For the avid gamers, this past week has been full of gifts from a futuristic Santa Claus. Remember when you were playing the sixth Final Fantasy on that ancient PS1 console? Better yet, do you recall playing as Mario in Super Smash Bros. for the first time on the N64?
Or maybe you’re a bit older and you got your introduction to the addiction from playing as the fast-as-lightning small blue hedgehog collecting rings as you defied gravity on the Sega Genesis.
We could even go as far back as the Atari where you found solace in the company of your parents sitting around the fire in your basement playing Pong or Space Invader until your parents told you it was time to go to bed.
Regardless of where you entered into this spectrum, video games have stayed a constant part of the consumer’s life in America. It’s a method of escape, a way to lose yourself from the constraints of reality and enter into a world all your own, where you are the hero the townspeople have been searching for. Ever since those days of Super Smash Bros, Megaman, and Legend of Zelda, the notion of entering the video game yourself have constantly been thought, debated, and wished upon by the most devout gamers. Gaming giants such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft have searched aimlessly for methods of integrating virtual reality into their products, but each year presented near-fruitless results (check out some of these fruitless endeavors here). But now, there might be a light at the end of the long arduous, unforgiving tunnel.
Cue in Oculus Rift, a 3-D virtual reality gaming headset that transforms the user’s head into that of a futuristic cyborg’s helmet. With crowdfunding via their Kickstarter amounting to nearly $2.4 million, the Rift allows the user to integrate themselves directly into the game of their choice, utilizing stereoscopic 3-D rendering, a massive field of view, and an ultra low latency head tracking. With engineers from previous immersive and symbolic games in the past (such as John Carmack – the developer of the massive gaming series Doom, and Jack McCauley – lead engineer for the Guitar Hero gaming series), the promise for Oculus Rift to enter into consumer’s homes in the near future is so promising, that Silicon Valley tech giants are taking note, and some are investing, or better yet, acquiring the company.
Of course, Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift for $2 billion ($400 million in cash and the rest in Facebook stock) is important to note. It allows for the proliferation of Oculus’ technology to the wider consumer audience, as well as gives Oculus the necessary cash funding it truly needs to get it’s product to the level we all desire it to reach. Zuckerberg has even stated that the Oculus platform will act as a platform “for many other experiences” including standing court side at a concert, or hanging out with friends online. While many believe that Oculus is losing its position as a leader in the gaming market, losing its good will with investors, and ultimately losing klout as the next crucial element in gaming history, the focus should not rely solely on what Oculus can and cannot do, but rather, what this means for gaming as a whole.
And what this means is a new realm for competition.
Now, cue in our dear old friends Sony, who have brought us constant staples in the gaming market. Their answer to Oculus Rift just happens to be their own attempt at virtual reality, what they are now calling Project Morpheus. Harnessing the external controller model made popular by the Wii, Sony have been hard at work designing their own virtual reality controller for 3+ years now. Utilizing low resolution, a 90 degree field of vision, and 3D audio technology, Sony’s Project Morpheus could become the push for the race to virtual reality that Oculus needs. With the massive technological giant backing its creation, Project Morpheus could be well on its way to entering consumer’s homes even sooner than Oculus. And what happens when both of these two leaders in technology come to market? Well, only more competition.
The future is soon, folks.
– Cyrus Wesson