Virtual Reality Headsets in a Six Year Time Capsule
Virtual Reality (VR) products have evolved tremendously over the past six years. With each successive year, new capabilities with virtual reality headset have entered the market making it easier for developers to enhance VR experiences.
It all started in 2012 with a simple idea of building a cardboard holder for your phone. This has since evolved into an unbelievable VR experience integral to Google’s VR efforts.
Its genesis lay in the FOV2GO project at USC’s mixed reality lab. Several of the researchers from this USC lab moved on to found their own companies such as Oculus and Survious. Other brains at the USC lab, Mark Bolas, and Paul Debevec chose to augment the efforts at Microsoft and Google.
VR and AR create and transports you to an immersive environment. To use an oxymoron, it is a real world of make-believe! Interestingly, it projects an angle of how computers respond to humans. VR and AR use bodily movements with a map of your environment to program virtual inhabitants’ interaction with you.
Does that sound a little unnerving? Well, that’s precisely why it has taken so long to get it right. Let’s take a quick look at the progress year to year since the conception of FOV2GO. Each year a new virtual reality headset has been introduced with new capabilities for a better virtual reality experience.
2013 – Facebook’s Oculus Rift DK1
Rift DK1 enabled gamers to turn their heads either up, down, left or right but feel immersed in VR. The virtual world of Rift DK 1 was powered by a PC and not a phone as in FOV2GO. Being powered by a PC, developers were assured of more fidelity and stability. They did not have to deal with unexpected interruptions in the game as when it was hooked to a phone.
The introduction of a camera to the kit a year later brought more mobility to the developers. It was a one-stop station for VR, no separate hardware was required for movement in the virtual environment.
2015 – HTC’s Vive Developer Kit
Welcome to the wireless world. The initial Vive developer kits had wires but this soon disappeared. The wireless world gave developers the freedom to use their hands to interact with the VR characters and environment. This brought with it a whole new sense of freedom.
2016 – Google’s Daydream View
This initially seemed a step retrograde. While it combined the portability of a phone-based system, the hand controls were limited to a single pointer only. Freedom of movement seemed slightly restricted.
2017 – Microsoft’s Windows-powered virtual reality headset
Microsoft surged ahead in the world of VR with its new set up to wired VR systems. The headsets introduced by Microsoft offered freedom of movement without the need for external hardware.
2018 – Facebook Oculus Santa Cruz Developer Kit
Plans are underway to commence shipment of Oculus Santa Cruz developer kit, presented for the first time last year. It amalgamates the plus points of the previous years’ inventions and presents a device which:
- Possesses the ease of set up of Microsoft’s 2017 kit
- Portability of Google’s 2016 development
- The freedom of HTC’s 2015 solution
Voila, we are getting ahead and going places virtually speaking!
Looking ahead to Year 2019 and beyond
Facebook’s Oculus is expected to learn a lot once developers report their findings with Santa Cruz. Christmas 2019 will mark four years since I asked Oculus John Carmack about the challenges facing Santa Cruz. Has it been long enough to answer the question and see it as a consumer product?
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