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Virtual Reality: Technology of the future

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Everyone has one place they have always wanted to visit. Maybe even a time period they have always wanted to experience, and this idea of immersion has helped power the creation virtual reality or ‘VR’ technology. Companies such as Oculus, Samsung, and HTC have developed virtual reality equipment that has allowed people to experience life in a whole new way.

One of the most popular virtual reality companies is Oculus. Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, pioneered into the VR industry in 2012 with his prototype Oculus Rift, according to Smithsonian.com. On March 28, 2016, Luckey released a consumer version of the Oculus Rift.

Many companies have already begun developing applications for the Oculus Rift. National Geographic, for example, recently created a virtual reality experience called “Through the Ages,” which allows Oculus users to tour Yellowstone National Park with President Obama.

“Transporting people to places they might not get to see in their lifetime is one of the great powers of VR,” said the Oculus Team in a blog post. (Replace this with more meaningful quote from Esports Lounge?)

Recently, another competitor has challenged the Oculus’ success: The HTC Vive. The Vive was released on April 5, 2016, and since its release, many gaming companies have taken a liking to it. SteamVR, a game library developed by Valve to accommodate VR games, is in close connection with HTC and has published various games for the Vive. Many of these include “The Lab,” “Job Simulator,” and “The Climb.”

“In regular gaming, a smaller screen makes it easier to lose immersion, but with VR, there is complete immersion into a game,” said Grant Martin, a sophomore and virtual reality enthusiast. “Games such as Raw Data build up anxiety in the game, but the anxiety doesn’t follow me around when I leave it.”

The Vive has also been used for educational purposes as well. A company named 2k released “Lifeliqe,” a program which allows students to interact with 3D models and environments. The idea behind Lifeliqe is to “learn by experience,” according to Lifeliqe organizer Martin Bukacek. However, the costs of implementing VR in the classroom are expensive.

“One of the drawbacks to VR in education is that it is expensive,” said Mr. Beeken, the AP Computer Science teacher at BHS. “However, in 10, 15, 20 years, VR might really be in the classroom. This idea is similar to the 3D printer. We have 3D printers in the classroom now, but 10 years ago there was little thought of having it in the classroom.”

Currently, The Oculus Rift costs around $600 whereas the HTC Vive costs $800. Additionally, in order to generate the graphics for the VR headset, a high-end graphics processor and computer is required; most need either Geforce or AMD Radeon graphics cards, which can cost between $400 and $500. In addition, users need a good computer to process requests from the VR headset. However, some gamers believe that the Vive is superior because the Oculus lacks certain features that are beneficial to gaming.

“When I bought my Vive, I had to think about the complete package,” says Grant Martin. “The tracking system for the Oculus is a bit worse than that of the Vive because the Oculus is more likely to break the line of sight between the sensors and the headset. The Vive also includes controllers, and the Oculus does not.”

In response to these cost issues, many companies have developed cheaper alternatives that use a person’s smartphone and a special lens to create VR. About two years ago, Google released an experimental, low cost product called “Google Cardboard,” which is a device made of cardboard that has VR functionality. The device goes for around $15, but its functionality is limited, and it is mostly reserved for demos.

BHS participated in a demo of Google Cardboard on October 7. Many students enjoyed the opportunity to experience VR, saying that it was a “different experience” from media they were used to. Others however complained about the graphical qualities of the Cardboard, saying that the screen was “too blurry.” Nonetheless, many liked the concept and were amazed at the immersiveness of VR.

 

Another example of a cheaper, but more capable VR product is the Gear VR by Samsung. The Gear VR similarly utilizes a Samsung smartphone and a lens to project images, but it was created in partnership with Oculus and many projects from Oculus Studios can be experienced through Gear VR. One example of this was the broadcast of Rio Olympic Games through Gear VR. Users could watch the Rio Olympics in VR by downloading the NBC Sports app and following the instructions in the app, according to nbcolympics.com.

Virtual reality has a bright future. By 2025, the gaming industry for VR is estimated to reach a worth of $11.6 billion, whereas other software, including medical and engineering software, will reach around $9.8 billion, according to ThinkMobiles.com. ThinkMobiles also estimates a 400% increase in VR usage by as early as 2018. Virtual reality is truly becoming the technology of the future.

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The student news site of Blacksburg High School
Virtual Reality: Technology of the future