Lisa Froelings gives her thoughts on all things virtual reality.
Virtual reality (VR) could change everything from how we play videogames to how we interact with our friends and family. VR has the power to change how we consume all sorts of media, transforming how we relate to television, film, and even the Internet.
VR is rapidly evolving. A few short years ago, VR was a pricey investment, now Sony is dominating the VR market with systems that cost under five hundred dollars. It is now accessible for videogame enthusiasts, but we could see a much broader appeal in the years to come.
Hundreds of videogames have been produced to immerse players into a fully sensory experience. Gradually, the audience consuming VR videogames has grown. Once considered a specialised, niche market, VR’s appeal has been on the rise within the videogame community.
VR is a natural extension of videogaming. Videogames have evolved from a few flat pixels to fully-realised three dimensional worlds. Because of this, there have been several attempts to make the marriage between VR and videogames work, but never before has it been met with such success.
Virtual Boy, Nintendo’s infamous VR system made some twenty years before the technology was viable, no doubt haunts those eager early investors of the 1990s. In twenty years, thankfully, Virtual Boy has proved to be a bad memory rather than a bad omen of things to come.
Although it seems Sony’s system is the most popular at the moment, there are several other contenders to consider. Valve, the company behind the wildly popular Steam, the PC gaming platform, has begun to push their proprietary VR systems — although the steep initial cost has precluded many from investing in it.
Others are attempting to push VR further than its videogame applications. Facebook, in a rather bold move, acquired Oculus Rift, which at the time of the acquisition was one of the rising stars of VR, for $2 Billion dollars.
Many speculated as to Facebook’s intentions with the technology at the time and a fair share concluded that Facebook would enter the videogame market. Zuckerberg later revealed his social VR platform that acted as an augmentation to the social media platform.
“The idea is that virtual reality puts people first. It’s all about who you’re with. Once you’re in there, you can do anything you want together — travel to Mars, play games, fight with swords, watch movies or teleport home to see your family,” Zuckerberg wrote about the possibilities for VR and social media.
Interaction in Facebook Spaces is simple, but effective.
Zuckerberg provided a few demos of the burgeoning technology. In one of the demos, he showed his avatar blinking in and out of real-world locales, one of which happened to be the Facebook offices. His friends took the shape of custom avatars as well and they proceeded to interact the fantastical ways Zuckerberg described. They played with swords, invited real-life friends to video chats, took pictures, and recorded their adventures on social media.
Facebook developers have continued to push social VR further. In fact, Facebook Spaces is now in beta. “VR is better with friends,” Facebook proclaims. The platform encourages users to share memories by snapping selfies, express yourself with a customised avatar, and connect with friends through VR, video calls, and messenger — all within one VR space.
Other social VR platforms allow users to hang out, watch films together, read together. Basically, anything you could do with your friends, at home or at a cafe, you can now do feasible within VR.
If videogames and meeting with friends can be changed by VR? What about the moviegoing experience, something has has remained relatively unchanged since its inception?
Film studios are beginning to conjure up new adventures for moviegoers to compete with the popularity of streaming services. “The industry needs a new way to consume more immersive content without having to go to a theater,” Ramzi Haidamus, president of Nokia Technologies, told CNN.
Nokia has begun partnering with film studios to make these new modes of consumption a reality. With VR, filmmakers are creating stories that — quite literally — transport audience members to another world.
The partnership between film and VR blurs the line between watcher and participant. In a larger way, VR could redefine how we relate with entertainment. Consumption and creation can happen all at once. Connecting with friends, exploring new worlds, and playing games can all happen within one VR space. If implemented correctly, and adopted widely, VR could certainly change entertainment forever.