Virtual Reality used to be a joke, a fad of the 90’s that everyone thought would come about as the main technology of the future, only to be forgotten with the advent of the Internet. Well, now it’s back, and the promises of so many sci-fi films seem to be not only a possibility, but an inevitability. I was lucky to attend the Silicon Valley Virtual Reality Expo, and these are the major highlights I was fortunate to witness.
The Camera Tech:
One of the most fun things about an expo like this is seeing all the new tech and applications that could be possible with VR. From Kodak to Nokia, lots of companies are releasing new camera tech to help people create their own 360 capture experience. Through the use of this tech, one can have webcam chats that allow the use to see all around the room (as displayed by VRHug), or create media experiences, like I saw from Nokia’s OZO or the indie company Spherica VR Production. While wearing the latest in VR viewing technology, I got to see a new form of television where the story was playing out all around me. One can only imagine the possibilities for this tech in the future, and how others could apply it. It may not be too long before we finally see movies where we can see the action from all angles. And with things like V Live, one can even experience live sports events, with the ability to choose anywhere in the sporting arena to watch the game from.
Project Alice is a new form of tech for use in conferences and classrooms. Through an array of cameras, sensors, VR helmets and controllers, a group can be taken together to a virtual space to observe and learn about any subject. As demonstrated, with sensors attached to objects like yoga blocks and stools, one could make anything that is in the real world space appear in the VR space to interact with. This was followed up by showing us a VR display of the developer’s office in China that allowed us to see it as if we were really there (no CG effect here), and also showing us a display of a car engine that then came apart, allowing us to see all the various parts. The main applications for this seem to be presentations that range from technical to educational. Who knows, dissection in biology classes may become a thing of the past if teachers can virtually display the inner workings of a heart for students to watch.
For years, we’ve tried to combine video games with exercise, and now comes possibly the most fun application for both. VirZOOM is a VR Bike peripheral, for use with the Oculus, Samsung, and Playstation VR. The bike’s handlebars has a controller on it (including a trigger), and control is done by a combination of pedaling to achieve forward motion, body tilting to turn, and using the controller on the handlebars to perform actions for the game. The demos I experienced including riding on horseback to lasso bandits, riding on a Pegasus and soaring through the air, controlling a tank in battle, a helicopter heading upriver in a war zone, and Formula-1 racing. The graphics were amazing, and once I got the hang of the controls I was giving myself a good workout while playing. Definitely one to watch for if you’re interested in combining exercise with gaming.
Life of Lon:
Developed by Block Interval, Life of Lon is a VR game for the Oculus, Samsung, and Playstation VR that follows Lon as his spaceship crashes on an alien world, sinking to the ocean floor. With an aquatic creature called Yep swimming outside Lon’s submersible, you must explore this new world and try to get home. Daniel Allen, Block Interval’s Creative Director and co-creator of the game, explained that Life of Lon is meant to be an atmospheric exploration adventure, reminiscent of classic games like Out of this World. And if the brief amount I’ve got to play is any indication, it’s going to be a beautiful journey. My play through only managed to get me through the crash and the initial meeting with Yep, but it was still an interesting experience. Fans will have to check back later this year, as Life of Lon is due for a summer release.
As more and more innovative tech and applications come out, be sure to check Marooner’s Rock for more coverage of all the new VR in the future.