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Virtual Reality: Where it is and where it’s going

Gamingtodaynews1f - Virtual Reality: Where it is and where it's going

VR is not what a lot of people think it is. It's not comparable to racing wheels, Kinect, or 3DTVs. It offers a shift that the game industry hasn't had before; a first of it's kind. I'm going to outline what VR is like today in despite of the many misconceptions around it and what it will be like as it grows. What people find to be insurmountable problems are often solvable.

What is VR in 2020?

Something far more versatile and far-reaching than people comprehend. All game genres and camera perspectives work, so you're still able to access the types of games you've always enjoyed. It is often thought that VR is a 1st person medium and that's all it can do, but 3rd person and top-down VR games are a thing and in various cases are highly praised. Astro Bot, a 3rd person platformer, was the highest rated VR game before Half-Life: Alyx.

Lets crush some misconceptions of 2020 VR:

  • The buy-in is $400 on average, not $1000 as that is Valve Index pricing.
  • Motion sickness is easily avoidable for most people by sticking to games that have 1:1 fully synced or mostly synced body movement like Beat Saber or even Alyx with teleportation.
  • Most VR games offer locomotion options so teleporting is certainly not a required norm.
  • You don't need a PC or console; Oculus Quest is the start of the new norm where headsets are self-contained.
  • You are not required to stand or move about. VR has always allowed you to relax in the same way as traditional gaming by sitting on the couch with a gamepad.
  • VR isn't anti-social. It's actually the pinnacle of social communication devices. What it is (currently) is potentially isolating depending on how you use it.
  • People will disabilities often think VR is not for them, when in all likelihood it probably is, because most disabilities work fine with VR and even have a lot to gain from the use of it.
  • The setup of VR is much faster and quicker than it was just a few years ago thanks to inside-out tracking and standalones. A Quest user can get going within 10 seconds.

So what are the problems with VR in 2020?

  • Bulky headsets.
  • Low resolution and low FoV.
  • Wireless isn't standard.
  • Only a few released AAA exclusive games.
  • Potential for eye strain and headaches.
  • Some headsets feel really outdated. (PSVR)
  • Isolating.
  • Full body avatars don't align correctly.

Despite these downsides, VR still offers something truly special. What it enables is not just a more immersive way to game, but new ways to feel, to experience stories, to cooperate or fight against other players, and a plethora of new ways to interact which is the beating heart of gaming as a medium.

To give some examples, Boneworks is a game that has experimental full body physics and the amount of extra agency it provides is staggering. When you can actually manipulate physics on a level this intimately where you are able to directly control and manipulate things in a way that traditional gaming simply can't allow, it opens up a whole new avenue of gameplay and game design.

Things aren't based on a series of state machines anymore. "Is the player pressing the action button to climb this ladder or not?" "Is the player pressing the aim button to aim down the sights or not?"

These aren't binary choices in VR. Everything is freeform and you can basically be in any number of states at a given time. Instead of climbing a ladder with an animation lock, you can grab on with one hand while aiming with the other, or if it's physically modelled, you could find a way to pick it up and plant it on a pipe sticking out of the ground to make your own makeshift trap where you spin it around as it pivots on top of the pipe, knocking anything away that comes close by. That's the power of physics in VR. You do things you think of in the same vain as reality instead of thinking inside the set limitations of the designers. Even MGSV has it's limitations with the freedom it provides, but that expands exponentially with 6DoF VR input and physics.

I talked about how VR could make you feel things. A character or person that gets close to you in VR is going to invade your literal personal space. Heights are possibly going to start feeling like you are biologically in danger. The idea of tight spaces in say, a horror game, can cause claustrophobia. The way you move or interact with things can give off subtle almost phantom-limb like feelings because of the overwhelming visual and audio stimulation that enables you to do things that you haven't experienced with your real body; an example being floating around in zero gravity in Lone Echo.

So it's not without it's share of problems, but it's an incredibly versatile gaming technology in 2020. It's also worth noting just how important it is as a non-gaming device as well, because there simply isn't a more suitably combative device against a world-wide pandemic than VR. Simply put, it's one of the most important devices you can get right now for that reason alone as you can socially connect with no distancing with face to face communication, travel and attend all sorts of events, and simply manage your mental and physical health in ways that the average person wishes so badly for right now.

Where VR is (probably) going to be in 5 years

You can expect a lot. A seismic shift that will make the VR of today feel like something very different. This is because the underlying technology is being reinvented with entirely custom tech that no longer relies on cell phone panels and lenses that have existed for decades.

  • Headsets are going to be about
  • Wireless will be fully standard out of the box.
  • The resolution will be around the equivalent of 1080p monitors, so you'd probably be looking at 4K x 4K per eye or higher.
  • The field of view will be 30-40% higher.
  • Eye strain and headaches will be solved via

    and VR will become even more comfortable visually than 2D displays, as they still have these issues which can be only be solved in stereoscopic displays.
  • The use of movement-synced vibrational feedback on the head alongside higher refresh rates will dramatically reduce motion sickness issues when involved in more intense movement which would make joystick locomotion a lot more applicable to a wider range of people.

  • Isolation will be solved with mixed reality reconstruction enabling the real world to bleed into VR on a per object basis in real time. VR headsets are now in all senses MR headsets. (VR+AR in one device)

  • Floating hands will be basically extinct as full-body tracking will be standard with every headset via camera-based tracking.

  • Facial tracking and eye-tracking in combination with body tracking will enable extremely realistic fully tracked avatars not unlike what Ready Player One depicts.

  • Foveated Rendering will be solved, making a typical VR game no more demanding on the GPU than it's equivalent non-VR version.

  • AI Upscaling methods not unlike Nvidia DLSS 2.0 is used to further reduce the pixel rendering requirements.

  • 3D audio is far more realistic via personal HRTF generation and better audio propagation algorithms. If not completely identical to the real world, it will feel pretty close.

  • AAA content will be more aplenty.

  • There will be plenty of non-gaming apps gaining bigger traction like some sort of social space or event-based app.

  • PlayStation and Xbox will both support VR and a PSVR2 headset will have launched.

That's enough to solve almost all the issues of the technology and make it a buy-in for the average gamer. In 5 years, we should really start to see the blending of reality and virtual reality and how close the two can feel

Where VR is (probably) going to be in 10 years

  • Two different form factors. Thin visors for maximum immersion with a human field of view and sunglasses for maximum social acceptance, with both having something close to retinal resolution.

  • Force feedback haptic gloves in a consumer friendly form factor start to become the new standard input to replace motion controls.

  • BCI input starts to get integrated into some headsets, enabling users to control the virtual world with their mind in varying ways, such as UI navigation, telekinesis, disability support, and mind-typing.

  • VR is now effectively photorealistic in the visual and audio department and it's extremely hard if not impossible at times to tell the difference between the real world and the virtual world.

  • Quite a number of people start to live big chunks of their lives in VR.

  • Light-field 6DoF video will be common allowing you to move inside live videos or a playback of a video that are in every way indistinguishable from reality, at least visually/audibly.

  • Streaming becomes mainstream as an option to consume games and it is now starting to become feasible to stream VR games as well.

  • VR/AR start to replace traditional displays and devices with monitors, phones and handhelds especially on their way out, but TVs very likely still hold a strong presence due to their communal nature.

  • If consoles still exist, their new features are now focused mostly on VR and how to integrate as seamlessly as possible into the VR/AR experience. Traditional gaming is still likely the most popular way to play, but consoles must find ways to market towards the new.

  • VR/AR are the new norm for work, education, communication, entertainment and a lot of aspects of daily life.

  • AAA VRMMORPGs start to get popular and become the new standard for the genre, revitalizing it.

  • The metaverse starts to form in some small way, not yet reaching the magnitude of something like the OASIS, but still a very large and versatile world or web of worlds where the phrase "Do anything, go anywhere, become anyone, be with anyone" is the truest it's ever been.

In short, as good as if not better than the base technology of Ready Player One which consists of a visor and gloves. Interestingly, RPO missed out on the merging of VR and AR which will play an important part of the future of HMDs as they will become more versatile, easier to multi-task with, and more engrained into daily life where physical isolation is only a user choice. Useful treadmills and/or treadmill shoes as well as haptic suits will likely become (and stay) enthusiast items that are incredible in their own right but due to the commitment, aren't applicable to the average person – in a way, just like RPO.

At this stage, VR is mainstream with loads of AAA content coming out yearly and providing gaming experiences that are incomprehensible to most people today.

Overall, the future of VR couldn't be brighter. It's absolutely here to stay, it's more incredible than people realize today, and it's only going to get exponentially better and more convenient in ways that people can't imagine.

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