Last week, CES went down in Vegas, and for a few days, the city was inhabited by people who were less interested in strip clubs and slot machines, and more stoked about sweet technology. And there was no topic more talked-about than VR.
Chaotic Moon VP of VR Experiences, Omar Khan, was on site at the event, where he demonstrated how VR could be used to treat phobias. For this, he and his team combined the Gear VR and a BTLE-enabled heart rate monitor to focus on Claustrophobia. How did it work? Well, Khan invited the user to put on a headset, and then created the experience of the walls closing in around them. As the “walls” closed in around the user and their anxiety increased, signaled by an increase in heart rate, Khan would then reverse the experience so that the “walls” were expanding, providing the user the sensation of getting more space and, by proxy, relieving their anxiety, a change that was signaled by them achieving and maintaining a normal heart rate.
Yes, it’s a mouthful—and kind of crazy to think about—but it was awesome, and it’s just a small glimpse into the amazing potential of VR. That being said, our VP of VR Experiences wasn’t just demoing. Khan was also exploring and talking to other experts, and after the show, he came back with some insider info on what we can expect next from VR and AR.
So despite the fact that what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, for CES…well, we’ll make an exception.
THE TECH: OCULUS RIFT
KHAN SAYS: The Oculus Rift is shipping March 28th, 2016 and will cost $599. The Oculus Touch controllers have been delayed to Q2 2016. There are many varying opinions surrounding this announcement, and people have been reacting both positively and negatively to this news.
One opinion is that the price mark—much higher than the original price, which was set at $300—is disappointing. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Oculus Rift when it was initially Kickstarted, mostly due to its potential to be an actually affordable consumer device for displaying VR. Now that the price has been announced, many consider the Oculus more of a high-tech toy that requires a beast of a computer to run. The average consumer, who doesn’t already have the equipment needed to properly run it, will be looking at spending a lot more than they were anticipating.
The second popular opinion is that due to the quality of hardware put into the device, the cost of entry to enjoy such an awesome VR experience is actually reasonable. In other words: The price is right. Also, VR hardware has historically been far more expensive than $2000, often ranging upwards of $10k or more for a decent VR rig. So now, although the Oculus is set to be double the original cost, a high-quality VR experience is still more attainable for the average consumer than ever before.
THE TECH: HTC VIVE
KHAN SAYS: HTC Vive has released an updated version of their hardware with better display and colors as well as a redesign of their controllers and headset. However, their biggest breakthrough is the inclusion of a front-facing camera that will provide pass-through data to be potentially integrated into the VR experience.
They will begin taking pre-orders on February 29th for their new kit, and HTC is dedicated to the VR space, removing focus from their mobile devices and adding more support to their VR initiative.
THE TECH: RAZER’S OSVR
KHAN SAYS: Razer is working on their open-sourced VR technology, which they’ve called the OSVR. They are leveraging the Steam VR platform with their own custom middleware, and are hard at work to ensure that the platform is open-source and modifiable both from a hardware and software perspective.
THE TECH: 3D SOUND
KHAN SAYS: 3D sound is critically important in VR experiences, and companies are working hard to join in and innovate in this space. Sennheiser, for instance, is developing their own custom libraries to work with both Unreal 4 and Unity 5, allowing for proper 3D sound within games that will support not only their own headsets but any that support the format. Meanwhile, Bragi is updating their Dash earbuds to also support native 3D sounds for use in VR and AR spaces with the added convenience of the headphones being completely wireless.
THE TECH: AN AR/VR SMARTPHONE
KHAN SAYS: Lenovo has partnered with Google Tango to release the first consumer-facing AR/VR smartphone that will integrate the camera technologies found in the prototype Tango devices into an actual working product.
THE TECH: AR GLASSES
KHAN SAYS: Sony is working on their own AR glasses, which are untethered and can also be networked into a backend so that multiple devices can communicate with one another. However, the range of colors and detail that can be rendered is limited, and currently the device just displays a green monochromatic rendering in front of the user.
Want more cool VR and AR stuff? Well, we’ve got blogs for that. Read a piece Omar Khan did on developing for the HTC Vive!