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How VR gaming technology is breaking into the mainstream

14th May 2020 Print

Way back when virtual reality technology first came on the scene it was laughed at by the general consumer and critics alike, with clunky and uncomfortable headsets providing an exercise more akin to torture than entertainment.

Flash forward a few decades, and little had changed with headsets still prohibitively expensive and games developers finding it hard to make VR systems profitable.

However, all that has altered over recent years, especially when Facebook dropped a cool $2 billion on acquiring VR start-up Oculus, paving the way for a new generation of VR devices and games.

Now more than ever you are likely to set foot in your friend’s living room to find a headset and accompanying hand controllers on display. Here’s how VR is breaking into the mainstream as well as where it could be headed next.

Once derided as pointless, VR technology is having a renaissance

Fully Immersive and Intuitive Games

Previous incarnations of VR games were regularly derided for being so focused on visual aesthetics that their makers had seemingly forgotten that playability was also a pre-requisite for a title to be successful, with players complaining that terrible lag and minimal opportunities to interact with their virtual surroundings left them bored after a few minutes of play.

All that has now changed thanks to more manoeuvrable head and hand set combinations, which have gelled perfectly with games such as Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx, PokerStars’ VR offering and Twisted Pixel’s Defector to create truly immersive experiences, allowing players to pick up and examine everything they see before them. There’s even now the option to duck, throw, jump and climb, which while making you look like an idiot in front of your friends, sure does make for a frighteningly realistic gaming session.

VR gaming

You would be amazed at what games developers are cooking up for fans of VR

Bringing Exact Replicas of Venues to Peoples’ Houses

Although stats show that VR gamers still tend to be men in their thirties, there are now much wider applications of VR technology, which appeals to more sizeable demographics and markets than just boys with toys prancing about their living rooms with electric goggles on.

Museums and online learning databases are just two of the industries already engaging heavily in integrating VR technology into their pre-existing business models. Whether it is the Tate Modern allowing their visitors to enter Modigliani’s studio or the Natural History Museum letting people go on a private virtual tour of their archives with Sir David Attenborough, VR is branching far beyond the realms of gaming. This also means that museums need not exist in the physical realm, allowing some to perhaps save costs by moving fully online.

More Big Data is the End Game

So why the sudden interest in VR tech? What had Mark Zuckerberg excited enough to spend $2 billion in 2014? The answer is undoubtedly, big data.

Although selling games and hardware are an important revenue stream in themselves, their potential worth pales in comparison to the incredible levels of data their sensors and AI interfaces can collect. Everything from voice recognition, to facial expressions, to physical and mental reactions can be recorded and analysed by those in control of VR technology, allowing them to sell said information to the highest bidder. This will pose interesting dilemmas for customers in the future, as they try to weigh up how much personal information they are willing to trade for a magical VR experience.

Fusion with Augmented Reality Gaming

Away from headsets and gun toting zombies, there are already moves afoot to harness the true potential of VR technology out in the wider world, with games such as Pokémon Go using its derivative, AR technology, to find ways to not only wow consumers visually, but also to control the way they behave and spend their money on the street.

With many mobile devices being compatible with cheap wireless VR headsets, it may not be long before the lines between the VR gaming world and reality itself begin to blur and merge, as already mobile-obsessed customers log-in and start playing wherever they may be.

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