As a kid I remember hearing news that a new facility had opened its doors that was all about Virtual Reality. I can’t remember the name of the place as I never got a chance to go there although I really wanted to. What little I knew about VR from TV and movies made it sound nothing short of awesome.
It closed down long before I would have had a chance to make it there, as the VR craze fizzled out and amusement went on to other pastures. I later learned why that was – the idea behind the technology was well ahead of its time but the problems that VR faced, such as an outrageous and incorrect view of what it was really like, a lack of of graphical horsepower and bulky equipment that wasn’t cheap all worked to hold it back.
This article in Eurogamer gets into all of that and more, going over the history of VR as well as modern concepts for it and what the future may hold. Kevin Williams of The Stinger Report contributed a great deal to the article as he used to work for a company that created VR games; if you have any interest in VR at all I highly recommend it!
As for the future of VR in this business, I think it has a place but care needs to be taken to manage expectations. It is all a really difficult balancing act though as the narrative is often set by the fantasy of Hollywood, which has botched the reality of pretty much everything computer related. How hacking is portrayed comes to mind, in fact the movie Hackers killed two birds with one stone in that regard, portraying hacking as a VR experience and of course neither activity is anything like what was shown. Of course if it was, the movie would not have been terribly exciting so I get that. Also as the article points out, games have to be tailor made that play to VRs strengths, not the other way around. Your intuition probably says that certain first person shooter games would be great as a VR game but as reality is pointed out in the article, they actually are not since even in VR, a dose of reality has to be applied that the normal flat-screen games bend. This means however that there are new experiences out there waiting to be tried out and the hardware has certainly improved to a point that makes it more viable than ever before. I do think that we are going to see a larger push for AR (Augmented Reality) than VR, probably a mix of both where a VR visor can apply new textures to real world objects. that could also change Electromechanical Games which normally are tied to using real targets that never change – with an AR/VR visor of some kind you could add quite a bit more variety to EM type games. I am sure there are other uses out there as well, we will just have to wait and see what developers come up with!
Also I should point out since it’s sort of on the subject, Sega is re-opening their Tokyo Joypolis location this summer(4Gamer.net) which will use a bit of Mixed Reality, taking projection mapping and user interaction to a new level. Projection mapping is where projectors have video or textures applied to them to create what is essentially dynamic wallpaper. I saw something like that when I visited a local planetarium a few months ago and they projection mapped a globe to show updates on earthquakes around the world. The new Joypolis looks like it is trying to reproduce the world of TRON to a degree with new user interaction devices, new rides, some sort of interactive stage experience and more. Looks like it will be a cut above other facilities out there and we look forward to hearing more in the near future.