, and will have head tracking, positional tracking, 1080p resolution and wireless operation. It’s already being hailed as the next generation of gaming. Not to be outdone, Sony has begun developing its own VR headset for the PS4.
Developers have been giving the headset a test run on older games, and the reports suggest that even these games feel mesmerizingly immersive. When your competitor starts developing a similar product, a year or more before you launch, you know you’re on to something.
It looks like the Rift’s big rival is going to be Avegant’s Glyph, currently collecting funds on Kickstarter. It’s already surpassed its target threefold. The Glyph will project images directly onto the retina, creating very sharp and vivid images for the player. Featuring a flip-down headset and noise-cancelling audio, it promises to be ‘a revolution in personal display technology’.
The possibilities are endless and go beyond gaming. According to Avegant, directors will be able to produce 360° movies, where the viewer will be able to ‘look around’ in a fully immersive environment.
The full scope of these devices – and how they can take the user beyond just gaming – are yet to be properly explored. Make sure you keep your eye on how these VR accessories develop, as it seems that some of their developers are onto something truly game-changing.