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The real next gen


In the 1992 Film “The Lawnmower Man” we were shown a vision of a future where you could interact with an artificial 3D environment in a completely natural way, you turned your head to look around the scene – you were in the game so to speak and this new paradigm had a name – it was called virtual reality and boy was it going to be the next big thing – the public wanted it – if it could live up to its promise then the flat two dimension fixed viewport screens of the day were doomed.

But it didn’t happen, there are many reasons why it didn’t happen; the headsets were obscenely expensive, their resolution was very poor, they were heavy, they had a poor frame-rate and the nail in the coffin was the significant lag between moving your head and the image updating – destroying the illusion of immersion. I know I tried it at a trade show back in the day and I was sorely disappointed. As an idea it promised so much but in reality it didn’t deliver. VR as it was abbreviated to, was dead in the water.

But a funny thing happened, mobile phones were getting mainstream, no longer considered only for the high powered business man (or business woman for that matter) or the wealthy show-off. As these devices became more ubiquitous economies of scale drove down their cost, size, and weight whilst at the same time ramping up their computing power and efficiency.

No one was looking to make a consumer grade VR for twenty years when last year Palmer Luckey started a kickstarter campaign to put together all the latest tech borne from mobile phone advances to create an enthusiast VR headset, it quickly reached its funding goal of $2.4 million and in the process garnered some high profile supporters, namely John Carmac from ID who gave us the Wolfenstein/Doom/Quake games, Gabe Newell from Valve who gave us the Halflife and Portal games and help developed the Steam game distribution platform. Encouraged by the high profile support by these luminaries of the computer games industry Palmer Luckey pressed ahead with developing a non-enthusiast consumer version as more and more developers promised to support the final version.

Suddenly all the original promises of VR were being fulfilled, the resolution was significantly better than had gone before, it weighed far less, computer graphics had matured to the point that detailed 3D graphics could be generated on the fly at high frame rates, and crucially lag had been driven down to the sub 10 millisecond level – good enough to fool the brain that there was no perceptible lag between changing your viewport and the image updating. Best of all - the target price is rumoured to be in the sub $300 bracket making it within reach of a far greater number people than the impossibly expensive options from yesteryear.

Lower resolution developer versions have already shipped to 10,000 plus people and the community is busy adapting current and future applications to support the hardware natively.

Take the Norwegian company Making View who have developed a 360 video viewer which supports the Oculus Rift – using it you can literally experience (visually at least) flying over a mountain in a wingsuit, or having a drivers eye view of a F1 race all from the comfort of your home.

Many high profile games already support it either directly in the engine or through third party mods intended to work in tandem with your graphics card.

Many companies are adding to the roster of Oculus Rift support every day, you can already play Halflife 2 on it, Bioshock Unlimited also works, Unity 3D based games support it, as do ones using the latest Unreal engine, even Mojang’s indie smash hit Minecraft does (if you know what you’re doing). It looks like finally VR has come of age and is now mature enough to guarantee it isn’t a passing fad.

We at Oracle Components are really excited about these developments in VR, we believe it will herald a new age of innovation to the increasingly electronic world we all live in and people buying electronics is good for the industry as whole.

Of course when you take the headset off and return to ‘actual reality’ you’ll remember businesses and customers still need things in the real world and we here at Oracle Components can supply mechanical and electrical components that are not made up of polygons and pixels (all in 3D too) from our part search page here.

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