Virtual Reality is Virtually There

Few technologies lately can be said to have heralded the future of gaming and immersive entertainment as the Oculus Rift.

It may not look like much, a simple unassuming little black box but this HMD (Head Mounted Display) looks to set the world through it's use of full field 3D vision and precise head tracking through its use of  magnetometers, accelerometers, gyroscopes and external head camera. All these things combine to create a feeling of being immersed and transported into the game world, which is precisely what the Oculus Rift and its peers is all about.

I am hugely excited by any technology that engages and immerses me and having used the Oculus Rift to play intergalactic dog-fighting game Running Strike Suit Zero, several months ago at Virgin Media's Game Space in Blackall Studios, Shoreditch I can say that the device had succeeded in transporting me into that world.

Ghost in the Shell shows a dystopian future where technology has run rampant and what it means to be human is challenged. The Matrix considers the same thing as does pretty much a lot of sci-fi!

The device had the ability of fooling my brain and body into thinking I was somewhere else doing something else but it did take a few minutes to get used to it. I was lucky to try the device out but I know that for most people, Virtual Reality (VR) is still a fringe technology. For many it's the sign of a future dystopian world where people sit with the technology strapped to their faces and ignore each other, connected but not really connected. To allay such fears Google have introduced Cardboard, a do-it-yourself virtual reality kit made out of cardboard!

The Google Cardboard is a good introduction to VR, and importantly it is cheap!

For $25 you get a cardboard housing for a smartphone running Google's Android mobile OS, a lens kit, some magnets, some velcro and a rubber band and an easily programmable Near-Field Communication sticker tag for launching the companion mobile app. For people who are so inclined you can download the schematics and make your own out of an old pizza box. The result is a low key but effective introduction to VR. The cardboard app comes with 7 “experiences”;

  • Youtube lets you watch a selection of Youtube videos on a simulated theater screen.
  • Street Vue lets you wander around in a VR version of street view.
  • “Exhibit” lets you look at a few 3D recreations of objects.
  • Earth Flyover lets you zoom around a city in Google Earth. Push the “button” to start flying forward, push it again to stop.
  • Photo Sphere Viewer lets you look around in pictures you’ve taken using Android’s built-in 360º panoramic feature.
  • Windy Day is a cute, cartoony environment where you can watch animals sneak around as leaves fall.
  • Tour Guide has you explore the Palace of Versailles.

This is all very exciting and as a teacher I hope to make my own Cardboard this week, now that the reports are done and all assessments are handed in this could be something to sink my teeth into in my spare time. I'll let you know how it goes as I think this could really change the way children learn. Imagine Castlerama or Epic Citadel in immersive VR, the writing the children could produce as a result of being engaged and immersed is exciting. 

LINK- Google Cardboard