Gaming has, by and large, stayed the same since the first console was released. While graphics have improved and features have become more complex, every interaction happens by pressing either buttons or keys on the gamepad or keyboard and viewing the game on an external display like the TV or computer monitor.
The future of VR has the potential to completely flip that dynamic, allowing users to inhabit their favourite magical land, war-torn landscape, or post-apocalyptic future.
What is VR?
Virtual reality, also known as VR, is a booming sector in the Internet of Things which is evident by the more than one million users using the Gear VR last year.
VR is a way to create a simulated environment through technology. For example, imagine standing in line at your favourite clothing store, putting on a virtual headset and instantly being transported to the catwalk for a personal fashion show where you can interact with the models and clothing.
So, where's VR gaming at now?
VR gaming today
The best way to experience VR experience is with a virtual headset and hand controllers for gesture control. The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are the main options, with the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard bringing up budget (often very budget options).
There are couple of different ways to engage with VR. One, you can play while seated (both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive), which is very similar to regular console gaming, except your field of vision is filled by the virtual headset display.
Or, you can use room-scale VR though the HTC Vive, and walk around while playing the game. To make it happen, the Vive has two Lighthouse base stations, which map the room and your movements through lasers and cameras
There are already hundreds of virtual reality games online, ranging from work simulators to sports experiences to full-fledged open world concepts like the space exploration game Elite Dangerous and the action RPG Chronos.
Users can interact with their worlds in a surprisingly wide variety of ways, like picking up items, pushing buttons, shooting weapons, or driving spaceships.
VR gaming tomorrow
The future of virtual reality looks bright with developers working hard to increase the sense of immersion. One interesting possiblity for gesture control is through hand gesture recognition, such as Leap Motion releasing a hand tracking glove for the VR headset.
This will allow users to perform motions like punching, pinching, catching, and pressing buttons exactly like they would in the real world.
Gesture recognition is something many wearables have utilized to give users more control and ownership over their devices and actions respectively. With gesture recognition, the virtual reality you create can feel like an authentic experience where your movements determine your gaming experience.
Yet, despite impressive tracking, it seems there's still a ways to go before hand gesture recognition can become the standard. A major issue is with the lack of tactile feedback and sensation when performing gestures such as pushing a button or lifting an object.
A possible improvement is through haptic feedback, allowing the gloves to vibrate once you touch or interact with the world. This is a vital step before natural sensations such as literally feeling a piece of cloth, or holding the weight of a rock will be possible through VR.
Other avenues include wireless VR headsets, like Intel's Project Alloy, which offer "mixed reality", combining VR and AR, and allowing users to interact with real world objects that have been mapped to the virtual world.
VR has broken open the possibilities for gaming, and has the potential to be transformative. We can't wait for the day when we are the main character. Welcome to the virtual reality future.