Putting large goggles on your head to escape into a virtual world has existed for a long time.
But as long as they have been around, it has always been a very poor experience. Expensive, enormous hardware, usually powered by a computer the size of a room. Even with that, the experience would make Playstation 1 graphics look state of the art.
We’ve come a long way since then. Now, Virtual Reality (VR) was one of the biggest trends of Web Summit 2015.
I’d never seen before a technology to move so quickly from a prototype that brings hushed awe in a hall of attendees to being a small crowd pleaser at multiples stands and companies.
Oculus have been at the forefront of the VR revolution, leading the way with their Rift hardware, one of the first VR headsets to be both commercially available and actually usable.
When Oculus was bought by Facebook in March 2014, it was an unexpected match, but with Facebook staying out of the way but just giving them funding, they’ve been motoring ahead with the technology.
That unholy union has paid off by not just making Oculus the leader in the space, but by making VR the accepted future.
It was amazing to see the vast array of applications of VR around Web Summit this year.
There were the obvious ones, including Oculus themselves and a company called Jaunt which is making software that will provide unique experiences in VR.
I got to use Jaunt’s software running on an Oculus Rift at Web Summit, and was transported from clifftop diving to the middle of a Paul McCartney concert.
Away from the obvious, VR also made an impression at other stands across the Web Summit.
Audible, the online audiobook seller owner by Amazon, gave one of the most interesting experiences of VR I’ve seen.
Locke & Key, a graphic novel by Joe Hill, was brought to life around you. You were placed in the world of the comic, and sampled the main character finding a mysterious voice coming from a well.
The mix of audiobook and graphic novel has never had major success before. Now, with the help of VR, it’s an experience far above simple audio and pictures.
VR is all about the experience, and that experience was put to good use by Charity: Water. In a VR film called The Source, running on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and VR headset, you got to see charity work and the reasons behind it in virtual reality, giving you a whole new sensation and experience for charitable work never seen before.
The days of VR being about shooting zombies in 3D space are dying if not dead. VR is now an artform and a new media platform that will change so many experiences we take for granted.