Virtual Reality: A Failure From the Start?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Virtual Reality: A Failure From the Start?

While looking around for news, I spotted an unusual item from the Canadian Online Gamers Network that offered a rather stark conclusion right from the second paragraph: virtual reality is not the future of video gaming, and in the long term, it has all the chances for success that a boat has of winning the Indianapolis 500. After considering the idea, I came to the realization that the COGN is probably right, but not near so right as it thinks.

The ideas expressed were reasonable enough, but the problem is, many of them simply weren't expressed to their fullest. For instance, the COGN notes that "you can't move around." Essentially, you won't be able to move around in a virtual reality environment without a separate controller. The only problem is, that's wrong. And it's odd that the COGN wasn't aware of this, but there's already a controller out there that could allow for movement in a virtual environment without a separate controller: the Virtuix Omni. Technically a finished product since January, the Omni is essentially a "gaming treadmill", allowing characters several axes of movement without a controller in hand.

Even if the Omni isn't ready, or isn't all that useful, this is a point that's somewhat moot at the get-go. Consider your last gaming experience. Okay, now think of how often you looked at the controller. If you think "I didn't, much," then congratulations: you've just had a hand in proving why it really doesn't matter that you need to hold a controller. You're used to looking at the screen when you game, and letting your hands do the work of moving a character from point A to point B. Much in the same way a touch typist doesn't look at the keyboard when they type--but rather looks at the screen--so too does a gamer seldom look at the controller unless it becomes necessary, like a quicktime event or the like.

Additionally, the COGN notes that VR will be very expensive when it first comes out, and yes, that's likely to be so. But that's the case with most any new technology; the earliest models are pricey and underpowered until there's enough interest to fire up economies of scale and make better units for less. That actually covers another point it raises, in that the technology, right now, is still not the greatest. But that's generally the case with any new release.

The COGN does offer a noteworthy point in the comfort factor. Wearing one of these devices on your head for any length of time could be difficult, but how much of that problem can be solved by the right chair? Seriously; a zero-gravity lounger, a chaise, or even a bed could take care of this problem like nobody's business.

Sure, there are going to be some issues with the early stages of virtual reality. That's a given. But are these issues concept-killers? No, I say they're not, and I bet there will be plenty out there agreeing with me. The sheer number of Let's Play videos featuring the Oculus Rift on YouTube suggests that's likely to prove true, and soon, as we get a better idea of just what this can do, we're likely to see plenty more interest, not long term failure.

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