It’s very rare that a technology, once ridiculed and cast into an abyss of false nostalgia and parody, manages to clamber out of the hell hole and back towards relevance. Human beings are a stubborn bunch. Once we’ve decided something is a ‘little bit shit’, it’s tough to convince us otherwise.
But here we are. 2014. And Virtual Reality is somehow back in vogue. We are talking about it. We are talking about it and we are not mocking it. Virtual Reality is a thing that gamers, once again, are excited about.
Yet, in the recesses of our sub conscious, do we really believe that Virtual Reality in the home is a genuine possibility? As excited as I’ve been about the technology I’ve always felt that mental block. How will Virtual Reality truly hit the tipping point? Does it have the potential to infiltrate our living space? For some reason I’ve always had difficulty truly believing it.
The issue was always with this perceived grand leap. Virtual Reality has always felt like science fiction. How do we take this strange, otherworldly tech and make it accessible. At the moment it’s a difficult thing to parse, mainly because it’s so out there. It’s the purple cow that’s just way, way too purple. How will it be sold to consumers? What form will it take?
So many questions. A gap in the road. We see the endgame, but the path towards that endgame appears beset with obstacles and difficulties. We look at the technology, we read the impression pieces laden with hyperbole, we watch the videos, we hear the promises, but do we really believe in the potential of Virtual Reality gaming.
All of the pieces are falling into place.
First there’s the Oculus Rift itself. Even as a blurry, low resolution development kit (that made me want to throw up) it felt like the future of gaming. In its current form, with higher resolution, motion tracking and reduced latency it feels unassailable.
But the Rift was never enough. It’s not the device itself that gives me faith. It’s the culmination of two other products: the Steam Box and Valve’s newly released SteamVR Virtual Reality SDK.
My worry with Virtual Reality has always been ‘how’. How do we make the leap from celebrated, niche technology to a plug and play device that anyone can use? Before that seemed far-fetched and impossible — now I can almost imagine it…
Picture this: Oculus VR creates their own Steam Box. A Steam Box custom designed to be used with a refined, well marketed Oculus Rift headset. The SteamVR software is already pre-installed onto the Steam Box.
You turn it on. There is a simple set up process. It takes 10 minutes. It works seamlessly. There is a walkthrough demo built into the device. A simple game that makes full use of the unique set of features the Oculus Rift has at its disposal. Then you head back to the store. Using the headset and a simple controller you scroll through and buy a number of VR enable games from Steam with relative ease. The games download directly to the Steam Box sitting in your entertainment center.
You play. There is no sickness. There are no technical hitches. It’s simple, fast, and accessible. It simply works without any real need for the level of expertise currently required to get an Oculus Rift development kit up and running.
Imagine that. Simple accessible Virtual Reality. Before it was a distant dream. Now it’s more than a possibility — it feels like an eventuality.
And I think that’s what I find so exciting about Virtual Reality and the Oculus Rift. I can see the end game. The fog that existed between exciting technology and consumer device is evaporating. I believe in Virtual Reality. I believe it’s a thing that can go mainstream. I believe it’s something that has the real potential to change video games.