VR: Is it just a trend, or the future?

VR is a very hot topic, with many wondering if it is the future for gaming. This post explores the pros and cons of this divisive technology.

Over the last few years, VR has become quite the hot topic. It’s considered by many as the future for games and how we play, evolving from a simple mouse and keyboard to full body motion control. It sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi novel! But is VR the future? This post aims to discuss the pros and cons of VR as it currently stands, as well as explore its interesting history.

HISTORY

source: North Carolina Miscellany

The very first instance of anything even resembling a VR headset, was back in the 1800s! The stereoscope, invented in 1838, basically sat over your eyes like a modem VR headset does. It displays two images of the same shot; however, one image is from the left side and the other the right. This meant that when you looked inside it, your brain would create a 3D image from the two shots. Over the years many people dabbled into VR multiple times, from Morton Heilig’s “Sensorama” in 1956, to Ivan Sutherlands “Ultimate Display” in 1965.[1] Even Nintendo tried to get into the VR market in the 90’s, with their “Virtual Boy”![2] It was a colossal failure, much like most of anyone’s previous VR attempts. This was really until the release of more modern VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR.

It seems we have finally reached a point now were VR has hit the mainstream. But does that mean it’s the future for games?

POSITIVES OF VR

source: Engadget

The biggest point in favor of VR is the immersion it provides. VR allows you to not just to sit back while playing something, but to feel as if you are truly experiencing it. You can stand up, look around and even move around in some cases. This combined with a great audio headset can truly make you feel like you are in a whole different world.

VR also paves the way for whole new types of games to come into existence. For example, a game like Beat Saber works so well because of the unique gameplay experience VR provides. Tipatat Chennavasin, co-founder of The VR Fund, stated Beat Saber is not only the, “biggest VR games success story but also the biggest indie games success story on any platform.”[3] Beat Saber is just one example of games utilizing the unique style of VR for success. Horror games also have found a great market in VR. With games like Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Arizona Circle and many others taking full advance of the immersion offered by VR.

Another amazing thing VR offers, is training simulations. Serious training simulator experiences offers a way for people to train for certain careers without any risks.[4]  On top of this, VR has been linked to several health benefits. Sol Rogers states, “VR has been used to treat conditions like autism, PTSD, depression, and paranoia; offer pain relief and even promote recovery in paraplegics.” He cites numerous studies and programs that utilize VR to aid different members of society, including the elderly, and people with disabilities,[5] and it’s incredible to hear how VR can affect people for the better.

NEGATIVES OF VR

source: ARPost

But, is VR really the best way forward for gaming?

The most common complaint around VR is motion sickness. Kinesiologist Thomas Stoffregen, points out that the amount of people who experience, “motion sickness after only 15 minutes is anywhere from 40 to 70 percent”[6] On top of this, VR motion sickness also tends to effect women more so than men. This is due the design of VR headsets. Most headsets are designed with a larger interpupillary distance in mind, which suits men fine, but often women’s pupils are slightly closer together. The sensory conflict theory also explains how the body can suffer at the hands of VR. This is due to your body believing you have ingested some sort of toxin or chemical giving you hallucinations. This leads to feelings of nausea and uneasiness, and can even lead to vomiting.[6]

Another unknown danger of VR, is data collection. In theory, it would very easy to track users using VR, and use that information to do stuff like cater ads. “Currently, there are no standards or regulations as to how this data is collected, used or shared”[7], meaning there is potential for big companies to use the information gathered from your bodies’ movements for their own advantages. In one study, “researchers collected data at 95 time points in VR”. This meant, “they could identify an individual with 90% accuracy.”[8] This identification included their zip code, IP address and voice print.[7]

And lastly, addiction. Already 3-4% of gamers are addicted to gaming, with anywhere from 1-10% struggling with compulsive addiction issues. That doesn’t sound like much, but with a estimated 2 billion gamers worldwide, it actually is a scary amount.[9] It’s scarily easy to not realize how long you’ve been using a VR also, which only aids in how easily it could lead to addiction.

FINAL THOUGHTS

With VR prices still as high as they are, it’s still a way off replacing the console or mouse and keyboard. However, 20 years ago, a PC was something many people couldn’t afford either. In 2019, 1.3 billion people own PC’s worldwide.[10] VR is an amazing way to immersive yourself further in a new world and can even aid people with disabilities, or people training people for careers. But it isn’t without it’s issues. So, is VR the future? Well, it’s still hard to know, but fingers crossed we can address these issues with it before it’s too late.

If you enjoyed this post, check out out other long form posts here!

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.fi.edu/virtual-reality/history-of-virtual-reality

[2] https://www.businessinsider.com.au/nintendo-virtual-boy-reality-3d-video-games-super-mario-2018-3

[3] https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/08/how-beat-saber-beat-the-odds/

[4] https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality-education/advantages.html

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2019/03/07/five-ways-vr-is-making-the-world-a-better-place/#2aadb60e69a9

[6] https://www.insidescience.org/news/cybersickness-why-people-experience-motion-sickness-during-virtual-reality

[7] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/08/the-hidden-risk-of-virtual-reality-and-what-to-do-about-it/

[8] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-05710-7_5

[9] https://gamequitters.com/how-many-people-are-addicted-to-playing-video-games/

[10] https://www.statista.com/statistics/610271/worldwide-personal-computers-installed-base/

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