Oculus Rift, Virtuix Omni, FPS Gaming--Virtual Reality Redux?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Oculus Rift, Virtuix Omni, FPS Gaming--Virtual Reality Redux?

Some new and exciting news came out earlier today around the Oculus Rift, which managed to land a major infusion of funding in the form of a $16 million shot in the arm from Spark Capital and Matrix Partners. With this influx of cash comes the opportunity for bigger, better technology, more experimentation, more staff to put all the necessary manhours into the project, and a very big potential for a heads-up display that can give us a level of immersion heretofore unknown by man. This leads to one interesting question: is virtual reality making a comeback?

There are two critical fronts that would power the idea of a return of virtual reality, and these two are commonly found in most any entertainment or information front: hardware and software. With the rise of the Oculus Rift--especially based on some of the video around this one; seriously, go take a look at YouTube and see the sheer number of reaction videos to this technology--a detailed, immersive, and simple to use technology will soon be in gamers' hands, providing a kind of visual input that hasn't really been seen in most gaming. Those who remember the early days of virtual reality--particularly "Dactyl Nightmare"--know what it used to look like, and know that Skyrim in 720p makes the old days of VR gaming look like a godawful nightmare by comparison.

Add on the other recent innovation in gaming in the form of the Virtuix Omni--essentially a treadmill that allows users to walk, run, or even jump in a virtual reality setting thanks to a combination of special shoes, grooves built into a track and an upper support system backed up by a Kinect, a gun controller and an Oculus Rift among other systems--and it's a recipe for gaming that's incredibly immersive.

But as is ever the case, the hardware means nothing without the software. That's where the recent developments in gaming come in. Ever notice lately how many first-person shooters there are, where your perspective is right behind the gun? That's tailor-made for a virtual reality setting, and just the kind of thing that would couple well on to the Oculus Rift and the Virtuix Omni combination.

So the combination of hardware and software is either realized, or well on its way to being realized. But is there a market? Given that these first person shooters have represented some of the most popular and biggest-selling games out there, it would be easy to say yes. But at the same time, there's one major factor that would prohibit such a development from really taking hold, and that's expense. The Oculus Rift, at last report, was running about $300. The Virtuix Omni is about the same, though some options will make it even more expensive. Tack that on to the cost of an Xbox One--$499 at last report--and the cost of the additional controllers and the like, and this will be a four-figure proposition by the time it's all said and done. That's a lot of cash to go full virtual reality.

But!--and indeed there is one--consider the modular nature of the system. The game system can be played without any VR accoutrement as-is. Later, the Oculus can be added with a standard controller for more immersion. Then, bring in the Virtuix Omni and extras and the system is complete. Given that the Xbox 360 lasted nearly eight years before a new system was introduced, that would allow players to save up for each new component every year, bringing it in gradually, and giving them over half a decade with their new complete system before replacements even need to be considered. If they need to be considered at all; consider how good it would be if all the parts operated on USB connections and could easily swap out to the next system in line.

The overall effect of course may vary, but we could well be looking at a whole new--and much more immersive--era in gaming to come, and sooner than anyone expects.
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