Virtual Reality will very likely be the end of us as a physically social species. When we realise we no longer need to step out of the house to meet people and interact with them simply by putting on a very smart hat, no one is ever going to leave the house again! Whats more the house we live in will resemble something like a prison cell and we will be absolutely fine with that because this hat will allow us to be anyone and go anywhere. VR will be our outlet to experience absolutely anything we want.
To be fair Virtual Reality is not quite there yet, this is no 'holodeck' form Star Trek and this is certainly no Matrix. You might remember that VR has been and gone before it's past iterations were either too expensive or the results 'less than good'. It was definitely never something you could just walk into a shop and buy. In 2016 things changed. After 4 years of build up this new generation of Virtual Reality headsets are here and we finally have something that is (just about) affordable, can be purchased in many high street shops and is actually pretty good!!
I'm lucky enough to have tried out the HTC Vive Virtual Reality Headset thanks to my good friend Tim Watts. He brought one and is hoping to develop a game to run in VR (good luck Tim!). Despite the fact that these headsets are readily available (Tim brought his on line) they aren't exactly popping up in every home yet. Although the headsets aren't all that expensive (relatively speaking) on their own you do need to own a pretty beefy PC to run it on! This is not something everyone is going to have access too right away which is a shame because the only way to really know how Virtual Reality feels is to try it. It's quite difficult to explain what you will experience. It's one thing for me to say that when you first put the headset on you really do feel like you are physically somewhere else it's another thing for you to really believe me. As close as VR is to us right now it still has a long way to go to become imbedded in society.
I think it will prevail! I really enjoyed my first time in VR and it gave me a feeling unlike any other form of entertainment. It's ability to put you right in the middle of a situation and for you to quite intuitively know how to interact with the world around you is incredible. The feeling you get when you are (as an example) high above a city on a platform looking down creates a real sense of vertigo and even though you are completely safe your brain enters survival mode. It is really tough to try and force yourself to step off that platform.
There are some down sides though and after the initial thrill has worn off you start to see some cracks. The resolutions is really quite low and for something trying to be so immersive this is a real problem. The screen is really close to your face and the lines separating the pixels becomes quite visible which is distracting and sometimes really unpleasant to look at. If the thing you are experiencing in VR is any good you can easily forget the low resolution but to look at anything photo real (like a view across some mountains) it just comes across as blurry. The headset can be quite uncomfortable especially if your like me and ware glasses and have long hair but over time you can find a way to make this better. It would also be great if the headset was wireless. The HTC Vive allows you to walk around the VR environments which really adds to the experience but there is always a bunch of cables hanging down that can be easily tripped over. These are all technical problems though and they will get better as the technology gets better. What is so important is that the core concepts work. VR really does work and there are some games out there that really show off what it can do.
So we made a little video of myself (Guy) Tim and Andy playing a few games in VR to show what it can do. Watch Andy Encounter a Dragon, Tim assemble the most complicated robot, Me playing with a lightsaber and much much more!! Enjoy