If anticipation makes the heart grow fonder, then mine looks like the x-ray at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year for gaming. Hell, it’s an exciting year for technology in general. Many assumed that the likes of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 would dominate the headlines, pulling all eyes to them as the leaders of innovation in our industry. However, it would appear that an unexpected guest has crashed the party, and now we simply can’t take our eyes off her. That someone is the Oculus Rift.
For those not in the know, the Oculus Rift was a crowd funded project that has exploded into the next big thing. While VR goggles aren’t exactly a completely fresh idea (as Sony currently still has several attempts floating around the market), the Rift seems to be taking on a life of its own. Perhaps it’s the strong team of like-minded individuals behind it, with both gaming industry and engineering backgrounds. Whatever the case may be, it’s easy to see that the project is a labor of love. In fact, community support has been so fundamental to the development of the Oculus, CEO Brendan Iribe has recently suggested the absolutely sinful idea of…are you ready for this; giving it away for FREE! While not the best method of making a huge profit, Iribe concludes that selling it for the lowest possible retail price could be a great way of forging new frontiers. “The lower the price point, the wider the audience… We'd love it to be free one day… there's the potential that it could get much less expensive with a few different relationships and strategies.” He says.
But aside from saving us a pretty penny, what else could fully functional VR environments truly mean to our culture as a whole?
Frankly, it takes a lot to get me excited these days. Call it old age or all it being jaded, I guess I’m like the 500 year old Vampire that is just sick of the world. As an immortal, he’s been around so long that everything just seems old hat to him. While I’m certainly not sick of gaming by any stretch (and still take great joy in it), the Oculus Rift is the first piece of new tech to come along that could actually change things drastically. Even the next-gen consoles are just beefed-up versions of what we’ve already seen for years. However, this could be the first steps toward a different style of gaming. While it sounds like something out of Professor X’s mansion (aka the Danger Room), it’s a very real possibility. It’s just a nut we’ve yet to crack, but if accomplished, could blow the doors wide open for so many other industries as well. Imagine going to an interview that consists not of the usual Microsoft Excel testing, but rather drops you into a simulated world in order to see how you handle objectives on the job. How about expanding the concept on a larger scale, which would replace simple 3D glasses at theaters with 360 degree view screens? Industrial applications are also limitless, like in the automotive or military training fields (although that last example might be more of an unintended consequence).
The great thing about having such a grounded, grass-roots approach to the Oculus Rift’s development is the lack of the corporate machine. If it were any other company, you might be looking at a $1,000+ price point (essentially making it unattainable for the average Joe). Luckily, founder Palmer Luckey (no pun intended) sees it not as a cash cow, but as a chance to bring new innovations that are accessible to all who love and appreciate our industry. "…I've always said is that if VR isn't affordable it might as well not exist for most people. We're not looking to make a rich person's toy.” He says.
Although, I admit this freely: even if the Oculus Rift was ridiculously overpriced…I’d probably still sell a kidney to buy one. I’m that psyched about this thing. So just shut up and take my money!