VR is changing the future of industry for the better

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Virtual Reality was originally created in the late 1970s, save the original view-masters, after its original idea was initialised in comics in the years prior. Some of its early uses were by NASA in 1985, creating what they called a ‘virtual environment workstation’ as one of the many projects they were developing at the time. The technology was soon adopted by the video games industry, especially as video games as a whole were also beginning to become much more mainstream at the time, with the introduction of the Atari 2600 in 1982 and soon after the SEGA genesis in 1988 being common place in many households. The Virtual Boy was the first major VR venture into games which was first released in 1995. Needless to say, the Virtual Boy didn’t succeed in its launch with various issues occurring mainly regarding its high price and by taking away the social aspects that most people enjoyed of gaming at the time. It was then discontinued a year later in 1996. However, it provided an important foundation of the idea that realistic matrix-like possibilities could be possible one day in the future.

The two main go-to home-orientated VR brands currently in use are by Oculus and HTC (Valve), however, many people are beginning to adopt the PlayStation VR system which can connect to a pre-existing PlayStation 4 console reducing the price greatly as well. Another recent addition is the much newer Pimax VR system which is capable of displaying up to 8K content (provided you have a powerful enough computer to be able to power it!). Finally, the new Windows mixed reality system is also becoming popular, however, this is a much more industrial system and is much less suited to the games industry.

VR is now beginning to be used on much larger scale developments such as the car brand Ford which is beginning to use VR technologies to be able to interact with new 3D designs and models with colleges which can be vast distances away. The ability to move around and interact with models, almost as if you are there, removes the need for creating as many real world prototypes, saving the company money and making them much more prepared for the future developments of their company. VR technology is also beginning to be used in conjunction with other technologies such as with 3D mapping software. For example, developers are now able to interact with a model of a building and try new ideas of how the future developments could be built into the same space. This being especially helpful for turning existing housing into open planned spaces.

With costs finally beginning to drop with basic phone based VR available for under £15 ($20) and whole VR systems being available from £300 ($400) is making more people invest in the technology and with the number of games available is also growing on the daily with new developments starting up often as well. This in turn is slowly making developers more likely to realise the potentials of making  their software be able to be used in VR.  In particular 3D design and business based software has seen a recent rise creating opportunities for teams graphically far away to be able to interface and experience the same prototypes and models. Being able to do this has been especially helpful since the Covid-19 pandemic where businesses and individuals are much less likely to be able to work together on real world projects and models.

The future developments for gaming, as well as for industry as a whole, are developing incredibly quickly. It will be interesting to see and experience the possibilities for interacting with virtual prototypes; with new experiences and group interaction opportunities developing daily through the process of new apps and games being developed. The new design potential is incredible and it will be very interesting to see what will be possible over the coming years.

Personally, I have been following the developments of VR, AR (alternate/assistive reality) and XR (other reality) technologies for the past five or so years and I have enjoyed seeing the developments. Recently having purchased an oculus rift, I have enjoyed trying various different experiences and games. In particular, Beat Saber, where the objective of the game is to swing two lightsabres through blocks in the correct way to the beat of the music.

Having only tried a few games I am not in the position to recommend games, however, if you are lucky enough to own a VR headset I would certainly mention the interesting places you can visit in ‘Google Earth VR’, the incredible 360° videos on ‘YouTube VR’ (one of my particular favourites being scuba diving on the barrier reef!) and regularly checking the various different App Stores as new and exciting games are popping up more and more regularly. With a player base that is increasing daily, a wealth of content and more to come, a wide selection of different experiences to choose from that fit everyone from the faint-hearted to the adrenaline junkies, no experience cannot be had with VR.