Whether it's going to see a film on opening day, staying inside with a good book or just kicking back and playing a videogame, humans have an inherent need and desire to explore new, strange worlds. However, the limiting factor within all of these entertainment mediums is the fact that whether it's a page, screen or TV, there's something between you total immersion. We've all been there. From watching The Matrix and being completely captivated by the fake world Neo discovers he lives within, enjoying the many Holo-progams that cropped up on Star Trek to the Metaverse in Snow Crash, most of us are fascinated by virtual worlds: No rules and no limitations.
Since the 60's various researchers have aimed to bring us into these worlds, in ways far more effective than any other medium. While technology restrictions have hampered many attempts since then, we have finally gotten to the point whereby we can inhabit new and exciting worlds. Funded on Kickstarter in 2012 to the tune of $2,437,429, the Oculus Rift is the latest attempt at virtual reality. Though you may be sceptical about the latest virtual reality contender, I can tell you from trying it out myself, whether it's within videogames, movie or other uses... this is the future of entertainment. Don't believe me? Here are 4 reasons why the Oculus Rift is the next big thing.
You're IN the experience
The technology inside the Rift that allows it to give such an incredible virtual reality experience is ever evolving, and while most of what makes it special will change, grow and ultimately get better, the core technology that drives it will remain the same. Though breaking down precisely how the Rift achieves its virtual reality may go over the heads of many, it's actually quite simple. Essentially, the Rift, once placed over your eyes, gives each eye a picture. Much like going to see a 3D movie, the picture is a little different in each eye, thereby giving a true sense of depth. On top of that, a lot like you might move your mouse around while playing a PC game, your head movements when using the Rift are perfectly translated within the experience. This leads to your brain being fooled that what you're experiencing is real.
That said, the level of presence felt here is also very much reliant on how well designed what you're experience is. But picture it right now, after pulling the Rift down to your eyes, directly in front of you is a detailed 3D world that you can freely look around in. It sounds rather simple on paper, but experiencing it in person is a true revelation. Whatever the application, the Rift will immerse you in it like nothing before.
Plenty of Virtual Reality content even before release
While the Kickstarter campaign went exceptionally well, what would have killed VR (again!) was if there was no support from developers. I mean, without the content behind the Rift, it literally would have gone nowhere. However, since the release of DK1 (the first developer kit), there have been many virtual reality experiences released. They come in many different forms and are mostly free to download if you're lucky enough to have a DK1 yourself. From single player experiences like RiftCoaster, Dreadhalls, iRacing, Real Power and Titans of Space, to multiplayer games that support the Rift such as Team Fortress, Minecraft and Hawken, there's no shortage of content on offer even before any official release.
The Rift community is massive so far, and I think I'd be right in saying that there has been more VR content created within the past 2 years, than the last 15 years combined. But this is just the starting point, as the future for the Rift is very much promising. Almost every week a new project is announced or showcased, and these projects are continually using the Rift in new and exciting ways. One of the more impressive ones I've seen is Riftmax Theatre, a virtual movie theater in which you can sit and watch a movie with other people online. The potential is truly staggering, as whether you use it for gaming, a social tool or simply a way to experience something new, there is no limit to how far the Rift can go.
Affordable and mainstream
While there are many reasons as to why the Rift technically impresses, it will probably be the next big thing even if it wasn't. Why? Because in March of this year Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion. Facebook plans on making VR mainstream, and with an endless amount of money behind their backs, they won't fail. Though the reaction to the acquisition at first was one of utter shock across the board, this will ultimately be a very positive move in the long run for the Oculus and the Rift. While a lot of the details are still up in the air, the company is still retaining their independence, but only now they now have relatively endless pockets.
Mark Zuckerberg has gone on record in saying that he wants the price of the consumer Rift to be “the lowest possible”. In fact, Palmer Luckey (creator of the Rift) has gone even further than that and said. "Whatever it costs us to make, that is what we’re going to sell it for". What's clear is that even Mark Zuckerberg sees the potential here, which will ultimately leads to a Rift that may cost around the $300 mark, or even lower. Keeping the price cheap and having Facebook at their backs will bring the Rift to the forefront of technology and entertainment in 2015.
Take my word... it's incredible
Though my time with the Rift was kind of short, I got to try out a few experiences for myself. What I can tell you is that nothing can really prepare you for how real it feels. When I tried Riftcoaster (a virtual roller-coaster) I wasn't ready for how authentic it all was. From the incredible sense of depth present, the feeling of literally being in another place to all the stomach acrobatics that go hand-in-hand with any real life roller-coaster ride, it was massively impressive. But I only got to experience a tiny portion of what the Rift can offer, and I'm hungry for more! But from what I did experience, I can see the Rift influencing videogames, film, travel, music and various types of therapy. At the very least, keep an eye out for what's coming next for the Rift, as 2015 is going to be the year in which true VR is born.