Perhaps in all the mad dash of Christmas shopping you encountered one. The kiosk at Best Buy where you could get all fancied in a helmet and gloves to try out the Oculus Rift virtual reality system owned by Facebook.
It's been a long time since the Lawnmower Man, hasn't it?
Well, my son and I saw the kiosk and we bellied our little tech-addicted butts right up to the front of the line. Keep in mind you have to offer up your email as a sacrificial offering to the spam gods but that's OK, I just use my wife's. Being right out in the middle of the store, I felt a little awkward to be wearing all the gear so I gladly let my teenage son go first. He would look swag as opposed to my old and washed-up self. The game choices were sparse but enticing nonetheless: rock climbing, basketball or a game called Dreamdeck that "transports you to impossible places and magical worlds." I think it came with a couple edible mushrooms.
When it was my turn I decided on basketball, as I cannot rock climb in the real world let alone a virtual one. I must tell you this was no ghetto Google Cardboard experience. The headset was nice and comfortable with quality built-in speakers. For each hand was a sort of Wii-mote hand controller on steroids. They took a little getting used to the controls but otherwise felt natural. Stepping into this level of VR experience really does mean stepping out of the real world. It sort of reminded me of the other-worldly sensation you get while scuba diving the first few times.
While you might feel transported I am not sure the graphics or environment make you feel transformed. I was on different points of the 3-point line with a rack of balls and a timer. As far as gaming, this felt circa 1992 Sega Genesis. Nevertheless, you aren't just pushing buttons and staring at a linear television screen. Being immersed in a 2017 game of virtual hoops means you look down to pick up the ball, turn your head to face the hoop and lift your arms and follow through on all the nuances of making basket, even the little Shaq-shimmy victory move after you drain it.
It would be easy to get caught up the moment and buy one on the spot. Probably a good thing my credit card was feeling tired after weeks of Christmas shopping or I might have taken one home Thankfully, that little sliver of myself I like to call my wiser side was whispering what I really felt like after going all the way with virtual reality. It was fun but I wasn't in love. Like much in the world of tech, you might be wowed the first time but come full-circle to bored by the fifth time. In that regard, investing in virtual reality at this point in time is being the sacrificial lamb that funds half-baked devices only to have major regrets when Mr. Right is released in the next couple years.
Make no mistake; Oculus Rift is no Cinderella slipper. Sure it might be a ball for a night but it's not a perfect fit for advanced gamers. What does become immediately apparent is given a couple iterations and a little more seasoning, a new style of gaming might be at our doorstop. Right now, Oculus Rift requires a fairly beefed-up PC to run the advanced graphics engine although Sony's PlayStation VR can run off the gaming console. The prices are $599 and $399 respectfully, with a boatload of expensive accessories needed to complete the experience.
Each will need to sell new devices to generate the research for better machines so don't expect updates to round out your experience. Still, there is a market for people who want the coolest and the newest with the understanding of certain limitations. To that end, Oculus Rift is already there; it's an experience like no other with oodles and oodles of wow factor. Just don't be surprised when you see a bunch of these on the shelves of Goodwill in a few years.