When Palmer Luckey presented his new and improved virtual reality headset on Kickstarter, he didn’t know that he’ll single-handedly revive a technology that most of us thought was dead. His Oculus Rift headset triggered a new wave of VR development – and this time, it’s here to stay, at least for the time being. Even if the technology stumbled upon obstacles hard to overcome, it continues to grow. It won’t be long before promising new experiences, like Microgaming’s “VR Casino” that scooped up pretty much every innovation-related award at the 2015 Global Gaming Awards hits Spin Casino, allowing you not only to put casino games into your pocket but to step inside your favourite online casino and play your favourite games in a super-immersive environment.
Five years have passed since the release of the first commercial Oculus headset. The technology has come a long way – the devices have become lighter, more powerful, and more widespread, while the quantity of content available for them has also exploded. We now have casual experiences and triple-A games running on standalone headsets and gaming PCs. But where does VR go from here?
Oculus, perhaps the best-known VR headset today, is owned by Facebook – yes, the company running the biggest social network ever. And it is dedicating an insane amount of resources to the platform – as much as 20% of Facebook’s entire workforce. That’s a lot.
Most people consider virtual reality to be little more than an immersive gaming platform. But not Facebook. If there is something that the last year and a half taught us, it is that technology can be used not to divide but to unite us – think of the many remote work platforms that made it possible for teams to work together, and social networks allowed us to keep in touch with our loved ones even when we were cooped up in our homes.
A social platform
VR may become the next big social platform – and perhaps sooner than we expected. Rec Room is a video game slash social network running on pretty much every platform from Android phones to Oculus Quest 2 headsets. Its user base has exploded in recent years, and so did its valuation – the company behind it, Rec Room Inc., is currently valued at $1.25 billion – this makes it VR’s first unicorn.
At the same time, Facebook is developing its own take on the matter – Horizon, a game creation platform and VR social meeting place, with goodies like eye and face tracking, so your avatars will be able to make eye contact and emote naturally.
Virtual reality is also a great way to exercise at home in an immersive environment, with tons of options emerging all over the place. Facebook’s BeatSaber is a nice way to move and enjoy music in an immersive environment… but there are other services, like FitXR and Supernatural VR, that are also offering the same sweat-inducing activity with massive piles of content. Both of them offer subscriptions to their users that they can use for their daily dose of cardio, and more.
What’s next for virtual reality? The technology will continue to improve – but in the short term, we can expect tweaks on the existing hardware at most. But when it comes to services and uses, we are in for a ton of innovation and growth.