Virtual experience

VR technology allows you to visit new places regardless of where you actually are

Jacob Prosser

You’re taking a stroll down the street in Paris, or maybe you’re dodging bullets fired by aliens in outer space. A buddy taps you on the shoulder and you take off your headset. “I wanna hop in,” they say, as they put on the headset and are immediately transported into a virtual world with you.

These are just a couple possibilities with new and upcoming technology known as virtual reality (VR) headsets . The two VR headsets that show the most potential are Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Specifically designed for video games, these new tools open up a whole new world of gaming. When worn, its as if you’re actually there. Sony’s offering will work alongside the PlayStation 4 and Oculus Rift works with PCs to bring a whole new meaning to first-person-perspective-based games.

When asked about the gaming possibilities this new tech brings, Evan MacEwen, a sophomore IRR major and avid gamer, said, “I think it’s a really cool idea. Feeling like I was actually in the game would be crazy!” Both hardware are still in development though. The Rift is aiming for a release this coming April, while Project Morpheus looks to follow sometime later in 2015.

While the VR headset’s primary purpose is for gaming, there are some other uses for this new tech. Not wanting to be left behind, Google has jumped on the VR headset bandwagon and has their own take already on shelves.

Google’s offering is the cheapest way to get in on VR. Cardboard, as it is called, is made out of, well, cardboard. To keep the price as low as possible, it uses your smartphone for the display inside the headset. Google made it relatively easy for anyone to try it out, since all you need is a smartphone, the required app, and some cardboard. With Cardboard, you can fly around on Google Earth, watch YouTube videos, and use a feature called Exhibit that allows you to view cultural artifacts from every angle.

It’ll be interesting to see if this tech catches on when it becomes more commercially available. An issue that VR headsets currently present is motion sickness. While this can affect anyone, with VR tech it has seemed to be more prominent in women. If this is going to become more mainstream, it’s a hurdle that will have to be overcome.

VR headsets have potential to change the game. As it is with all new tech, it will have to appeal to a wide enough audience to catch on.  It will ultimately boil down to what software is out there and how they can improve on tasks that can already be done. If some great, well designed software comes out, it no doubt could be some tech we see become see more widely used.

Jacob is a sophomore studying communication.