What do you think of Jared's vision of the future? Will virtual reality become mainstream gaming technology?
You get home from a long day at work, and you take off your shoes and your belt. Next, you grab your universal remote and switch on your LED 4KTV and the micro-PC that’s wired right into it. “Wait a minute”, you remember, “I don’t need the TV.” You switch it back off, go into a cabinet, and retrieve your Oculus Rift. Then you grab your Virtuix Omni out of a closet and hook both up to the PC. You situate the Omni, a 360-degree virtual treadmill, right in the center of the room. You step onto it and secure the safety harness. You then strap on the Rift and see that your computer, running Steam OS on an 8-core processor, has finished booting. You select Half-Life 3 or Assassin’s Creed 10 and take your first virtual step into the world of your new game. It surrounds you. You turn your head to the left to look at a crowd of people and then turn your body and walk over to them. Later, someone is chasing you, and you’re running for your life, one foot after another, turning your head frantically in both directions looking for an alley to turn down.
Can you see it? If you’re anything like me, and you love to own and use cutting-edge technology, this could very likely be your gaming setup 5 years from now. The influence of Kickstarter as an entrepreneurial platform has permanently changed the face of the games industry, allowing innovators to sell the public on awesome products that have traditionally been considered unmarketable by corporations’ standards. Often, the result of this is great game. Sometimes, the result is a developer not being able to live up to their promises. But this time, the result may well be true virtual reality making its way into living rooms across the country.
And believe me, people want that. The Virtuix Omni has raised over $1 million, more than 7 times its fundraising target. The company is currently working on converting their already-working prototype into a mass-market product. The Oculus Rift raised $2.4 million of its overall $16 million via Kickstarter, over NINE times its fundraising goal. It has also been endorsed by several well-known game developers such as Gabe Newell, Cliff Bleszinski, and Markus “Notch” Persson. Oculus is also currently developing a more marketable consumer version of its product with improved features, but many Kickstarter backers already have their hands on the developer version.
Recently, Valve announced their new Steam OS operating system, which promises more openness than Sony and Microsoft are providing, a wide range of hardware devices able to run it, and integration of current Steam libraries. It is also optimized for television screens. There is a good chance of this OS gaining serious traction once it is released and changing the way many people play games in their living room.
This scenario presents one major question: Where will the PS4 and the Xbox One factor in this near-future vision of gaming? I hope that Sony and Microsoft will work with virtual reality companies to make compatible versions of their products as soon as possible. They ought to, or it’s possible they might be left behind. PCs are getting smaller, more powerful, and more affordable. They are available in an ever-increasing multitude of form factors, and they’re more flexible. I play my games primarily on consoles, and I sincerely hope that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo see the tidal wave of virtual reality coming before it’s too late.
Do you disagree with this hypothetical future? Tell me how you think it will be in the comments.