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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Everything you need to know about virtual reality.

Virtual Reality is BACK! It only took a few decades.  The main driver for the technology is small high resolution screens.  We can thank cell phones for that.  The VR space is unfortunately fragmented with everyone working toward their own view of VR, which is divided into two major spheres: interactive VR and "spectative VR"(I am starting this as a word for VR).  

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift is the one that started all the hype on KickStarter.  Oculus Rift was bought by Facebook and recently acquired backing from Unreal.  Native game integration makes game setup smooth.  Also, Unreal recently made an interesting pivot to virtual space rendering offering $5 million in grants toward video game and virtual presence within the Unreal 4 engine.  Unreal is also offering its Unreal 4 engine free for development of future games. Even with Unreal support OR is primarily spectative VR in nature.
Gear VR is an Oculus backed mobile platform with support from Samsung.  Gear VR came about after Facebook got involved with Oculus Rift. Facebook previously gave little support to Android Facebook apps.  Facebooks focus has changed due to the sheer numbers of Android devices, and presumably this peripheral.  Gear VR offers “3D Spatial Sound” all through a Galaxy S4.
*Prediction* Expect to see this go somewhere in the social media space.  

Project Morpheus

Sony has created a VR system called Project Morpheus that is directly connected to the PS4 system.  There isn't much talk about standalone functionality and that could limit its potential.  Morpheus is in the early development stages with functioning prototypes.  We will see about future game support and backwards compatibility.  Morpheus will have integration with the Move controller system that will allow a more interactive VR experience within the PS4 ecosystem.  

Razer has been making advanced peripherals for the PC for a while now.  Razer's offering into the VR space, OSVR, is open source which will rely largely on the community to development. This is great but without software support this is for a niche group of tinkerers who dont mind figuring out why things dont work. Razer does have other hardware to offer an interactive VR experience.


Via Steam
They finally released SteamOS and Steam Boxes are official now.  Read more about why Steam is the way to go.  
In a surprise move Steam launched a joint venture with HTC to create its own VR system.  You might think this is redundant to the Oculus Rift , but the vision of SteamVR is movement within a room.  Imagine an empty room and actually being able to walk around and play a game similar to "Portal".  SteamVR has trackable left and right controllers.  This will add an additional layer of interactive VR and game development support that none of the others have to offer.

Oculus will probably be the most mainstream offering out there for specatative VR, and Steam has the potential to be the pinnacle of interactive VR assuming its Steam Boxes do well. Right now this is how the VR landscape looks. It is still an evolving genre.

Did we miss anything?

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