Is Virtual Reality going mainstream?

Is Virtual Reality going mainstream ?

On a sunny afternoon, you decide to walk up the streets of Harvard Square, and then you pop into an office of a start-up called VirZoom. Strapped in a black headset that has all your eyes covered, you jump into a stationary workout bike to ride your way into the virtual world.
In an instant, you find yourself riding a horse on an unpaved mountain way. Just like riding a real bike, there are handles to turn left and right as you maneuver obstacles. There’s also a chance to collect digital coins, or even switch to flight mode… i.e. the horse you’re riding can fly as well.

This sort of environment has been improved to look and feel attractive. Even the companies behind virtual reality technology say it’s the new way of working out to stay fit.

Virtual reality going mainstream?

You see, VirZoom is part of a group of companies who believe that virtual reality is soon going mainstream. Rather than investing in costly and clunky equipments with lots of cables and imagery that is likely to induce feeling of nausea, these companies are focusing their effort towards affordable VR headsets which can cost as little as $200 a pair.

Oculus is a branch of Facebook Inc. It is reported that they’re gearing up to launch their VR flagship headsets in 2016. At the same time, a number of companies are developing content, software and accessories to go along with this product launch.

Even though the company hasn’t announced the price for which its headsets will be selling at come next year, it has already sold its test version to software developing companies at $350.
At the same time, Sony is also set to release its own version in 2016. They call it Morpheus. Morpheus will be compatible with PlayStation video game console.

The idea of Virtual reality started in the 60s

The roots of VR can be traced back to a research that was done in the 1960s. The study was conducted by Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull at Harvard University and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

In this study, the early versions of virtual reality equipment where so huge that a giant mechanical arm hang on top of a user. The entire setup was dubbed ‘’Sword of Damocles’’.

Luckily, we’re seeing lots of improvements with this technology. Low-cost headset manufacturers are now based in places like Taiwan, Japan, Washington State as well as California, the home of Oculus.

You might think Boston has been left behind in this new wave of creativity. But you could be wrong since Boston software developers are active behind the scenes. It’s just that they are more concerned with the software aspect of VR rather than headsets and other hardware pieces.

However, Genji Gloves is an exception here since they are currently working on a special glove that will give users a chance to control what happens in the virtual world using their hands.

Boston currently runs a Virtual reality meetup which involves demos of hardware, software and how they work in the VR world. It comprises of 100 attendees who will also get a chance to test the VirZoom Bike as well as the anticipated FOVE headset made by a San Francisco startup. The ultimate goal of this meetup is to let people experience what virtual reality is, and also to promote Boston as the ultimate VR hub.

What gaming companies are saying

Of course they are betting on this technology since virtual reality equipment can be connected to gaming consoles as well.

Harmonix Music Systems based in California is in the process of designing a music visualizer dubbed Music VR for the different headsets that will be channeled into the market next year.

With Music VR, you can play music from your PC, at the same time, exploring virtual worlds that go along with the music being played.

There are also rumors that Oculus is teaming up with Harmonix Music Systems to work on something they haven’t revealed yet.

Other startups are also joining forces to explore VR worlds. For example, Specterras, a Cambridge-based meetup is seeing VR as a new way of documenting the real world without subjecting users to the dangers or expenses associated with traveling.

Specterras has been actively capturing laser scans, photos and videos from various locations to add to the experience of virtual reality. It’s common to hear the sound of rushing waters flowing down a fall. You might even catch the sight of a highly venomous snake curling itself against a log.

Another side project called Tribe by Andy Tsen is currently focusing on making VR a tool for communication. Tribe’s idea is interesting; it basically lets two people from different locations occupy the same virtual worlds, interacting which each others’ avatars or even watching TV together. The idea is to make people feel like they’re together when they’re far apart.


No doubt virtual reality is going to form an important segment in technological advancement. These are just early experimentation, and given that gaming companies are already betting on VR, there should be a noticeable change in the world of virtual reality come 2016.

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