Virtual Reality technology has fallen by the wayside with the increasing popularity of 3D TVs and augmented reality apps for smartphones. But despite that competition, VR, as it's commonly called, is alive and kicking. A company called Oculus LLC has been developing one of the first affordable, commercially available virtual reality headsets, called the Oculus Rift, that anyone with a computer and video games that support the technology can use.
A head-mounted display, the Oculus Rift aims to provide a truly immersive experience to users and is aimed primarily at the gaming market.
At the heart of the headset is a pair of small LCD displays positioned directly in front of the wearer's eyes. The combined displays provide stereoscopic 3D vision, which allows the system to simulate depth and perspective. A motion sensor on the headset allows the display to change view depending on where the user is looking.
No special connections are required to make the system work with a computer – just a simple USB cord and a DVI connector.
The Oculus Rift project was crowd funded, meaning the company went to the public seeking small donations, which seems to be an increasing trend. They raised approximately $2.5 million, after setting a goal of just $250,000.
The Oculus Rift is getting big support from video game developers. The BFG release of the popular Doom 3 video game will support the system, and many upcoming video games like Doom 4 and Star Citizen are being built from the ground up to be compatible. Nearly 20 current and upcoming titles have announced plans to include support for the Oculus VR technology, with many more considering integrating it after the product is on the market.
A developer kit for early supporters will begin shipping in March for about $300, and an improved version is slated to go on sale next year that will include better resolution, a wider field of view and wireless capabilities.
There's no word yet on what the consumer version will retail for.
If Oculus is ultimately successful on the market – and all indications seem to be pointing that way – we could see virtual reality become widespread reality as early as next year.
Nick DeLorenzo is director of interactive and new media for The Times Leader. E-mail him at [email protected].