“Just a few more months” has been the mantra of virtual reality since people started getting excited about the Oculus Rift, and saying it after the headset is released feels like either a huge cop-out or a sign that the VR we want may never actually arrive. But it’s impossible to think of all the unreleased Oculus Touch experiences I’ve tried – like three-dimensional painting tool Quill, Old West shooting gallery Dead & Buried, and a VR version of Rock Band – and not feel like the Rift’s best days are still ahead of it.
For the first time, though, there’s something to do while you wait. The high cost of buying and running high-end VR headsets makes them inaccessible to many people, and the Rift in particular is relentlessly focused on gaming. Within these limitations, though, the Rift makes a good case for seated VR, and it lays a solid foundation for what’s to come. The headset you can buy today is not Oculus’ most ambitious vision for virtual reality – but it’s a vision that Oculus has successfully delivered on.
I really don’t know what to make of the current crop of VR headsets. I just don’t see the appeal in strapping an ugly hardware monstrosity on your head to play a few video games or watch some movies. There are several weird disconnects; you can look around – but not in 360 degrees, because the cables make that impossible. You can move your head to look – but you need buttons to walk. It feels more like a glorified display setup than VR, really.
On top of that, while I love to dive into a carefully crafted game or movie world mentally, I wouldn’t want to do so physically. When you’re using one of these things, you are effectively wearing a blindfold, with no idea of what’s happening around you. I don’t know about other people, but to me, that just sounds terrifying – and a little distopian.
I appreciate the science and engineering that’s currently being done on VR, and I’m in no way saying this won’t go anywhere – just that it doesn’t seem like my personal cup of tea. On top of that, there are probably a ton of non-gaming uses where technology like this could really shine.
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for VR to grow up into the holodeck.