In March 2012 the world got its first look at the Oculus Rift. This virtual reality display was accurate, low cost and had the potential to become a serious option for the home virtual reality industry. Other than the impressive tech the difference with this attempt was that to fund the project they used crowd funding via a Kickstarter campaign. This not only helped them raise 2.5 million dollars but made the Rift a recognisable name among gaming enthusiasts overnight.
While we await the consumer launch of the product we have be inundated with support from developers experimenting with the interface and pledging that their titles will be compatible. For the first time VR looks like it has a real chance at taking off with quality hardware and software support but since then we’ve seen other players enter the scene that fill in other parts of the VR experience and yet again crowd funding seems to be a key component.
Enter the Omni
The Omni had quite a bit of pre-hype before their Kickstarter campaign but many details had been held off until the launch. A few days ago the campaign went live and gamers have been able to judge for themselves. The Omni is a low cost platform which allows the user to walk, run and turn naturally in a virtual environment. Unlike a treadmill which would be near impossible to engineer with 360 degrees of movement the Omni has a frictionless, grooved surface and proprietary shoes which let the players feet slide yet maintaining grip. I cannot say for sure how this feels as I have not used the device but there are lots of hands on impressions available and it paints a very convincing picture.
With the Oculus Rift and Omni we now have a way of fully exploring and moving around inside a virtual environment. There are still some challenges in this area, for instance stairs which I cannot even comprehend a solution to, but at the point our options seems incredible.
But wait there’s more!
Moving around the environment is all well and good but how do we interact with the games? There are some commercial motion devices like the Razer Hydra but they still feel like I’m holding a controller to me
This is the Delta Six a motion tracking input device. It’s also in the shape of a gun. Sure this is only a solution for first person games with guns but our industry is as such that that covers the majority of games. It’s open source, has weapon recoil, can sense melee attacks and perhaps my favourite feature it allows reloading via hitting the magazine on the weapon. This hardware solution was once again funded via Kickstarter.
Wrapping up my little VR collection here is the ARAIG or As Real As It Gets.
This is how a game can interact with you. The ARAIG is a force feedback suit that can provide feedback from general a vibration style level in existing games to highly localised reactions like bullet hits or recoil.
These four devices aren’t our only options but combined they can potentially create immersive experiences we have never come close to before and best of all it’s an affordable package coming in at around $1200 based on speculative final pricing. While that isn’t pocket change it is incredibly affordable compared to past VR options.
Kickstarter isn’t responsible for any of these projects and it’s completely possible that they could have found success without taking the crowd funding route. What Kickstarter has done is get support early. By the time the Oculus Rift is out for consumers developers have been working with it for a long time, consumers have been talking about it for a long time and other manufacturers have got projects together that work in conjecture with it. The future for home VR looks very bright right now.