Yesterday I got to use the developer version of the Oculus Rift headset which provides an immersive gaming environment. Stephen Gray got the headset a few weeks ago and has already been making some headway into building his own environments.
Essentially the headset design enables you to view a virtual world without any awkward gaps between your vision, the headset and the ‘real’ world. Two views of the virtual environment (as shown below) are overlapped and off you go.
It is hard to describe but the VR world does actually feel very real and my tiny brain was partly tricked into believing I was dropping from the clouds onto a runway. Because you can look anywhere with a smooth transition using your head, everything starts to feel natural.
I tested about 3-4 environments including a rollercoaster…then I felt my tongue start to dry and an odd feeling in my tummy. Fast forward an hour and back at home I started to feel a little sick… I have long suffered from a problem with the refresh rate on CRT screens and I wonder if this was triggered using the headset. When you switch game you leave the VR world and can see a really bad version of the computer desktop and I wonder if it was this switching that set me off.
I can see great potential in this type of tool for use in education, museums and the design industry. The headset brings the opportunities of the digital world into our natural ‘view’ of the world. Immediately I could see training scenarios, interpretation and gaming uses for the tool. It also strikes me as a true ’emerging’ and uniquely digital tool, maybe on the level of ‘touch’ devices. I wouldn’t put it into the bracket of a widely popular device for the average person, but certainly for niche markets in the short-medium term.
Once I have had the chance to have a better play i’m sure uses will start to come to me.
Now let me just sit down and recover.