It’s here. Virtual reality is finally here. From VR baked into your phone to expensive VR headsets that require you to buy a high-end PC, VR promises to change the way we interact with computers and expand the things we can do with them. And it’s, well, not exactly what people were expecting.
You’ve heard the hype. But what can you expect to be doing with VR if you buy into it? So far, virtual reality does some things really well, while other things will make you hurl. Here’s a list of things you’ll actually be doing with virtual reality, plus some things you won’t be doing anytime soon, and some things that just suck.
Scream in terror.
Gaming, of course, is the obvious reason why virtual reality exists. And of all the gaming genres that are out there, horror is arguably the genre that has found the most success. This is due to a characteristic of VR called “presence”—you feel like you’re actually in another place—say, a haunted house (Resident Evil, anyone?) or a spaceship with an alien stalking you like in Alien: Isolation. How scary is it? Ripping off your headset and running out of the room while screaming is an acceptable response.
The big disappointment for virtual reality is—for the most part—first person shooters don’t work. They make many people sick. When you’re strapped into VR, your brain thinks you’re moving, but your body isn’t, and this conflict causes motion sickness. Some VR games, like Batman: Arkham VR, get around the motion sickness problem by letting you teleport instantaneously, or “blink” from place to place versus walking there as you normally would. But yeah, don’t expect any Call of Duty marathons.
Fly in space. Pew pew!
Thankfully, space shooters don’t have the motion sickness problem because in the game, you’re strapped to a chair, just like you are IRL. And that means your brain and body aren’t arguing about what’s going on. Space shooters like Elite Dangerous or Eve Valkyrie are a perfect fit for VR.
Like flying around in space, driving is also a good fit for VR. Add a steering wheel and pedals to a game like Project Cars, and the experience is divine. It’s not perfect though. In driving games—as in real life driving—you’re often looking into the distance, and this is a problem because resolution is pretty low, even on high-end VR headsets.
Batman: Arkham VR lets you be Batman. Because, of course. Always be Batman. Like many of the more successful VR games, it’s more about interacting with the world with motion controllers than it is about fighting bad guys and gliding over Gotham City.
Another way to get around VR’s motion sickness problem is to play games as if you were God looking down at the world below. Oculus Rift launch title, Lucky’s Tale—a sort of poor man’s Mario 64—does just that, and the results are… meh.
Fly in “cyberspace.”
Anime like Ghost In The Shell and books like Neuromancer promised us a future where the Internet is a 3D thing we can fly around in in VR. Don’t expect to be doing this anytime soon. The metaphor for the Internet is still webpages. A lot more work has to be done until the Internet looks like Tron. Wait pa more, K?
No kids allowed.
Forget about gaming bliss with the kiddies like you had with the Nintendo Wii. VR headsets are recommended for ages 13 and up. This isn’t because it’s bad for you. It’s because, at this point, no one really knows if it’s bad for you. So just to be safe, like nanay used to say, kids, don’t sit so close to the TV—or the VR headset millimeters from your eyeballs.
Speaking of TV, why not transport yourself to a VR world where your living room has a ginormous 100-inch TV and then binge-watch Netflix? I like the way you think, buddy, but in VR, your eyes will be seeing far fewer pixels than you will in real life with your 4K TV. So you can do that, but it just won’t be any good. Yeah, that sucks.
Live-Action Movies or… Porn?
You can also forget about dropping yourself into a Star Wars movie. Cameras for VR just aren’t there yet. But don’t worry, the porn industry is working on the problem with mixed results.
Tourism: virtually there.
Gaming may be leading the VR charge, but there’s more to virtual reality than games. Virtual tourism is an obvious place to start. If you’re curious about where this tech is going, check out www.australia.com for a virtual tour down under with Google Cardboard.
It’s still early days for virtual reality. There’s lots to see and do in the world of video games, but the potential for VR is enormous. Other applications for virtual reality are starting to show up. You’ve got rollercoasters where you wear VR goggles, you can watch the opening credits of Game of Thrones in VR, and you can even get operated on by a doctor who is miles away thanks to VR-enabled robots. So what are you waiting for? Get VR for your phone, your console, or your PC—just don't blame us when you start puking all over your living room floor.