Gaming with All Five Senses: the Evolution of Virtual Reality

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one – Albert Einstein For the most part, we’ve always known gaming as a medium that we interact with from a distance. Whether it’s a handheld or a home console, it’s always been us and it. The controller was our connection, our bridge between our world and the one in front of us. We’ve always imagined a type of game that puts us into the world. Virtual reality is the common term for it, but what if we went past simple visuals in front of us? What if we could, truly, step into another world. What would it take for us to become fully immersed? Reality is malleable in the sense that it’s different for everyone. Socrates’ Allegory of the Cave in Regards to Gamers Let me get philosophical for a moment here. Let us consider Socrates and his “Allegory of the Cave.” This concept boiled down essentially describes a cave where people have been chained down since childhood. They are forced to stare directly in front of them at a wall that is illuminated by a fire behind them. Between the prisoners and the fire is a walkway where others walk by holding objects and going about their lives. These people cast their shadows on the wall for the prisoners to see. Their voices also echo off the wall, making it appear as if these shadows are speaking to the prisoners. Socrates goes on to say that these shadows are reality for the prisoners. They know nothing outside of the cave and the figures they see on the wall. Now, the allegory goes on to describe what would happen if someone were to escape, but for our purposes, would you not agree that gamers thus far are very similar to these prisoners in the allegory? We’re accustomed to staying at arm’s length from the things we experience in games. Things are changing though. Gamers are escaping from the prison of a separated world and instead are boldly stepping into this brave new reality. The Current State of VR The Oculus Rift brought back to the forefront the concept of VR. Nintendo had the Virtual Boy back in the day, but that did nothing more than give people horrific migraines. After that VR was something you saw at places like Disney Quest and the occasional arcade. It was never a household thing. To look at the Oculus Rift, it looks like a piece of hardware that you strap over your eyes which then projects a 3D image for your eyes to perceive. You can move your head and view the world around you as if you were there. Quite exciting as a concept. This device began life as a kickstarter and was recently purchased by Facebook for two billion dollars! Another competitor in the current field is GameFace Labs which has their own high-powered wireless headset running on a custom Android-based VR operating system. Then you’ve got the Avegant which has … Read More