Virtual reality has been around for nearly 40 years in some shape or form. From cardboard blue and red glasses of the 80s to the virtual reality programming languages of the mid-nineties, the technology has long been hailed as game changing.
Yet it’s never really caught on.
Motion sickness has caused people to try it once and never return, while clunky displays and virtual reality worlds that look anything but convincing have further reduced the appeal of the technology.
This all appears set to change next year.
Facebook owned VR company Oculus VR announced this week that its much anticipated headset, the Rift, will hit the market during the first three months of 2016.
Until now, the company has only sold developer editions that were targeted at video games creators and were not the product’s final design.
Yet despite the rough around the edges prototypes people are starting to take notice.
Magazine publisher Vanity Fair is already working on 3d magazines and other video content, recognizing that immersive 3d worlds could quickly overshadow traditional print and even online magazines.
Facebook took note of this trend as well, when it bought Oculus VR for $2bn in 2014, despite the company lacking a commercial product.
Rivals too are ready to jump into this potentially game changing market. HTC will launch a competing virtual reality headset, the Vive, before the end of the year.
Video game console maker Sony will also be in the fray, lauching its PlayStation’s Morpheus headset, at some point during the first six months of 2016.
This means consumers will have headsets designed specifically for both video games consoles and traditional computers. It’s likely we’ll see many more entrants in the mix from the usual tech manufacturers like Samsung, LG and perhaps even Apple at some point.
“All the hype around virtual reality grew up around Oculus over the last two years, and not to come to market before what is looking like a compelling proposition from HTC represents a moderate surrendering of the initiative,” Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at the IHS Technology consultancy, told the BBC.
“But I don’t think we’re talking about it missing out on huge sales volumes at what will be an early stage of demand for VR.”
The virtual reality goggles will allow user to see both computer-generated and filmed movies, presenting creative new ways to story-tell and film-make.
The goal is to provide a greater sense of immersion, helping them feel as if they are actually within a video game or interactive film or documentary, as opposed to just watching it. Facebook even envisions a world in which you watch the big game or hot new movie in a virtual living room with all your friends from around the world.
While previously the stuff of sci-fi fantasy, advances in processing power and faster internet connections have allowed the technology to mature to the point where it will be truly world-changing.