Ever since our first run at Doom
in 1993 with the words “virtual reality” on the box, we’ve been hooked on VR. Back then this obsession mostly consisted of playing FPSs, becoming best friends with the kid in class who had a Virtual Boy
(remember those?), and begging our Moms to take us to the closest indoor theme park/arcade that had a “real” virtual reality machine. However, none of those was ever a true VR experience and left us wanting more.
That is why we’re so excited about the Oculus Rift. Unlike previous platforms, the team at Oculus VR has put together a truly immersive system that finally lives up to the “reality” part of Virtual Reality. It is currently only available for developers, but its spectacular performance at CES 2014 (it won Best of 2014) has hurled it into the spotlight. While such focused attention and natural light would make most of us playing video games in our parents’ basements cringe and recoil, the Oculus is rising to the occasion, sparking thousands of new ideas and use cases that are making our minds explode.
With that in mind, here are our top 5 most exciting uses for the Oculus Rift: First Person Shooters
The FPS genre has come a long way from Doom
and not just in terms of graphics. However, there has always been one major obstacle preventing us from really experiencing the game: no matter if you were playing on a PC, N64, PS4, or Xbox One, you were always looking at a screen.
The Oculus Rift changes all that. Instead of sitting back and watching your character explore and fight his way through the game, you are inside him, looking around not by tapping the d-pad but by simply moving your head as you would in real life. Oculus is currently supported for Halo 2
, Portal and Dark (see below) and we can’t wait to test it out on this year’s new titles. The team at Zero Latency has already come out with their flagship game Zombie Fort: Smackdown, which puts the gamer right in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, but we’ll have to make due with watching the demo
for now. No word yet on if they’ve included a crossbow. Flying and Racing Games
Unlike games where the main mode of transportation is walking, flight simulators and racing games, with the user fully enclosed in a cockpit, are a perfect fit for VR. The idea that you can actually look around at your surroundings, identify opponents and wingmen as you would in a real plane or car, really changes everything. If you don’t believe us, check out this demo of Eve-VR, an outer space dogfighting game set in the world of Eve Online. And while this game still makes use of standard gamepads, we’d love to see a specialized set of controllers, complete with joystick, throttle, and interactive dashboard to complete the experience.
Let’s bow our heads in silent prayer in hopes that this means that an Oculus Wii with Mario Kart VR is on its way. Virtual Exploration
By pairing the Oculus with the Omni-treadmill
, users can walk through any environment imaginable. This has the ability to spawn entire new industries like virtual tourism where users could explore a foreign city without ever leaving their homes. Taken just a step further, this could revolutionize the field of education. Suddenly a student could trek across the Great Wall of China, or experience “first hand” the magnitude of the death and destruction of the Civil War by walking around Gettysburg.
NASA has even taken notice if the possibilities, and has developed a way for earthbound astronauts to experience outer space, and even interact with it using an Oculus Rift, Kinect, and multi-million dollar space robots
Throw in the Omni-treadmill and NASA enables you to walk on Mars! Repeat, you can now walk on Mars
(well, no, not you, but humans can).
No word yet on whether Richard Branson plans to integrate these into Virgin Galactic, but he’s already planned to get Justin Bieber off the planet
, so he clearly knows a good idea when he sees one. Fingers crossed! Myo
The team over at Thalmic Labs has developed the Myo Wearable Gesture Control
, which is an amazing bit of engineering all on its own. By wearing the Myo armband, a user can control anything from a PowerPoint presentation to a quadcopter. So why not a VR game too? Well, apparently this is already in development, as Myo founder and CEO Stephen Lake told TechCrunch
, this pairing for gaming is “a badass use case.”
What does this mean for the future of VR Gaming? Instead of holding a controller or wiimote to use as a gun, you could simply put on the armband and make shooting gestures with your fingers. No need for a steering wheel, just put up your hands and the Myo’s sensors will monitor your muscle movement. The only thing left would be for a Bellator MMA game where you actually get in the cage and fight. Just make sure you clear the room before taking on King Mo! Augmented Reality
Perhaps the most intriguing use comes from William Steptoe
, and the AR-Rift. By adding two modified webcams, the AR-Rift allows users to interact with their real surroundings with virtual overlays. In his demonstration
, we are shown how one can create virtual objects and interact with them in your real-world settings. At the most basic level, a user could create a virtual setup in their home, turning one wall into a giant TV, and the windows into a portal to outer space. When expanded to a larger scale, everything we’ve mentioned above can be taken to that much higher level. Visiting Rome? Why not put on your AR-Rift while on vacation, touring the Coliseum? You could see virtual videos “on” the walls explaining where you are, or switch on a 3-D overlay to walk the halls as they used to be, or see a gladiatorial battle from a seat where spectators once watch them in real life! What’s stopping a theme park from creating a holodeck where friends can put on AR-Rifts together to play a fully immersible game of Halo. In such a holodeck, players could dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge behind and climb on real objects, while fighting virtual and real-life enemies (i.e. your friends). You could even put on your World of Warcraft avatar or control a quadcopter with a Myo to attack your enemies from the air to add to the geekfest. Is anyone else’s head spinning?
Just think of it: no controller, no joystick, just you, your friends and the Rift taking on anything, anywhere, with anyone. This is truly the future of gaming, just hopefully, not too far in the future.
There is no limit to the possibilities and now the only thing we can do it wait patiently for the developers to catch up with our imaginations. Don’t see your favorite use of the Oculus Rift here?
Put it in the comments below!