The once classic family games room is quickly being replaced with a sofa, a flat screen television and a games console. For the smaller homes that just can’t find space for a full blown pool table and pinball machine, the advancements of computer games have stormed into the living rooms of many over the years and we have gratefully welcomed them into our homes. Now any room can be transformed into a games room with a couple of presses on your TV remote.
And maybe hiding away all the breakables if you have a Wii….
Virtual reality still seems so far away to many people, often being dismissed as some kind of futuristic fantasy from Star Trek, inevitably coming but still beyond our lifetime. But with the release of the likes of the Virtuix Omni and the Oculus Rift, we could be hooking up these virtual reality devices in our living rooms and games rooms sooner than you think.
Admittedly, those with a higher income may see these in their games rooms a little sooner than the rest of us, and not just because the majority of us don’t even have a games room…. But you would be surprised to know that both the Omni and the Oculus are a lot more affordable than you would first assume, and you could be setting up virtual reality devices of your own for a mere few hundred pounds (comparable to buying an annual gym membership and buying all that… gym stuff).
So if virtual reality gaming is already here…Where?
Introducing the Oculus Rift!
Image credit: Touch Arcade.
The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality head-mounted display which tracks your head movement and displays the simulated reality right in front of your eyes as accurately as if you were to be viewing the real world around you. There have been concerns of the discomfort that such a device may have on your eyes (the most common complaint about the 3D cinema/TV viewing), however, unlike 3D glasses, the Rift’s lenses set your focal point to infinity, eliminating eye strain and allowing the wearer to view the virtual world around them comfortably and naturally, experiencing depth, as they would in the physical world.
A year since they debuted on Kickstarter, raising a massive $2,437,429 during a 30 day campaign (very nearly ten times their original goal to raise $250,000 which they actually hit within the first four hours), talks of virtual reality gaming seemed to quieten a bit with people wondering what had happened to the Rift. For the past few weeks though, the hype has returned and the Oculus Rift has been confirmed for sale as early as 2014! No longer an accessory on The Sims, the virtual reality headset is here.
“Well, that covers the visual aspects of virtual gaming, but what about the physical aspect? As immersive as the headset sounds,” I hear you say, “it can hardly feel realistic if you’re sat there slumped in your seat. And isn’t the point of virtual reality to, well, feel realistic?”
Ah, great point, reader. Which brings me to the Virtuix Omni, the perfect must-have accompaniment to the Oculus Rift.
Image credit: PC Gamer.
As well as looking all cool and futuristic, this thing is actually functional too. This omni-directional treadmill is actually compatible with the Rift and allows you to the move freely around the virtual worlds you play in. Though, as documented throughout the many hilarious attempts of first-timers on YouTube, it may take a recommended 10-15 minutes to get used to. This treadmill supposedly mimics natural movement such as walking, running, jumping, crouching, or even moon walking if you are that way inclined.
Similar to the once popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band games that turned your living room into a music venue, the aim of Virtual Reality is to take it that one step further and turn your living room into whatever you want! There have even been heartfelt Tweets of recreating your childhood home in Unity3D and wandering through them in a virtual reality. Scary….
The astounding potential of virtual reality gaming is seemingly endless, bridging the physical world which we have already grown tired of in this generation with the many virtual worlds that we escape to on a daily basis. The intense level of immersion is said to be impossible to understand or appreciate fully until you have experienced it for yourself and this shift in the gaming industry could revolutionise gaming as we know it, encouraging the gaming demographic notorious for sitting around to get off the sofa and game actively.
Both the Omni and the Rift piqued a lot of interest as both separate Kickstarter campaigns went viral in the gaming community, exposing an obvious interest in the concept of virtual reality gaming. And though some non-believers may laugh, both products have already won awards despite still being in a development phase, gaining the support of numerous big computer game companies.
The devices have been tested by established gamers, playing such games as Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas, Crysis Warhead, Team Fortress 2, and even Minecraft! Mojang’s Notch himself endorses the Oculus Rift, alongside a dozen other notable leaders in the gaming industry including the co-founder and CEO of Valve.
Virtual reality gaming goes that extra mile that’s just beyond your reach when you’re sitting on a sofa in front of a TV. It’s the future of gaming and, in my honest opinion, the perfect addition to any games room as it offers not only an amazing platform for gaming but a much more interesting alternative to that old Wii Fit setup that’s laying around somewhere.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, where is my Wii Fit?
Featured image credit: Aaron Brazell, Flickr.