WEB & TECH / MAR. 15, 2015
version 7, draft 7

What the Hell are You Wearing on Your Head: The VR Gold Rush

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You want to strap a big back box to the front of your face and bat your hands around in the air like a gangly pale kitty? No, this isn’t the latest ’50 Shades of Grey’ inspired sexual act but the latest consumer electronics craze, Virtual Reality. And electronics manufacturers are not being at all blasé about jumping on this quick moving bandwagon. Here’s the newest trend, ‘The VR gold rush’.

It all started with the crappy Nintendo Virtual-boy

 

Image source: YouTube

No, no it didn’t, I just feel that it would be a disservice to anyone that knows how bad the Virtual-boy was not to mention it. The origins of electronics based VR can be traced back to around the late sixties and early seventies, although they were admittedly crude. I said electronics based VR because there are examples of, let’s say ‘manipulated’ reality art as early as the mid-1800s. Both Sega and Nintendo attempted to create VR game interfaces but failed pretty spectacularly. It wasn’t until augmented reality started to immerge that VR started to be revisited as a feasible user interface device.

It all started at Kickstarter

 

Image source: YouTube

The first Oculus was funded via the crowd funding website Kickstarter and could be argued is responsible for this resurgence of VR interest. The project made close to $2.5 million surpassing by far the initial $250.000 goal they set. Surrounded by great fanfare and hype the Oculus announced the development kits (kits intended for game developers to use to design games) in summer of 2012. A controversial buyout was enacted by Facebook for the Oculus Rift to the sum of $2.4 billion in Facebook stock and liquid assets.

The Fallout

 

Image source: huffingtonpost

After getting a whiff of the big money opportunity and the money Facebook put down for VR, some of the biggest sharks in the consumer electronics pond have started swirling around the dorsal fins aloft. Of course, there are some smaller fish, but small fish grow just like Oculus did. Some of these companies have even released various VR augmented reality and related software applications.

So who is swimming forebodingly around the VR chum

 

Image source: cgmagonline

OK, I’m done with the shark/fish metaphor. So the white whale of VR was the usability and cost intersect, previous iterations were either unusable or just too costly. Oculus hit this intersect dead center with the Rift though. Google even went as far as using a humble, simple smartphone as the visual element for their VR headset that only cost around $20-40. OK, they made Google Glass, so they had to redeem themselves somehow. Now Sony, Samsung, LG, Microsoft and even Apple have all either developed an augmented reality headset or are slated to release one within the year. There is also a slew of other lesser known companies that are either developing or already have a headset like Oculus.

The types

 

Image source: huffingtonpost

So you have three distinct schools in the new VR world. You have headsets that feature dedicated displays, ones that use smartphones as their displays (such as the Google Cardboard), and you have the augmented reality devices. I hadn’t explained these previously so here it is: augmented reality glasses/goggles superimpose a digital image of the physical world you see, say you’re looking at your refrigerator, you can use its white surface to watch a movie on, or even better see a semi-transparent image of what’s in it. Companies like Microsoft and Sony are actually working on both augmented reality and VR headsets.

See Also: Google’s Super Cheap Cardboard VR

There’s a lot of money to be made in this new consumer market. Hopefully, companies have learned their lessons though regarding good working products at reasonable price points. What do you think VR is going to look like, are you excited? Let us know in the comment section below.
 

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