Cardboard to the Rift: The rise of virtual reality

Exploring the varying worlds of virtual reality off ered in 2016

Greg Stauffer , Guest Writer

Greg Stauffer is the lead graphic artist at NetDriven in Scranton.

For years now, we have been promised that virtual reality would change our world in the fields of gaming, medicine and television, but that dream has yet to be realized. The technology has finally caught up with the hype, and our reality is about to change.  2016 will be the year virtual reality starts to kick into high gear.  A recent report authored by Heather Bellini from Goldman Sachs indicates that by the year 2025 the market for virtual reality will be valued at $80  to $180 billion. With those kinds of numbers, the potential is real, but we need to define some terms to help understand what all the excitement is about.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality:
Virtual reality (known as VR) comes in two basic versions: virtual and augmented. Virtual reality is a total immersion in an artificial space where the outside world disappears and the virtual world takes over.  With virtual reality, the imagination is the limit of what can be created and experienced. Augmented reality allows the real world to be seen through the headset while a virtual reality is imposed on top of it. Think of augmented reality as the graphics Tony Stark sees in his face mask in the Ironman movies. So how do these technologies translate into the real world?

Google Cardboard was originally released in 2014, but became a popular trend in late 2015. Cardboard uses a headset made from ordinary cardboard, to hold your smartphone. The genius behind this idea is that you can make the headset yourself and eliminate any expensive hardware. After you download the Cardboard soft ware to your phone, you can go to YouTube and download 360 degree video to immerse yourself in a virtual reality experience. With this approach, Google has made VR accessible to anyone with a smart phone and has a continual growing choice of content.

Oculus Rift  is the flip side of the virtual reality coin. Oculus, a subsidiary of Facebook, introduced the Rift  in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Rift  is a high end virtual reality system that comes with a headset, touch hand controllers, tracking sensors, Xbox one controller and two games: “Eve: Valkyrie,” and “Lucky’s Tale.” It also comes with the high end price tag of $599.99. Overall, Rift  will not be cheap. In addition to an expensive system, you will need an Oculus-ready PC computer with a high end graphics card, capable of handling the Rift  experience. Rift , however, promises to be the newest generation of virtual reality in both experience and technology. In addition to standard virtual reality fare, there is a social aspect to Rift  as well. Using the built in Oculus Community you can play VR games and interact with others who are using the system. Oculus Rift  can be ordered now and will start shipping March 28, 2016. Cardboard and Rift  are just two VR options for you explore this year, with many more options from competing companies on the horizon. The future of VR is being cracked wide open, with gaming and video experiences being the current offerings. Add to the virtual reality experience companies that offer virtual shopping for their products (known as V-commerce) and medical and military applications, this year promises big things for VR in the real world.