The Oculus Rift is a 3D head mounted display that is a huge step forward in the possibilities of virtual reality. It allows the person who straps it to their head and over their eyes to position themselves in an immersive space. Primarily developed for gamers wanting the next level in immersive gaming experiences, it is still in the development stage and there will be a long wait for those looking to get their hands and heads round one of the headsets.
However developer kits are already shipped to those with an interest and the necessary skills to contribute to the effective improvement of the system. Oculus VR, the company behind the invention have secured $16 million to make the Oculus Rift a reality with $2.4 million coming from a Kickstarter campaign. Gamers are clearly chomping at the bit for this piece of technology to become available but some are already looking beyond gaming for further uses of the Oculus Rift.
If you've seen Steven Spielberg's dystopian future thriller 'Minority Report', you will likely remember more about some of the dazzling futuristic technology than you do about Tom Cruise or the plot. Spielberg's film and the presentation of its future world and technology have proved extremely prescient. The Oculus Rift appears to be almost straight out of the film with users able to perform complex tasks in shorter time spans and with complete control over the virtual reality space. With Razer Hydra motion controllers in hands and the Oculus Rift strapped to a user's head, the beginnings of the multi-touch interface seen in the movie are emerging. Instead of using the traditional methods of keyboard, mouse and monitor, the motion controllers and headset allow users freedom to move quickly, concisely and precisely in creating images and structures. A complex procedure is simplified and can take minutes instead of the best part of an hour.
Oliver Kreylos has created a demonstration of what can be achieved with the virtual reality technology in the field of nanotech construction. With his view always tied to the environment he sees through the headset and using the Hydra unit to manipulate elements in the space, he has found that the time tasks take can be drastically reduced. The controllers in his hands are tracked by magnetic fields allowing their spatial location to be received by a PC and as he reaches out to manipulate what is shown on the Oculus Rift, he is allowed a freedom of movement and control previously unseen with traditional hardware.
Just for gamers?
Though the Oculus Rift may be conceived for entertainment purposes with gamers particularly interested in the opportunities it will afford them, developers will need to keep looking into the further benefits the new technology can bring. While the funding is likely sourced primarily from investors that are looking to get a return from targeting the gaming industries, there will be a myriad of other ways the virtual reality kit can be used. Hopefully the cost will not be prohibitive to gamers and researchers alike and the The Oculus Rift will bring the future of 'Minority Report' technology just that little bit closer. I know I'll be desperate to get my hands on this piece of kit in order to immerse myself in video games but I also look forward to the day where offices and schools make the most of the technology too.
What do you think of the potential of the The Oculus Rift? Is it wasted on gamers?