Virtual reality (VR) has promised to change the world since the ‘60s, when the Sensorama Simulator became the first machine to stimulate all the senses. But VR in everyday life has always been the stuff of science fiction, until now.
At last week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), VR gadgets were everywhere. Samsung and HTC showed off new headsets, while smaller companies unveiled odd contraptions designed to let you feel the virtual world, not just see it. And that means 2015 could be the year that VR finally takes off.
At the forefront of VR tech right now is Oculus, a company that designed the first mainstream VR headset back in 2012. Two and a half years later, we’re still waiting for that first headset, Oculus Rift, to go on general sale. But the early editions that are out there have amazed everyone who’s tried it.
Oculus does have one VR headset on sale already thanks to a partnership with Samsung. The Samsung Gear VR uses technology from Oculus to turn a Galaxy Note 4 into a VR headset. And a new Gear VR (picture right)was announced at MWC that uses the Samsung Galaxy S6 or S6 edge to give the best viewing experience yet.
But Samsung and Oculus are getting some stiff competition this year. At MWC, HTC revealed Vive, its own headset that’s powered by gaming company Valve. And it sounds like it’ll outperform anything we’ve seen yet.
Vive’s biggest advantage is that it lets your walk around the physical world to move you in the virtual one, so you feel more involved in the experience than you would if you had to move using a games controller. Of course, walking around the real world while looking at a virtual one could result in bumping into walls. But HTC and Valve have thought of that, and real world obstacles are marked in the virtual world.
Sony also has a new VR headset, but the Sony Morpheus isn’t expected to hit shelves until next year. When it does arrive, it’ll be able to play graphics at a whopping 120 frames per second. That’s faster than the 90fps the others manage and should end the potential for motion sickness.
With so many big names getting into virtual reality, 2015 must be the year that the technology takes off. If it doesn’t make it big now, maybe it never will.