The HTC Vive, Samsung’s Gear VR, Oculus Rift and the PlayStation VR.
And yes, before you ask I do realise the first question you will ask after reading the above will be “Ryan, what on earth are you talking about?”
I am of course talking about the technology of Virtual Reality (VR) and with 2016 almost in the history books; I thought it would be an appropriate time to recap what an incredible year it has been for all things VR.
What is Virtual Reality?
For those of you who aren’t aware, VR is a form of interactive media which comes to you via a head-mounted display that can create three-dimensional, fully immersive worlds.
In turn, this provides the user with a highly entertaining, albeit expensive experience – with the average price of the above headsets at around the £435 mark - not to mention the equipment that is required to use a headset in any capacity (smartphone, high performance PC or PlayStation 4).
What can we expect from VR in the near future?
Now, although Virtual Reality has been lurking around for a number of years, I think it’s safe to say that 2016 has been a landmark year for the technology and hopefully its popularity will continue to skyrocket.
With the PlayStation VR appearing on store shelves back in October, I'm extremely excited to see what game producers have in store for us, with a plethora of new opportunities open to create innovative titles that allow us to escape from the real world and live vicariously through engaging characters, stories and worlds – even if it’s just for a few hours at a time.
Can you imagine staring across the ring at the very intimidating ‘Beast Incarnate’ Brock Lesnar, the cover star in 2K’s WWE 2K17 or exploring the vast open wastelands wearing Power Armour in Bethesda’s Fallout 4 via a VR headset?
Another environment that I’m looking forward to see VR flourish in is that of Theme Parks. I recently visited Alton Towers and was surprised to see that the classic ‘Air’ ride has now transformed into ‘Galactica’, a VR-based roller coaster.
Being a somewhat open-minded individual, I decided to give the ride a try and what better way to have my first-ever VR experience. Whilst I was impressed, it felt somewhat unnatural, especially with the fact that you couldn’t really see or hear what’s happening around you.
This begs the question, how safe is Virtual Reality?
VR is rapidly gaining traction in the ever-moving technology market and I believe it will become one of, if not, the ‘go to’ way for playing the latest video games, watching videos and getting a thrill at your local theme park, providing the support from both manufacturers and the general public continues.
However I am concerned about the potential risks presented to home users, with the majority of demonstrations I’ve seen taking place in wide open spaces where the likes of trailing cables, walls and furniture simply do not exist.
Therefore, similar to the ‘Trainer’s Handbook’ I provided for Pokémon Go players during the summer, I’ve created the ‘VR Handbook’ to help all fellow VR users enjoy their potential roads to WrestleMania or racing their friends around Germany’s Nurburgring via DriveClub: VR safely.
“Check your surroundings, solider!”
The majority of VR headsets will use some form of motion sensor control that involves standing, waving your arms and looking around at your surroundings.
Before playing, you must ensure that you have sufficient space around you and that includes:
• You aren’t stood directly in front of your TV or furniture to avoid inadvertent damage
• There are no trailing cables around your feet
• And most importantly, ensure that nobody else enters the ‘VR Space’ whilst you are playing.
I’d advise that if you are using a VR headset, you should ideally play in a separate room away from any pets, children, loose cables or furniture likely to invade your playing area.
Press the ‘Pause’ button
• Whilst being able to escape into a fully interactive, immersive world sounds great on screen (paper may be passé in this day and age), it’s potentially dangerous for your eyes when using for a prolonged period of time.
• Ensure you take regular breaks when using any VR headset to avoid eyesight damage and put it down immediately if you start to feel any symptoms of ‘motion sickness’. Keep hydrated and ensure you rest appropriately whilst playing just like any of your in-game characters would.
“The world is your oyster”
• The last rule of the VR Handbook is to simply enjoy your VR adventures.
• As I mentioned earlier, VR is a fantastic means of escapism where players can visit vast open worlds and engage in captivating stories (for short periods at a time of course) which are designed for any and everyone to enjoy and have fun.
With the VR Handbook rules now officially laid out, I hope that all users / players / viewers will ensure a safe environment for themselves and those around them.
In conclusion, I believe that Virtual Reality is as popular in 2016 as it has ever been and with continued support and appreciation from users, its rise will only continue in the coming months, years and decades.
Please share your greatest VR experiences and opinions with us in the comments.
About the Author
Ryan Jackson is a Software Developer responsible for the design and delivery of applications supporting the implementation of new legal processes.
Ryan's last blog was Pokémania – How to (responsibly) catch ‘em all.