My Virtual Reality Experience & the Future of VR/AR
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
Virtual Reality is ready to play. Are you?
I’ve divided my article into various sections: Introduction, My experience with VR, and Speculations and important applications of VR/AR in the future. Feel free to navigate through and learn something new today.
Introduction- How did I get here?
When I was a child, I believed in a lot of things: Santa Claus, dragons, magic, and the Loch Ness Monster, just to name a few. It took a long time for me to understand and really persuade myself that none of these exist. So when life started to get boring, I turned to science-fiction.
When I started reading Ray Bradbury in seventh grade, it was like my wild imagination woke up from a long slumber. Manned missions to planets with eternal rain, shape-shifting Martians, time machines, and most importantly, a room with AR (augmented reality) where the realm of reality and screens become blurred. Bradbury’s alarming yet prophet-like approach to the future, space, and technology was like candy for my developing imagination. Fortunately, no one told me I had to stop believing in technology and the future.
I first became fascinated with Virtual Reality when I watched Ready Player One in 3D in theaters. Later that year when I found out about an exciting new VR game called Beat Saber on youtube I made it my lifetime goal to play it one day, somehow. That goal came true only a year later when I visited a VR cafe in South Korea.
Since then, I’ve visited countless VR cafes and stores in South Korea, Canada, and the United States where I continue to explore where a headset and controllers take me and my wild imagination. I’ve also had my own Oculus Go headset for two months now, and I will delve into its uses, experience, and my speculations about the VR/AR industry in the article.
My first time trying VR in a South Korean VR Cafe
Oculus Go- This is just the Beginning
During my time in quarantine and social distancing, I decided I would invest in a gaming console that I would enjoy as a “novice gamer”. I wasn’t crazy addicted to games but occasionally I would play some desktop, social, and browser games such as Jackbox, SpyParty, and Surviv.io. I also thought investing in an Oculus Go would be the Goldilocks solution since I wasn’t ready to break the bank for an Oculus Quest or Rift (the later, more expensive versions). I got my first headset from BestBuy for $200 USD (unfortunately, Facebook recently announced it won’t be selling the Oculus Go anymore).
At first, it was a lot more uncomfortable than the ones I wore at VR cafes (even though it was the same model). I got nauseous after the first thirty minutes of using it and exploring it. But that just comes with every new experience. You have to get uncomfortable with it at first to truly adapt to it later. Today, I exercise with it on for a whole hour- I don’t feel nauseous afterward, I feel great!
“So Janice get to the point. What exactly do you use VR for?”
Great question. First and foremost, I use Virtual Reality to escape the mundane. However, I’ve grown to appreciate other elements such as education and exercise. Here is an abridged version of how I use my Oculus Go:
Entertainment. A good 65% of my time on the Go is spent immersing myself in excellently developed worlds and first-person adventure games. With your sight and sound warped into VR’s illusion, everything sounds more real. Everything feels more real. I’ve really come to appreciate games like Cyber Sky, Wands, and Dead and Buried (to name just a few) that really make me feel immersed in their creatively designed world while challenging me to new depths of gaming.
Screenshot from the game Virtual Virtual Reality (cr. Tanya Leal Soto)
I also enjoy music games such as Beatron and Smash the Beats (the best alternatives to Beat Saber), and occasionally horror games when I’m in the mood. I also get a good laugh out of playing Keep Talking and Nobody Dies with my close friends, a multiplayer game where you work with someone else to follow vague instructions to diffuse a bomb before it explodes.
I also occasionally watch Netflix movies and shows on the Go. With a cozy home movie theater ambiance, the immersive experience makes me feel like I am watching a film in the theaters. The sound system is also quite effective as well. And trust me, once you put it on you’ll enjoy it more than you thought you would.
Travel. From walking the streets of Mumbai, wandering into Thailand’s caves, to treating myself to a local patisserie shop in France, there are plenty of 360° videos that make me forget that I’m standing in the middle of my bedroom in New Jersey. I like watching travel tour guides on youtube and also apps like VeeR. It’s videos and experiences like these that somehow make me feel like I’m really there in the country.
Exercise. This is a surprise to me because I never would have imagined that my headset would order me around to do lunges and wall push-ups for 30 seconds. Using the conveniently large and movable Youtube screen, I’ve been consistently getting in exercises during my day thanks to Chloe Ting. While it may feel weird at first, I forget that I’m wearing a headset after my warm up. I would say it’s even better doing workouts with VR since you can’t see yourself and watching the instructor makes the challenge seem more doable when the screen is large. Any form of exercise is possible, with cardio and weight-lifting being the one exception. And it’s been surprisingly easy to just put on my headset and get to work.
Education. When I say education, I’m not talking about learning calculus. I’m talking about spending my time on the browser or on Youtube watching congressional debates or find-tuning my French with étudier-Francaise channels on Youtube (not to mention, watching Kurzgesagt videos in VR is a whole another level). So nothing “new” really, just a more exciting way to learn, that’s all.
A screenshot from my home screen
The Future of VR- It’s all fun and games until it’s not
The best part about Virtual Reality is that more people are beginning to believe in it. People can believe in its existence, effectiveness, and future. There are many budding companies other than Oculus that are coming up with their own purposes for a headset and controllers. From surgical practice to mental health, Virtual Reality is making itself, well, a reality. Here are more uses for VR and AR that industries, tech lovers, and the general public should pay attention to:
Architecture & Construction. With VR, architects can grab onto a crisper picture and presentation for their builds. With “hyper-realistic” effects implemented into AR, visualizing what yet doesn’t exist is possible. Stambol Studios and IrisVR are some of the companies using engineering and architecture to convert 3D models into VR projections. In addition, companies like ThirdEye Gen are using smart glasses and AR technology to improve crucial work such as engineering and construction.
Healthcare. Surgeons and hospital staff can use VR and controllers for training assessments and surgical practice. Companies like Osso VR are using unorthodox methods through VR to shorten the learning curve for surgeons and bridge the surgical training gap. C.A.R.E. VRx uses VR for pain relief and stress reduction. If you’re interested, you can click here for more top VR startups in healthcare.
cr. Washington Post
Education. Here are just some ways VR/AR can help improve education: field trips, culture and language immersion, skills training, Special education, distance learning, and improved collaboration. Though with that said, it is important that governments and organizations aware if its impacts benefits make it accessible to communities that may not be able to afford such technologies. I believe it is important to acknowledge that while new technologies elevate and improve existing processes and systems, not all communities and educational institutions can afford such tech on their own. And with education being such an important element to students’ upbringing, I want to stress that this sort of technology should not be a factor that creates a gap between education.
Conclusion & Testimony
Despite all its praise, VR technology still has its limits- cost, low user base, applications, and public perception. While companies continue to spend money on R&D, marketing, and sales, my hope is that VR becomes an important staple in institutions across the nation. It’s easy to get excited about new technology and forget about the unequal distribution of useful resources that can help close learning gaps. Yet, I’m quite optimistic and nevertheless excited to see where the future of Virtual Reality takes us. So now that Virtual Reality is here to stay, it’s up to the public to accept it. And that begins with you.
Pictures from VR World, NYC