From the real world into the virtual one

The concept of virtual reality (VR) means using computer technology to create a simulated, three dimensional world. User can manipulate, interact and explore computer generated environment using different motions, particularly head or eye movements.

With Oculus Rift, a head-mounted virtual-reality display, virtual reality is not fiction anymore. It gives a user 360-degree view of the virtual world. It was founded by Palmer Luckey, self-described virtual reality enthusiast and hardware geek. It all started with Kickstarter campaign to help fund development of their first product. With the support of top video game companies the Kickstarter was an enormous success. They raised over 2.4 million dollars in funding from project backers and supporters around the world. Facebook bought Oculus a year and a half later for 2 billion dollars in cash and stock. Currently there is possibility of purchase oculus rift Development Kit (DK) 2 and with it the taste of virtual realityfor 350 dollars. DK is not a consumer product yet, it is a developer version of the head mounted display meant for developers to develop content for the future version cv1 – consumer version.

If you are questioning what it is like to use it, I can say it is very interesting if not fascinating. Imagine yourself being in a live show that is happening on the other side of globe. Imagine you can experience every concert of your best group or singer, or football game from the first person perspective. Imagine yourself in universe. Imagine diving in the most beautiful seas around the world. Imagine driving a formula, tank, plane or helicopter. Imagine you can go wherever you want. With Oculus Rift everything is possible. All you need to do is put the HMD-head mounted display on and pair it with headphones to make events even more real. Within seconds your brain flips and it feels like that what you are watching at is a reality. You do not know you are looking into the screen. If you want to change your point of view you just need to turn your head. Manipulation of our mind is fascinating. It offers first person point of view and personal experience. Even not a fan of games or video games will be very impressed. It did however make me a little sick but eventually sickness passes. I was dropped into a room with roller coaster. When I got to the top of the roller coaster the feeling was very realistic. It was like I was in the real park.

In some way the available version is still very clumsy with cables and the quality of display is not good enough yet, but that will be better in the consumer version. Currently there are no special input controllers for Oculus Rift, and it is kind of clumsy to use keyboard and mouse when the device is on your face, since you cannot see anything else. You can be dropped into a movie theater, complete with rows of seats and a flickering projector behind you. Or you can drive a car or Cockpit and with some gadget it appears you can learn to drive in your apartment. Headset was basically designed for entertainment but it can be much more than just a toy.

Now virtual reality has the potential to profoundly alter our lives. There are limitless educational possibilities. Breathtaking advantages can be seen in fields of architecture and medicine. Architects may be using it to check their designs before starting to build. You will be able to walk through the buildings, new kitchen, house or landscape and experience the designs before they are even made. In medicine doctors can get a first-person view of an actual surgery. It can help learn new techniques by stepping into the virtual shoes of another surgeon. There are also some reports of using the Oculus Rift to help treat vets with post-traumatic stress disorder and help them confront traumatic memories. There is potential to reinvent the online shopping experience with 3d models. It can go further and with help of cameras around the world virtual tourism can happen. New possibilities and changes are on horizon and you can reach them without even leaving your seat. We are bringing the real world into virtual one. There is nothing left but wait for the year 2016 and the date when updated, advanced and more user friendly Oculus Rift will be available for consumers.

Teja Palko
Teja Palko
Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.