The Oculus Rift has drifted in and out of tech news for the past two years and the information that filters out is more and more promising every month. Think the Rift is only for gaming? You may be pleasantly surprised.
While it’s true that the Oculus Rift is going to revolutionize the gaming industry, there’s so much more to it than that. The technology is poised to revolutionize a number of non-gaming fields, including medicine, education, and tourism. Not a gamer? Not a problem. The Oculus Rift is for you, too.
As virtual reality continues to mature, it’s going to blow your mind. Here’s a taste of what you can expect in the coming years.
Stationary Motion Simulator
The Oculus Rift is excellent when it comes to delivering audio and visual feedback, but the human body relies on five other senses (audio, touch, smell, taste, acceleration, and proprioception), all of which can help add to the experience of immersion. The Feel Three is a platform that supplements virtual reality technology, like the Oculus Rift, in order to provide a more holistic virtual ride.
Despite the cheesy music and CGI, there’s a lot of potential in the concept shown above. It’s one thing to be transported into terrifying horror scenarios or to play virtual reality video games, but exploring a virtual world supplemented with real, physical sensations is something else entirely. While it isn’t the first available platform for motion simulation, the options currently on the market are expensive, dangerous, fragile, or all of the above. The Feel Three promises to be affordable, robust, safe, and configurable to your needs. Watch for the Kickstarter campaign to begin sometime in 2015.
Full-Body Flight Simulator
Bringing other senses into VR is a huge challenge, and many teams are pursuing it. One experience, Birdly allows you to feel what it feels like to be a bird, using a mechanical, wing-flapping armature in conjunction with a VR headset.
Developed by a team at the Zurich University of the Arts, Birdly combines many different feedback systems that trick your body into thinking that you’re actually flying over a cityscape. You lie down on the platform and the following occurs:
- The motion simulator moves you up/down to simulate lift.
- The motion simulator also tilts forward/backward to simulate diving.
- Wing panels must be “flapped” to move in the simulation.
- A fan blows on you, with a speed controlled by your velocity in the game.
Even though it’s already quite immersive, the project is only a year old so there’s still a lot of room for improvements. How much better will it get? Only time will tell.
Oculus Rift On A Roller Coaster
Have you seen the Oculus Rift demo that takes you on a roller coaster ride around a castle setting? It was one of the first demos to garner a lot of public attention, mostly due to reaction videos that showed people flinching and leaning in genuine fear.
Well, what happens when an Oculus Rift is used in conjunction with a live roller coaster? That’s the idea that Thomas Wagner, a German design professor, chose to bring to life. Having partnered with Mack Rides, Wagner created a few virtual scenarios that match the motions of a physical roller coaster.
One common complaint about the Oculus Rift is that it can cause motion sickness since the visuals imply movement while your body thinks it’s stationary. Matching the visuals with motion mitigates the sickness, making it a more palatable experience for those who are vulnerable to that. The hybrid virtual-physical ride can also immerse the user in visuals and environments that would not be possible in the real world.
The technology is still in testing and development, but it may pave the way for a new kind of amusement park ride. Maybe the Oculus Rift could be combined with a self-driving car for a similar sort of experience? Who knows. The future is wide open at this point.
Retro Arcade Virtual Environment
The end game for the Oculus Rift is the ability to create complete virtual environment that we can truly inhabit together. These worlds could take us to places that are long gone, or never existed in the first place. The idea isn’t a new one — Ernest Cline explored the notion of recreating old realities in his novel Ready Player One — but it remains a goal that we’re constantly pursuing.
And that’s why the New Retro Arcade is such a fascinating application of Oculus Rift technology. If you lament the disappearance of ’80s-era arcades, rest easy. Pretty soon you’ll be able to relive that experience without having to do anything more than wear a set of these goggles.
Everything about the recreated environment is beautiful and spot on: the tacky carpet, the black lights, the neon signs, and of course the cassette tape music. It really feels like you’ve been teleported back a few decades. Older folks can use the New Retro Arcade to reminisce while younger folks can experience a past they’ve never seen.
But it’s not just about passive enjoyment; it’s about interaction. You can switch tapes, play Gameboy games, and move from arcade machine to arcade machine all the while playing hit titles from the Golden Age of gaming like Tetris, Asteroids, and Missile Command.
It proves the viability of the Oculus Rift as a tool for virtual environments, not just virtual experiences, thus making the New Retro Arcade one of the best Oculus Rift demos for naysayers of virtual reality.
The Oculus Rift hasn’t been released for the general market yet but a consumer version is slated to be released sometime in 2015. Before then, the only way to get first-hand experience with the device is with the development kit.
Are you impressed with the Oculus Rift yet? Which of these simulations is most exciting to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!