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Is This Finally The Year For Virtual Reality?

sergesegal / Flickr / Creative Commons

Virtual Reality has been a popular concept for a long time, from the neon wireframe world of Tron to the simulated world indistinguishable from the real one in The Matrix. But it has been something mostly out of reach for consumer technology. Soon, though, you’ll be able to actually have a real virtual reality experience at home.

The most prominent developer of this technology is a company called Oculus. In late 2012, they released their first Developer Kit, a complicated mess of cables and adapters connecting a computer to a head-mounted display. Setting this up on a computer was difficult and not foolproof, but it was one of the first examples of a mass-produced VR headset that actually worked. You could turn your head to the left, and you would now be looking left in the virtual environment.

Unfortunately, this first model had some significant shortcomings, not the least of which was a low-resolution display. It looked like you were looking through a screen door, and there was just enough lag that turning quickly could make you feel sick. I was only ever able to play for about 20 minutes before having to take a break.

Oculus later came out with a second Developer Kit, with a higher resolution display and less lag. I could play this one twice as long without a break, and it was much more comfortable to wear. The next version of the hardware will be available for consumer purchase early next year, and will reportedly have a display with a high enough resolution to completely eliminate the screen door effect.

HTC is developing a head mounted display, too, in conjunction with the PC game company Valve. Sony will be also selling a virtual reality kit, for use with its PlayStation 4.

I’ve heard for years and years that “this will be the year of Virtual Reality,” but for the first time, I really believe it might be.