Virtual Reality and Video Games: An Inevitable Merger
Video games have been around for quite some time. The first video game was actually created in 1958, and it was a simple tennis game not unlike Pong of the 1970s. In the 58 years since then, video games have grown exponentially more complex, to the point entire universes are simulated with multitudes of players occupying the same digital space simultaneously.
Video games are, in their very nature, forms of virtual reality. Up until very recently, they have been quite simple forms of virtual reality, often represented as 3D images but still ultimately only 2D. True virtual reality is starting to change that.
It’s hard to argue that virtual reality wasn’t inspired by video games. The idea behind true virtual reality is as simple as the name: it is a virtual reality. The user, with the help of incredibly advanced technology, will experience a 3D world that is entirely simulated. Right now, we are just beginning to understand how to perform true virtual reality on a small scale. The user must wear a headset to see and hear the world, and they interact with the world through hand controls that are usually in the shape of a flashlight or modern video game controller. Of course, as the technology becomes more advanced, the user experience will become more realistic, and it may require less wearable tech for the user.
The main players in the field of VR are the Samsung Gear VR and the Oculus Rift, both of which have been in the public eye for some time now. Samsung’s Gear VR alone is estimated to sell 2.5 million units in 2016, and PC headsets, which include the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, will sell an estimated 6.6 million units combined. The Samsung Gear VR sells so many units on its own because it is the more affordable option, and it is essentially an upgrade for those who already have certain Samsung smartphones that act as the screen for the VR unit. Samsung’s flagship phones are not exactly cheap, with the Galaxy S7 still over $700, but then again, a good PC is also required to power Oculus Rift or other VR sets.
The majority of virtual reality uses up until now have been limited to small scale objectives like virtual training for military, medical, and scientific personnel. Those systems were driven to a single purpose, which meant they could be specialized and dumbed down to their specific focus level. New VR systems are emerging to open the world up to the user, and that has inevitably led to a merger with the world of video games.
Even though the VR video game market is still in its infancy, there are still huge indicators that VR will become much more commonplace over the next few years, and it is going to be due almost entirely to a new wave of video game consoles. Microsoft has already announced a new version of the Xbox will be able to support VR, and they are reported to be developing their HoloLens technology, which augments true reality with holograms overlaid in the user’s field of vision. Sony has matched Microsoft in terms of their VR development with their Playstation VR set that will be in stores in October, and it is estimated there will be at least 50 games for the system before the year is over.
The fact that major video game companies are preparing for a world dominated by virtual reality is encouraging for anyone fascinated by the technology, and that should be everyone. VR has the incredible ability to transport you to a place entirely foreign to your own existence, and it lets you explore things you never thought you might see. The potential for VR technology is practically limitless. It won’t be long before video games evolve to reach new and more realistic forms of VR as the public demand for the technology increases. The human race could be heading toward a future where vacations are possible every weekend, and where you can choose to live in whatever reality you find most appealing.
VR isn’t going to be limited to fun and entertainment, either. Since the majority of VR systems got their start as simple training programs, it will be easy to expand that technology to bring it to new teaching sectors. Virtual reality could be used to teach medical students how to perform surgery, pilots how to fly aircraft, technicians how to repair machines, and many other education fields. The technology is perfect for teaching since it feels like real-world experience without any of the risks associated with true hands-on learning in those professional industries.
Technology will always continue to advance as long as there are those with a commitment to progress, and VR technology will be no different. Training and entertainment will be the first implementations of true VR in the world, but there will be other applications following close behind. For instance, when virtual reality is able to completely mimic reality, including fine control through dexterous hands within the system, the landscape will open up to the possibility of working in virtual reality.
Virtual reality, like any software, can connect to the internet, which means anything you do online could be done through virtual reality. This could be great news for those who work from their computer and prefer to enjoy their entertainment from the comfort of their home. Eventually, the virtual landscape could be a single secondary realm where humans operate. You might find yourself waking up to go to work in a virtual office, only to get finished working so you can visit the virtual cinema or game arena.
Virtual reality and videogames are, at their core, the exact same thing: an escape from reality. It should come as no surprise the two have started to merge, and soon they will be one and the same. Controlling Superman on screen in a video game might be fun, but most people would probably rather experience flying in first person.